It was a history-making night of firsts. At the 82nd Academy Awards®, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win an Oscar® for directing and Geoffrey Fletcher became the first African-American to take home a statuette for screenwriting.
The top acting awards also went to four first-time winners—Sandra Bullock, Jeff Bridges, Mo'Nique and Christoph Waltz. Just hours after accepting Hollywood's top honor, they're returning to the Kodak Theatre to celebrate with Oprah and thousands of fans.
For eight months, Sandra turned down her award-winning role in The Blind Side, a movie based on the true story of NFL player Michael Oher and his adoptive family. But, after going blonde and perfecting a Southern accent, it became the role of her life.
During her emotional acceptance speech, Sandra paid tribute to her late mother, Helga. "She said to be an artist, you had to practice every day," Sandra said. "And [I thank her] for reminding her daughters that there's no race, no religion, no class system, no color, nothing, no sexual orientation that makes us better than anyone else. We are all deserving of love."
After the Academy Awards, Sandra says she arrived home at 3:15 a.m., showered and slept for just two hours. "Now I'm back!" she says.
Sandra has received much recognition for her role in The Blind Side, but she says nothing prepared her for her Oscar moment.
"As I've been telling everyone, look at my career up to this moment. Nothing in my career has said, 'She is going to get an Oscar one day,'" she says. "I had the pleasure of doing great, small films that I loved so much. I loved the work, but if no one goes to see them, they're your own private, personal joys."
The moment Sandra's name was announced, she says she thought to herself, "I don't know if I'm worthy of this." Sandra also thought of advice she once received from her mom.
"The good mamas are often tough mamas. I remember when I was a kid, she goes, 'If you ever win an award, I don't want you to cry.' … Because she thought it was just ridiculous," Sandra says. "Then, here I am, and I was like, "Well, you can't say anything. You're dead." But that's the joke I had with her, I said, 'Once you're up there, you can't really…' And she said, 'No, I'll be floating around.' And she will. She's here. She's missed so many moments, but I think those moments wouldn't have happened if she hadn't been up there."
During her acceptance speech, Sandra also recognized the women nominated alongside her for Best Actress—Meryl Streep, Carey Mulligan, Helen Mirren and Gabourey Sidibe.
To lighten the mood, Sandra referenced a kiss she and Meryl shared at the Critics' Choice Awards and joked that they might just be more than friends. "In this business, they pit women up against each other all the time. They don't to it to the men, and I'm so tired of it," Sandra says. "I said: 'You know what, how do we diffuse this? I'm gonna kiss her.'"
Sandra says she and her fellow nominees have become like a sorority of sorts over the past three months. "We're all so different. I don't know how you can pick one. You can't. So I represent all five of us," she says. "Look at Carey and Gabby: They just started, and look at how impactful they've been."
Sandra's golden moment ended with a knowing look toward her husband, motorcycle man Jesse James. This tough, tattooed biker might deny it this morning, but his eyes welled up with tears as he watched Sandra accept her first Oscar.
Over the past few months, Jesse has traded in his T-shirt and jeans for tuxedos, but Sandra says last night was his last walk down red carpet for awhile. "This is a man who works 12 hours a day, manual labor," she says. "I have to pull him out of bed … and say, 'Can you try on the Dolce suit?' He's like, 'Do I have to?' I'm like: 'Yes. I don't want you to look like a bad waiter.' … He's amazing."
On her first full day as an Oscar winner, Sandra says she's meeting up with her husband to do something she's been wanting to do for three months—eat a burger!
"I'm going to go have lunch with the husband at his little burger joint called Cisco Burger," she says. "I want a juicy burger. I want fries. I want soft-serve ice cream, and I want to look at him and say, 'Thank you.'"
This time last year, Mo'Nique was best known as a stand-up comedian. But, after the 82nd Academy Awards, she'll forever be remembered as the recipient of a Best Supporting Actress statuette.
Over the past few months, Mo'Nique has been criticized in the press for not promoting her film, which she says is inaccurate. "Everybody kept saying, 'She won't promote the movie,'" she says. "I've done [The Oprah Show], and I've talked about the movie twice."
After delivering a gut-wrenching performance, Mo'Nique didn't attend every premiere or press junket because she wanted to restore balance in her life. "Not only am I a late-night talk show host, not only am I an actress, not only am I a stand-up comedian, I'm also a mother," she says. "And I'm also a wife."
During her speech, Mo'Nique also took a moment to honor a Hollywood trailblazer who paved the way for African-American actors—Hattie McDaniel. In 1939, Hattie became the first African-American to win an Oscar of any kind for her role as Mammy in Gone with the Wind.
Like Hattie, Mo'Nique wore gardenias in her hair at the ceremony.
