The Iraq War was just three days old when Adrien Brody’s name was announced as the winner for Best Actor at the 2003 Academy Awards. It was a stunning upset: as he soon noted, he didn’t write a speech, “because every time I wrote a speech for the past one of these things I didn’t win.” Prior contests had gone either to Jack Nicholson for About Schmidt or Daniel Day Lewis in Gangs of New York.
Brody’s shock was as palpable as the audiences’. He stood up slowly, looked around in amazement, gave his mother, photographer Sylvia Plachy, a kiss, and bounded to the stage, where Halle Berry, the Best Actress winner from the previous year, was waiting to hand him his Oscar.
Then he did what any sensible man would do: he grabbed the beautiful Berry, dipped her backwards and gave her a long, dramatic kiss worthy of an old Hollywood movie. If he’d stopped there and given a boilerplate, “I’d like to thank my agent, my manager, and the Academy,” speech, it would have still been memorable. But it only got better.
His speech was shot through with humor, wit, and self-depreciation, (“There comes a time in life when everything seems to make sense and this is not one of those times,” he said at the beginning), and earnest gratitude, (“I’ve never felt this much love and encouragement from my peers and from — from people I admire and from complete strangers, and it means a great deal to me.”)
After several attempts by the producers and the orchestra to quell his speech, he urged them for more time. “I got one — one shot at this,” he pleaded.
It was worth it. He ended his speech with a tribute to his childhood friend from Queens, who was serving in Iraq: “I hope you and your boys make it back real soon and God bless you guys. I love you.”
If there was a dry eye left in the house, we didn’t see one