Oprah at the Kodak Theatre

On the morning after the 81st Academy Awards®, and Oprah is still in the mood to celebrate! "I've been watching since I was 10 years old, and I think that was the best Academy Awards I have ever seen," she says. "So classy, so respectful."

Watch the stars arrive for the celebration! Watch 

Aside from the new stage, Oprah also loved that every actor nominated received a personal tribute from past winners of the award. "I loved how they were given, and I loved how they were received," she says. "Bravo, Academy!"

Go backstage with Oprah's guests Watch 

Another thing Oprah loved about the 2009 Oscars®? Host Hugh Jackman!
Hugh Jackman on what it was like to host the Oscars

Hosting the Academy Awards® is no small feat, and no one had a better excuse to party all night than Hugh Jackman. But the singing and dancing superstar says he wasn't out late. "This was the party for me," he says. "I had the time of my life. I keep thinking: 'I'm a kid from the northern suburbs of Sydney; I have no business being here. But what the hell? For three and a half hours, I'm going to have the time of my life.'"

Some of the papers have already described Hugh as "shockingly comfortable" as a host, and Hugh admits he wasn't that nervous. "I had a secret weapon. My secret weapon was sitting in about the sixth row—it was my wife," he says. "It's a connection. It takes it off you."

And the show got off to a great start—Hugh received a standing ovation for his opening song and dance! "Everywhere you looked—even though there were kind of like the biggest movie stars in the world—there was goodwill and warmth," he says.

But that was only a warm-up for Hugh's dancing shoes. Later in the show, he teamed up with Beyoncé to honor great musicals. "After she comes down, I sing from Grease 'I've got chills...,' that's the easiest acting I've ever done in my life," he says. "She's singing and I know there's a billion people and everyone in the audience, but I thought it was just for me."
Hugh Jackman and Oprah

Hugh says being backstage at the Oscars is a privilege. "The thing that touched me the most, when people win ... the moment they cross over into the wings something incredible happens. They just melt," he says. "It just sinks in literally the moment they cross over. It's a very personal, very intense moment. It's almost like it's overwhelming when you see that happen to them. You just feel privileged to be there."

You also never know who you'll meet backstage, Hugh says. Near the end of the show, Hugh says he watched past Best Actor and Best Actress winners introduce the nominees on a monitor. "I was sitting there, and I heard, 'That is great.' And I was like, 'That was great,'" he says. "And I [see it's] Steven Spielberg. [I said,] 'Hi Steven, how are you?'"
Kate Winslet, Best Actress for The Reader

Photo: The Weinstein Company

After six nominations, Kate Winslet finally got to deliver the Oscar speech she's dreamed about giving since she was 8 years old and speaking into a shampoo bottle in front of the bathroom mirror. She was named Best Actress for her performance in The Reader.

So what did it feel like to finally win? "It really is an out-of-body experience," she says. "You just think, 'This can't be happening.'"

Kate says everyone in the category was just honored to be nominated along with such an accomplished actress as Meryl Streep. "That's a career-defining moment when you get to stand along someone like Meryl," she says. "And so I honestly did not think for one second that it was going to be me."

Kate says she also loved how the award was presented. "I think that was really a master stroke," she says. "We all had something to take home, no matter what, because those women were speaking to us, and it was a very special moment."

Still, Kate says it hasn't sunk in that the Oscar in her hand is hers. "Isn't he cute?" she says. "I keep sort of looking at him ... and looking at every little piece. Very nice bottom."
Kate Winslet talks about her father.

During her acceptance speech, Kate wasn't able to find her parents in the audience—until her father gave a loud whistle. "We grew up with that," she says. "He's just a rock star, my father."

And her father now also rubs elbows with rock stars. "We went to the Vanity Fair party, and my dad met Elvis Costello, so that was a really fabulous moment for us," she says. "Thank God I brought my camera. I was kind of the sad tourist, taking photos of my dad with as many celebrities as possible. It was really great."
Kate Winslet on her daughter's reaction to her dress

The second Kate got backstage, she says she called her kids—but didn't get quite the reaction she expected from her 8-year-old daughter, Mia.

