This year the Oscars might as well have been called the Georges. He was the center of attention all night, from host Jon Stewart’s friendly digs (” Good Night, and Good Luck … is not just Edward R. Murrow’s sign-off, it is also how Mr. Clooney ends all his dates”) to Documentary Short winner Corinne Marrinan’s speech, in which she expressed gratitude for her seat beside the actor at the Feb. 13 nominees luncheon. “He was a total gentleman,” says Marrinan. “I thought, ‘What would I like to thank the Academy for?’ That’s what came to mind.” Fans and well-wishers wouldn’t leave him alone en route to the Governors Ball, and when he got there, the crowd gave him a round of applause. But Clooney wasn’t just on the receiving end of all that goodwill. “The highlight was after winning,” he says, when he saw Robert Altman in the greenroom. “I loved being able to sit down with Robert Altman for a minute and get him a Scotch. It was a good night.”
RED CARPET REBEL
While most young actresses—and their stylists—were agonizing over which designer duds to wear to the Academy Awards, Q’Orianka Kilcher, who played Pocahontas in The New World, faced a different dilemma: Could she finish sewing her gown in time for the big night? “I [was] working on a few different ideas,” says the 16-year-old, who stepped out Oscar night in a homemade outfit she and her mother had begun crafting several weeks ago—but only finished that day. Kilcher, a distant cousin of singer Jewel, doesn’t deny that “it’s fun to get all glitzed out” in an expensive dress. But she’d rather that money go to more worthy causes, such as organizations like Amnesty International. So the rising young star and her mom, Saskia, collect feathers, tablecloths and old dresses at thrift and fabric stores. “I have my sketches and paintings,” says Kilcher. “Then my mom helps me sew and get the dress together. I am definitely not the best at sewing.” But the hard work paid off, as Kilcher lit up the Celebration of Artistic Freedom viewing party. “If people like it, I’m thrilled,” she says. “If they don’t, I’m sorry. I’m not in competition with anyone.”
GIVE ME AN O-S-C-A-R!
WANT AN ACADEMY AWARD? TIME TO RALLY THE FANS
Talk about Oscar favorites. At all-girls Harpeth Hall prep school in Nashville, Reese Witherspoon‘s alma mater, 700 students and faculty—some dolled up as Legally Blonde’s Elle Woods or as June Carter Cash—feasted on Reese’s Pieces during a March 3 pep rally. In Fairport, N.Y., students wore Capote-esque tuxes to honor grad Philip Seymour Hoffman. And in Fayetteville, N.C., members of Holy Trinity Episcopal church donned Penguin suits of their own to cheer their film on to an Academy Award. What’s it all spell? A whole lot of Oscar pride.
WE WERE THE ONES WHO…
COACHED FELICITY ON PLAYING A TRANSSEXUAL
To prep for her role in Transamerica, Huffman was coached by transgender activists Andrea James, 39, and Calpernia Addams, 35. “Males talk from their chests, and women talk a little more in their head,” explains James. “She was really concerned with getting it right.”
TAUGHT REESE TO PLAY THE AUTOHARP
How did Witherspoon learn to strum like June Carter Cash? “She hadn’t played any instruments before, so it was difficult, but after a few weeks she did fine,” says L.A. musician Kit Alderson, 61, who also coached Joaquin Phoenix on guitar. “I can’t imagine the next height the Autoharp can climb,” Alderson says of the 124-year-old instrument. “I imagine this is it.”
OSCAR’S SUSAN LUCCI
Sound mixer Kevin O’Connell, 48, had been nominated 17 times with no win. For his 18th nod this year, he wrote a speech! Not so fast.
Someone please call 911 and send an ambulance to Canoga Park because I am sure my mom is freaking out. I want to thank my studio. Everyone is just amazing. I’d like to thank my wife, Heather, and my kids Cooper and Casey, and Michael Kohut, Richard Branca and Dan Sharp, who should be standing here with me. And I want to thank my mother, Skippy, who 28 years ago got me a job in sound…. I said, “Mom, how can I ever thank you?” She said, “Someday stand up on the stage in front of the whole world and thank me.” I have been waiting 28 years to do that.