If you win an Academy Award, for the love of Meryl Streep, cry. And be witty. And thank your mom. And bow down to lord and savior Harvey Weinstein. But please just remember to cry.
By this point, at the tail end of the seemingly interminable awards season, the likes of Anne Hathaway, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Ben Affleck have likely logged hours each giving acceptance speeches as they steamrolled the precursor awards shows. Jennifer Lawrence has charmed America on a handful of occasions with her thank-yous. But has anyone thus far given a truly great acceptance speech?
As the stars prepare for Oscars Sunday, we’ve perused the greatest hits of Oscar speeches past and come up with this, an instructional video for giving the Academy Award acceptance speech of viewers’ dreams.
Year after year, millions of people around the world tune into the Academy Awards, many if not most not having seen 75 percent of the films nominated. With scant investment, then, if little-seen Amour triumphs over little-seen Beasts of the Southern Wild, these people are tuning in, largely, for one thing: histrionic explosions of emotion from typically buttoned-up movie stars.
They don’t want to see Hilary Swank march up to the stage with note cards. They want to see Halle Berry crumble into a blubbering puddle of tears (Step 1: cry), or Julia Roberts erupt into her trademark loud guffaw (Step 2: laugh). You just won an Oscar! Jump around a bit and get excited, like Cuba Gooding Jr., or—why not—make out with Halle Berry. When else would you have the excuse (Step 3: get physical) ?
You’re an actor—a trained performer who has been gifted on multiple occasions with the words of brilliant screenwriters. You know the importance of first impressions, and you’ve known for over a month that you’ve been nominated for an Academy Award. That’s plenty of time to come up with a Streisandesque “Hello, gorgeous!” or a Julie Andrews–adorable “You Americans are famous for your hospitality, but this is ridiculous” opener (Step 4: have a great opening line).
Then it’s time to pay tribute. No one wants to hear about your agent or your lawyer. They want to hear you weep as you thank your mother for all her sacrifices (Step 5) and pay tribute to the famous people who paved the way for your success. The more famous people you mention the better, really, and it’s always wise to acknowledge the genius of Meryl Streep (Step 6). She’s probably nominated in your category, anyway, and we all love her.
Next you have a few options. If you ever want to work in this town again, you’re going to want to name-check Harvey Weinstein (Step 7).
Similarly, you’ll want to tease George Clooney—he’s probably in the audience, and he loves that (Step 8). And when in doubt, paraphrase something Tom Hanks or Meryl Streep said in one of their speeches (Step 9). No one has ever not loved one of their speeches.
Then—oh no! The conductor is starting to play you off. Time for Step 10: make a joke about your time running out. But be charming about it, like Julia Roberts. The conductor still refusing to let you finish?
Time to start jumping up and down adorably like Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, shouting thank-yous to every single person you can think of until the microphone is finally silenced. Or just start wailing in French, à la Jean Dujardin (Step 11).
And then, there, in 11 easy steps, you have the perfect Oscar acceptance speech. Anne Hathaway, take note.