"I said, 'Hi, Mia, did you jump up and down?'" she says. "[Mia] says: 'Yes, I did, Mum, I did. I need to talk to you about the dress—it was gray.' She was absolutely mortified I wore a gray dress."

Kate says she doesn't consider herself a fashionista or follow the latest trends. But one thing she says she did know is that she didn't want a lot of dresses being sent to her. "I think in this time in the economy, it's just not nice to have people make lots of dresses and you just wear one out of a possible five," she says. "So Yves St. Laurent very kindly said, 'We'd like to make something for you,' and that was what we did."
Kate Winslet talks about onscreen nudity.

Kate had to bare everything, literally, in The Reader—even Oprah has commented on how amazing she looked in her love scenes! But Kate says her days of onscreen nudity may be numbered. 

"I have done quite a lot of nudity, and I feel like my kids—they're 8 and 5 now—maybe they're going to start to become aware of the amount of nudity I've done," she says. "I just sort of feel like I can't get away with it that much longer."
Sean Penn won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Harvey Milk in Milk.

Photo: Focus Features

Another big Oscar winner was Sean Penn, who earned a Best Actor award for his portrayal of gay activist and San Francisco politician Harvey Milk in Milk. Though his acceptance was one of the night's most powerful speeches, Sean says it's all a blur. "I know somewhat of what I said because I was told afterward," he says. 

One thing that Sean did not mention in his speech was his family, but he says that his gratitude toward his wife, actress Robin Wright Penn, goes without saying. "[Robin's] implicit. I wanted to keep things focused on the professional team around this movie," Sean says. "Because with Robin comes my mother and my son and my daughter, and half of them will punish me if I mention them."
Sean Penn honored Mickey Rourke in his Oscar acceptance speech.

Though Sean shared incredible company in the Best Actor category, his acceptance speech called out one fellow nominee specifically, Mickey Rourke. "The whole group of nominees was so deep. ... It was going to be easy to accept one of your fellow nominees winning," he says. "Mickey and I have a relationship that goes back quite a long ways, and he's been depriving us for too long." 
Sean Penn says it was hard to portray Harvey Milk.

Sean has taken on some unforgettable roles—from Fast Times at Ridgemont High's Spicoli to Mystic River's Jimmy Markum, his first Oscar-winning performance. Still, he says Harvey Milk was an especially hard undertaking because his real-life counterpart was one of a kind. "There's no movie actor ever born who could have his charisma, so you're just trying to be the second-best Harvey," Sean says. "But there was a lot of great material on him and infectious stuff that helps you out a lot."

In Sean's acceptance speech, he mentioned that the success of Milk couldn't have come at a better time. "I think because [change] is in the air, and that's all it takes for it to be real," he says. "When that happens and people stand up for their beliefs and activate it, brave new things can happen."
Penelope Cruz won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

Photo: The Weinstein Company

After her Best Supporting Actress win for Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina BarcelonaPenelope Cruz says she was partying until 5 a.m.! Only five hours later, she tells Oprah that not enough time has passed for the experience to sink in.
Penelope says one memory that does stand out was when five previous winners—including Whoopi Goldberg, Tilda Swinton and Goldie Hawn—presented her category. "It was beautiful to see those five amazing actresses. It was a very special moment, and it was long and my heart was going faster and faster and faster," she says. "When they opened the envelope and Tilda looked at me ... then I really thought I was going to faint. I said, 'I don't know how I'm going to make it up there if she says [my] name.' You want to win, but at the same time you are terrified to win."
Penelope Cruz says she was scared she would faint on the Academy Awards stage.

Penelope opened her acceptance speech by asking if anyone had ever passed out on the stage. "I was really worried! For the last few days, I've been going back and forth from Europe to here and doing all of these events for the Oscars. At the same time, I was finishing a movie—I was very overworked and stressed out," she says. "I am not complaining, it's been a great adventure, but a few times I've thought, 'Today's the day where I faint.' Yesterday I thought, 'It should have been before because it's going to happen now, on this stage.'"