"I carry her. Last night was really special because I could hear her whispering in my ear," Mo'Nique says. "Because of her, it's why you sit where you sit. I sit where I sit. Sandra sits where she sits. She did so much for all of us. So I'm very proud."
To celebrate her big win, Mo'Nique says she and her husband, Sidney, left the glamour behind and went to one of their favorite Los Angeles eateries—Uncle Andre's BBQ.
"We went home, just Sid and I, and we giggled," she says.
Mo'Nique credits Sidney with convincing her to take this life-changing role. "I can remember when we first got that script, and I first read the book, Sydney said to me, 'Mama, if you play this right, people get Oscars for stuff like this,'" she says.
Before the 2010 Academy Awards, some considered Jeff Bridges one of Hollywood's most underappreciated actors. But on Oscar night, this five-time nominee got his due when he won Best Actor for his turn as a washed up cowboy crooner in Crazy Heart.
Though he already nabbed a Golden Globe®, Critics Choice Award®, Screen Actors Guild Award® and an Independent Spirit Award®, Jeff says he wasn't prepared for how it would feel to win an Oscar. "All your concepts and everything go out the window, and there you are," he says. "You know those things when we were kids—those magic slates? It kind of felt like that for some reason. Everything just went [whoosh]. Clean, clear, a lot of gladness."
After the ceremony, Jeff says he celebrated "very delicately" and managed to get four hours of sleep. "I didn't go too far; I was proud of myself," he says. "I kind of blew it when we finally went back to the hotel. I think I did a little too much champagne there with my sweetheart."
Some have said Jeff's portrayal of Bad Blake felt effortless. Jeff says he just had the right mojo. "Acting is kind of like a magic trick. It's an illusion," he says. "There's the kind of sleight-of-hand magic, and there's that alchemy magic. You kind of [mix] a combo of those things and just finally let it rip and there it is."
Jeff says the music also made the role. "I got to play with all my buddies—[producers] T. Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton," he says. "The music for that movie really started 30 years ago [on the set of the western film] Heaven's Gate. That's where I met T. Bone and Stephen Bruton."
During his golden moment, Jeff thanked his parents—Hollywood legends Lloyd Bridges and Dorothy Dean Bridges—for getting him into this "groovy business." Though they've both passed, Jeff says he knew they were watching. "I felt my folks," he says. "They were all over the place."
Jeff also said he wouldn't be where he is without his three daughters and wife of more than 30 years. "I remember running into Francis Coppola not too long ago. … He says: 'I'm giving a talk to a bunch of young actors. They're asking advice,'" he says. "I said, 'What do you tell them?' He says, 'I say the most important thing for an actor is to get married. … All the movies and the plays are all about love in one way or another. And it also gives you a reason to have a career, to support a family. It gets you involved in what life's all about.'"
Though he's enjoyed his Oscar ride, Jeff says it's already time to get back to work. "From here I go to a plane with the Coen brothers," he says. "We will fly to Santa Fe, and we will start our movie True Grit."
In Quentin Tarantino's Nazi-hunting drama Inglorious Basterds, Christoph Waltz went toe-to-toe with Brad Pitt—and won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in the process.
Christoph had already won Golden Globe, a BAFTA®, a Critics Choice Award and a Screen Actor's Guild for his role as an evil Nazi, but says winning the Oscar felt different. "First of all, I was more nervous than ever before because it is the Academy Awards," he says.
When his name was called, Christoph says he blanked out. "I hardly recognized my name," he says. "Afterward backstage, the girl took my hand. Like in an emergency ward, she said to me: 'You are under shock. You will not know tomorrow what happened.' I was extremely grateful because she was right."
After winning, Christoph toasted his award with the one and only Quentin Tarantino. "I love Quentin," he says.
Having spent so much time with Quentin, Christoph says he's seen a little-known side of the director. "We know that Quentin is zany, crazy, wild—that's true," he says. "But that's not the only thing. Quentin is considerate and fine and sensitive and polite—immensely polite."
Christoph says he's also grateful to have had so much fun playing a bad guy. "[It's] infinitely more fun than being so good."
Before playing the evil Nazi that earned him Oscar gold, Christoph says he was a struggling actor in Germany. Now, at 53, he's an overnight sensation and Hollywood's man of the hour. "It's still overnight," he says. "It just took me a little longer."
Christoph says he had dreams of winning an Oscar early in his career, but left them behind as the reality of making it in film set in. "You slowly start to forget about this," he says. "And I think it's a good idea to forget about this so, if and when it actually does happen, … it's a shock."
Now, the former opera student says his phone is ringing off the hook. "I always think about [what's] next, but not necessarily in connection with this," he says. "It hasn't sunk in at all."