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Oscars Producer Steven Soderbergh Responded To Criticism Of The Show Being Rearranged After Chadwick Boseman Lost Best Actor

According to Soderbergh, the decision to rearrange the categories was made "well before the nominations came out."

Posted on May 6, 2021, at 5:48 a.m. ET

Oscars producer Steven Soderbergh has responded to widespread criticism of this year's show being rearranged, saying it was "always part of the plan" for the 2021 ceremony to end with the Best Actor category.

ABC via Getty Images

In a notable break from tradition, the Oscars ceremony on April 25 ended not with Best Picture, but with Best Actor — and people assumed this was an opportunity to end with a tribute to Chadwick Boseman, who was nominated posthumously for his role in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.

Netflix

Boseman, who died of colon cancer in August last year, had previously been awarded the Best Actor trophies at the Critics' Choice Awards, the Golden Globes, and the SAG Awards.

It stands to reason, then, that people watching at home were more than a little confused when the award was given not to Boseman, but to Anthony Hopkins — and they were even further confused when it turned out Hopkins wasn't even there.

According to a report by the Los Angeles Times, Hopkins was in his home country of Wales on the night of the Oscars. Producers had been adamant that they wouldn't allow virtual acceptance speeches at the ceremony, and the 83-year-old Hopkins decided traveling to the British Film Institute in London to film his speech in-studio wasn't worth the risk in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Presenter Joaquin Phoenix ultimately accepted the award on behalf of Hopkins in what many people thought was a "chaotic" conclusion to the show.

An absent Anthony Hopkins winning over Chadwick Boseman during a ceremony built to end around a Boseman win while Joaquin Phoenix awkwardly stumbles through it all is...wow. Chaos!

Wow, what a massively bad idea. And this overshadows the fact that both Anthony Hopkins and Chadwick Boseman were brilliant and one of them had to win. The spotlight is now shining solely on the producers. Huge mistake. From In Memoriam on, this show was a disaster.

Twitter: @MurrellDan

The Oscars were so sure that Chadwick Boseman was going to win that they REARRANGED THE ENTIRE CEREMONY so his category could be last, and then they gave the award to Anthony Hopkins instead...the most chaotic and unhinged thing I've ever seen.

Twitter: @SpencerAlthouse

In an interview with Variety the day after the show aired, ABC executive Rob Mills called the shift in running order a "calculated risk" that "paid off," because it got people talking.

Todd Wawrychuk / A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images

"It was not meant to end on somebody who was not present," Mills said.

"Some people were upset, some people loved it, and that was really the point — that there was no apathy," he added later.

And speaking to the Los Angeles Times this week, Steven Soderbergh — who served as producer for this year's show — said the change was planned all the way back in January, before nominations were even announced.

Dominique Charriau / WireImage

"It's our belief — that I think is not unfounded — that actors' speeches tend to be more dramatic than producers' speeches," Soderbergh said. "And so we thought it might be fun to mix it up, especially if people didn't know that was coming."

"That was always part of the plan," he said.

But, Soderbergh admitted, after the nominations were announced and they discovered Boseman was up for the award, they agreed moving Best Actor to last was the right call.

Netflix

"When the nominations came out and there was even the possibility that Chadwick could win posthumously, our feeling was if he were to win and his widow were to speak on his behalf, there would be nowhere to go after that," Soderbergh said. "So we stuck with it."

He went on to say that while producers weren't necessarily expecting Boseman to win, they had to account for the possibility that he could.

"That would have been such a shattering moment, that to come back after that would have been just impossible," he said.

And when asked if he and the other producers might reconsider their decision not to allow virtual acceptance speeches at the ceremony, Soderbergh simply said: "No."

"This show was very much viewed by us and by the academy as an opportunity to try some really different stuff," Soderbergh said. "And the understanding was always, there are going to be some things that work and some things that don't... That's the point."

Todd Wawrychuk / A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images

Despite the criticism, though, Boseman's brother Derrick told TMZ that his family wasn't upset by the way the show ended and didn't consider the loss a snub.

Netflix

In fact, he said his brother never put too much value on the Oscars anyway.

"[He] always described them to me as a campaign," Derrick said.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.

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