When she accepted her award, Penelope didn't faint—but she did deliver some of her acceptance speech in Spanish. What did she say? "I said I wanted to dedicate it to all of the actors from my country and to all of the people that stayed up to watch the show and felt that this also belonged to them," she says.
Penelope Cruz talks about the reality of winning an Oscar.

Penelope's biggest fans—her family—showed their support by painting the letter P on their foreheads. "They had it for 10 hours," Penelope says. 

It hasn't even been a full 24 hours since she gave her acceptance speech, and Penelope says she thinks it will take a few days for reality to sink in. "Yesterday when they gave it to me, I had such an attack back there and I couldn't stop crying for 20 minutes," she says. 

Penelope says she got her first dose of reality this morning, when she saw her Oscar sitting just where she left it—in her bed, on the pillow beside her! "I looked and it was there! It's going to take a few days to really digest the whole thing."
Heath Ledger's father, mother and sister

One of the most emotional wins of the night was Heath Ledger's Best Supporting Actor award for his role as the Joker in The Dark Knight. Afterward, Gayle King spoke with Heath's family, who accepted the award on his behalf. "It's a time for celebration and for us to be happy," says Heath's mother, Sally. "I think we've had a bit of a roller-coaster year, but now it's time to celebrate what he did and be proud of what he did, and we truly are."

Heath's sister, Kate, says she knew the role of the Joker brought him a lot of joy. "He had the time of his life," Kate says. When Kate saw The Dark Knight for the first time, she says it was bittersweet. "I found myself laughing through the whole thing as well as holding back tears," Kate says. "The weirdest thing is, I never wanted it to end. No, because it was like the last bit of him."   

When Heath's family accepted the Best Supporting Actor award, Kate said they were accepting it on behalf of his daughter, Matilda. "We keep all his keepsakes for her. Everything is for Matilda's because that's her daddy's things and her daddy's memories."

Gayle tells Heath's father, Kim, that she was particularly moved when he referred to Heath as "our boy." "We always refer to him as 'our boy'—he always will be," Kim says. As for the rest of the acceptance speech, Kim says he think Heath would have been pleased. "He's probably saying to us right now, 'I'm glad you were down there doing this right now rather than me!'"
Danny Boyle, director of Slumdog Millionaire

Winning an incredible eight Oscars, including best picture, Slumdog Millionaire nearly swept the Academy Awards. What you might not know is that the film nearly ended before it had a chance to begin. Danny Boyle, who took home the Oscar for Best Director, says finding funding for a little indie film with unknown actors wasn't easy. "It looked like it might go to DVD and have no release in North America," he says. "It's always been like that; it's always been like a Cinderella story."

Danny's persistence paid off, and the Academy rewarded the film in a big way. "The Academy, to recognize a film like that at this particular time when small indie films are under pressure is an amazing statement," Danny says. "It's a wonderful testament."

Not only was Slumdog Millionaire a triumph for indie films, but Danny says the Academy also was extending a nod to Bollywood. "It's a huge historic moment really for Bollywood and Hollywood," Danny says. "It's the first time where they've reached across to each other."
Dev Patel from Slumdog Millionaire

For actor Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire has been full of firsts—his first feature film and his first invitation to the Academy Awards! "Walking the red carpet with all of these stars that have inspired me to get into acting, and they're behind me ... it was a sensory overload for me," Dev says. "I couldn't believe it. I was just all over the place bouncing around. It was great."
Freida Pinto from Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire's  leading actress, Freida Pinto, says having the film's cast with her on the red carpet was like having her brothers and sisters with her. "Completely like a family," Freida says. 

The stars of the film seem so close-knit—are Dev and Freida  dating? "The two of us are really good friends. This is our first film—we've been sailing in the same boat," Freida says. "We just help each other so much, just balance off each other—so people have translated that into something else."
A. R. Rahman performs Jai Ho from Slumdog Millionaire.

Among Slumdog Millionaire's  eight wins were three awards for music—sound mixing, original score and original song. A. R. Rahman, who took home two of the Oscars, performs his award-winning song, "Jai Ho," along with the dancers who performed during the Academy Awards.

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