Russell Crowe was nominated three consecutive times for a Best Actor Academy Award® for his work in The Insider, Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind. He won the award for his performance in Gladiator. How did it feel to win?
"It was pretty big. It was probably the most adrenalized I've ever been in my life. You see people do it year after year, but you're sitting there not expecting a single thing. … It was like the earth dropped away from me!"
Billy Bob Thornton
"People ask you if the Oscar® is the greatest thing that ever happened to you," Billy Bob says. "Sometimes when I'm asked that, I almost feel like somebody just threw a knife at me—because it's a wonderful thing … but in the scheme of your life, I mean, my children's births, the fact that I've had an amazing relationship all my life with my mother … those things are the things that really come to my mind."
Growing up in England, Emma says she never realized how important the Academy Awards® were because they weren't broadcast in Britain. In 1992, when she arrived in Los Angeles as a first-time nominee, the significance began to sink in. During the awards, Emma's own mother said she didn't have a "snowball's chance in hell" of winning…but she did! "I was totally shocked," Emma says.
After the awards show, Emma says she wrapped her Oscar in a pair of socks and put it in her purse for the flight home. The gold-plated statue set off airport security alarms, and the screeners asked her to unwrap the mysterious cargo from its sock casing. "It was as though they had unveiled the Ark of the Covenant," Emma says. "They all passed it around saying, 'Oh, look! Can we hold it?' … It was very, very moving to me."
As a Southern belle growing up in Nashville, Tennessee, Reese says she never dreamed that she'd win an Oscar®. After celebrating until 3 a.m. on Oscar night, she says reality began to sink in when her head finally hit the pillow.
"[Winning] felt surreal to me," Reese says. "It was just nice to have a moment and just go, 'Wait, I've done something. I actually made a good movie.'"
Hilary Swank was crowned Oscar's® golden girl in 2005 when she took home her second statuette, this time for her role in Million Dollar Baby!
Oprah: Was it as good the second time?
Hilary: Yes. It was…I'm just as speechless and in awe. I can't believe it. I can't believe it. Seriously. Still, it hasn't hit me. My first one hasn't even hit me!
Oprah: That was a role of a lifetime.
Hilary: I thought with Boys Don't Cry it was a role of a lifetime. And I thought once in a lifetime. Once. But to get that other opportunity [with Million Dollar Baby]…I guess I try and take it all in.
Oprah: Were you able to live the moment as well as be in there in the moment?
Hilary: I was really in the moment. I made sure that on the red carpet I was in the moment; I wasn't thinking about "later." In my seat…I tried to be really present when everyone else was getting their award. I wasn't thinking, "Well, how many is it away?" I was just trying to take them in and appreciate them…Honestly, it was an out-of-body experience.
"They said my name and I had that feeling that you have in dreams where you're trying to walk and you can't walk. And I thought, 'I'm not going to be able to get up the stairs, and I'm not going to be able to talk,'" says Gwyneth Paltrow about winning an Oscar® for her work in Shakespeare In Love. "I felt like I was outside of my body. It was very surreal. I have no idea [what I said]. I just know that I cried. I was a total wimp!"
"I think I was in a stupor. … I was pretty shocked," says Diane Keaton, who won an Oscar® for her work in Annie Hall. "What it means to me now is really how I define it, because what it has brought to me is enormous opportunities. And also the other thing was that it afforded me the possibility to become acquainted with people and make friends with people like Walter Matthau and Jack Nicholson."
"[It was like] huge just white noise, you know? I just went white. I knew what you're supposed to do. I knew that now's the point where you try not to fall going up the stairs and try not to forget all the people who were responsible for your standing there," says Renée Zellweger, who won an Academy Award® for her work in Cold Mountain. "And the guy down below in the orchestra [pit], he was the conductor and he was having a conversation with everybody about what was going to happen next, and with the acoustics the way they were, I don't think anyone else could hear him but me. But it was really loud! He was, like, 'Okay. So next it's going to be this.' And I was trying desperately not to forget my mom, you know? It was quite a moment, actually. Quite a moment."