Streakers, fluffs and cringey speeches – with the Oscars incoming this Sunday, we delve into the Academy archives to dig out those priceless moments...
David Niven and the streaker
Streakers were as much a phenomenon of the 1970s as fondue, strikes and canary-yellow wallpaper and so it was only to be expected that the Academy Awards would one day be stage invaded by someone flashing their unmentionables. So it was in 1974 that the debonair David Niven found himself momentarily upstaged by gay rights activist Robert Opal and his member. “Isn’t it fascinating,” Niven deadpanned, “to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?”
Melissa drops the F bomb
When Melissa Leo won in 2010 for her supporting turn in David O Russell’s The Fighter, it ended up as one of the most bizarre moments of that year’s ceremony. Presented the award by a then-95-year-old Kirk Douglas, she flirts with the veteran actor, blathers on for well over the allotted 45 seconds, drops the F bomb and then exits with the bewildering cry of "Cause it's about SELLIN' MOTION PICTURES, and RESPECTING THE WORK!" Then, as if all that wasn't cringey enough, she grabs Kirk Douglas’ cane off him (which the guy needed) and dodders off the stage like an old woman. Way to go, Melissa.
James Franco and Anne Hathaway fail to win the crowd
The Oscars have had their share of misjudged hosts (step forward David Letterman, Neil Patrick Harris and Seth MacFarlane), but none were quite as ill-suited as James Franco and Anne Hathaway. Chosen to appeal to a younger demographic, the comically mismatched pair failed to generate any kind of chemistry and were hog-tied with some spectacularly dismal one-liners.
Franco, it must be said, received the most criticism, with The Hollywood Reporter calling him “distant [and] uninterested”. He later defended himself against accusations that he was, ahem, under the influence, saying his co-presenter "is so energetic, I think the Tasmanian Devil would look stoned standing next to Anne Hathaway." When asked last year if she had any advice for upcoming Oscars cost Neil Patrick Harris, Hathaway said simply, "Do the opposite of what I did, and you’ll be fine.”
The crying game
The award for the most toe-curlingly weepy speech goes to Gwyneth Paltrow, who won the Best Actress gong for her turn in the 1998 comedy Shakespeare in Love. The tears started flowing almost immediately, but it wasn’t until the 1.30 mark when the then 28-year-old actress began thanking her family that she properly lost it. Even for the more emotionally demonstrative Americans this was way too much.
Tom Hanks outs his former teacher
It was a moment of great cultural significance as Tom Hanks collected his Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of gay AIDS sufferer Andrew Beckett in Philadelphia. As the actor took to the stage he paid a heartfelt tribute to two inspirational men from his past.
“I would not be standing here if it weren't for two very important men in my life – Mr Rawley Farnsworth, who was my high school drama teacher, who taught me 'Act well the part, there all the glory lies', and one of my classmates under Mr Farnsworth, Mr John Gilkerson. I mention their names because they are two of the finest gay Americans.” Which is all well and good except Rawley Farnsworth hadn’t actually come out as gay and had to watch himself being outed in front of hundreds of millions of people.
The gaffe actually inspired its own movie, the Kevin Kline-starring comedy In and Out.
Samuel L. Jackson broke with Oscar protocol to mouth "Aww, s***!" when he learned that he’d been beaten (by Martin Landau) to the Best Supporting Actor Oscar at the 1995 Academy Awards. Still, it’s refreshing to see a genuine human response instead of the rictus smiles of his co-nominees. More, please.
Rob Lowe duets with Snow White
There’s one thing that the 1989 Oscars is infamous for, and it’s not the insanity of Driving Miss Daisy bagging four Oscars – including Best Picture – in a year in which Do The Right Thing won none. It doesn’t sound that bad on paper – Rob Lowe duetting with Snow White, what's wrong with that? Yet the sequence was deemed so calamitous that 17 celebrities, including Julie Andrews, Billy Wilder and Paul Newman signed a letter to the Academy saying that the performance was “an embarrassment to both [the Oscars] and the entire picture industry.”
It’s difficult to know what’s the worst element – Rob Lowe singing ear-punishingly out-of-key, the children’s party-like embarrassment of Snow White interacting awkwardly with the visibly bewildered celebs; veteran singer Merv Griffin coming on for a rendition of I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts (I mean, why??)... We could go on…
Disney sued the Academy for using the Snow White character without their permission and the actress playing her was forced to sign a gagging order, banning her from talking about the debacle for 13 years. Let’s just say it wasn’t the big break she was hoping for.