The 88th Annual Academy Awards took place on Feb. 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Here is what this Oscar winner said backstage in the Academy Awards press room.
It must be amazing, a thrill to win, but is there a little bit of relief in this? Where were you a year ago?
Oh, what month is it? February? This time a year ago I was still trying to figure out who I was. The movie was done, but I was in deep searching. I was pulling apart the pieces between the things that I had learned while being Ma [my character in “Room”], and then trying to remember who I was before this movie, because I had spent about a year prepping and then doing the film.
And who I was by the time the movie was over was so far away from who I was when I started that it was a long process of many different things in trying to find myself. And the weird part is I am standing here now completely myself. Everything about this experience down to the way that I have handled it, the way that I felt about it, the dress that I’m wearing, everything has been very pointedly about it being a representation of who I am. And I feel really strong and excited to be holding this gold guy that I do feel like it is an incredible metaphor for how I feel inside.
You talked a lot about your journey and what it’s taken to get here today. What advice would you give to people who haven’t achieved their dreams yet?
Oy, that’s a hard one. You just have to do it. I mean, I wish that there was any sort of rules or code, but in fact, I think the way you get there is by breaking it, by listening to what’s happening inside of yourself. I personally had many moments of crossroads, probably hundreds of moments of crossroads where I could go the way that people were telling me to go, or I could go the way that felt right within me.
And it took me 20 years to be standing here on this stage, but I wouldn’t want it any other way: To be so grateful for all of the hardships that it took to get here and to not be discouraged by it. I think to live this life it’s a bizarre combination of being plastic and incredibly stubborn and also really curious about what this life holds, to have no expectation, but to have an idea about a beautiful horizon that’s in front of [you and you] constantly moving towards it.
If you had to choose a song to describe how are you feeling now, which song would it be?
Ooh, so easy. “I’m In Love With My Life” by Phases. Easy. [She sings] “I’m in love with my life.” Done.
If you ever have children, do you think your experience in filming “Room” will color that experience for you?
Probably. I don’t have kids, but I do have a little taste of an understanding of how complicated it is to be a parent. I think there’s a lot of unknowns when it comes to parenting and the idea of jumping into that world, and I personally have problems with trying to be perfect and being devastated when I realize every day that that’s not a possibility, and I think that that comes with parenting as well. So I think understanding that it is a symbiotic relationship.
Jacob [Tremblay, my co-star in “Room”], I learn more from him than he ever did from me. There’s so much wisdom in a child, and there is so much ease to the way that he is that I’m really excited for whenever that journey comes. I’m not sure what it means fully to be a parent. I only experience a small taste of it, but I am excited about it. I think children are just magical, full of wisdom, incredible little people.
Can you give an example in your career of a time where you feel like you really learned to stand up for yourself?
Oh, I mean, many times. In particular, there were many times that I would go into auditions and casting directors would say, “It’s really great. Really love what you’re doing, but we’d love for you to come back in a jean miniskirt and high heels.”
And those were always moments of a real fork in the road, because there’s no reason for me to show up in a jean miniskirt and heels other than the fact that you want to create some fantasy, and you want to have this moment that you can reject. That’s the craziest part.
And so for me, I personally always rejected that moment. I tried maybe once, and it always made me feel terrible because they were asking me to wear a jean miniskirt and heels to be sexy, but a jean miniskirt and heels does not make me feel sexy. It makes me feel uncomfortable.
So learning for me what it took to feel confident, and strong, and take what these people were trying to get to exude out of me come from a personal place, and from my place, and trying to represent in film women that I know, women that I understand, complicated women, women that are inside of me, that became my mission.
And every time I was put in front of an opportunity where I had to decide in those moments, “Do I or do I not wear a jean miniskirt?” They became huge moments for me of confidence.
One of the really devastating scenes in “Room” was involving the media, and that that was an important scene to you. Could you expand on that?
OK. Ballsy. It’s an important thing to me because boundaries are really difficult to create for yourself, and especially if you are not somebody like my character I’m playing in “Room” who is not seasoned in boundaries and isn’t as aware. Like a lot of us in the industry, if we watch that scene in the movie, we can kind of see the train coming, and we know, “Oh, this is going to be too much. She’s not ready for this.”
But for her, there’s no one there that’s on the inside that’s explaining to her that she has strength and boundaries, and that this is not a proper way of going about this next phase in her life. So I think from the journalist’ point of view, always remembering that we are human beings. We are sensitive, loving human beings that deeply at the core of ourselves are worried that we are unlovable.
And I think if we can constantly keep that in our heads, especially when we’re interviewing and try instead to get into the soul of a person, and not just worry so much about maybe a earpiece that’s in your ear that’s your boss telling you that you have to ask something 30 times. I understand that you’re trying to keep your job, but at the same time, we are people, and I think if we can get back to the humanity of this and respect boundaries, we are going to go a long way, and we are going to get real truth instead of performances for TV.
Unfortunately, many people have been in that situation of being abused and victimized. What does your Oscar win say for all of the people out there who have been victimized?
I don’t necessarily think an Oscar win changes anything for those women. I do hope that in the core of it when we want to talk about feeling trapped — and that can be trapped in a way that is metaphor or a physical representation of that — we want to talk about abuse, the many different ways that we as humans can be abused or feel confined. I hope that this is a story that honestly changes people and allows them to be free. To me, making this movie was my own search for freedom and breaking free of my own personal boundaries. And I hope that when people watch this, they realize that they have it in themselves to break free of whatever it is that’s holding them back.
For more info: Academy Awards website
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