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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Catherine Shoard

Pedro Almodóvar on Will Smith at the Oscars: ‘The devil, in fact, doesn’t exist’

Pain and no glory … Pedro Almodóvar at Vanity Fair's Oscar party.
Pain and no glory … Pedro Almodóvar at Vanity Fair's Oscar party. Photograph: Nina Prommer/EPA

Pedro Almodóvar, whose film Parallel Mothers was nominated for two Oscars, has offered his verdict on this year’s ceremony.

In a lengthy awards-week diary for IndieWire, Almodóvar gave an insider’s glimpse at proceedings from his seat in the stalls. Here, “very close to the protagonists” when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock for making a joke about his wife’s alopecia, “what I saw and heard,” wrote Almodóvar, “produced a feeling of absolute rejection in me.”

This feeling lingered after the episode, he writes, particularly during Smith’s subsequent acceptance speech for best actor – “a speech that seemed more like that of a cult leader. You don’t defend or protect the family with your fists, and no, the devil doesn’t take advantage of key moments to do his work.”

Almodóvar then took issue with Smith’s declaration that Denzel Washington had cautioned him in the aftermath of the slap, saying: “‘At your highest moment, be careful. That’s when the devil comes for you.’”

“The devil, in fact, doesn’t exist,” wrote Almodóvar. “This was a fundamentalist speech that we should neither hear nor see. Some claim that it was the only real moment in the ceremony, but they are talking about the faceless monster that is the social media. For them, avid for carrion, it undoubtedly was the great event of the night.”

The director was present in the Dolby theatre for almost five hours as he also attended the pre-telecast ceremony for eight craft categories, which he said was down to network ABC needing to “satisfy their spectators, who get bored to death when they don’t see a famous face (if possible on the verge of a nervous breakdown) and instead see unknown, emotional people who at that moment of their wins remember all their relatives with a drama as if they’ve been victims of a tsunami.”

He took time out to try and cure his “tremendous headache” and to attempt to warm up, as “it is freezing cold in the stalls”. Both Nicole Kidman and Penélope Cruz were wrapped in their husbands’ jackets, lest they be “cryogenized”.

However, he appears to enjoy himself more when speaking to Kenneth Branagh, who seems to apply to be cast in Almodóvar’s upcoming English-language debut, and Francis Ford Coppola, who “has slimmed down considerably”.

He also joined a group including Javier Bardem and Al Pacino. “It’s a mass of talent. Javier doesn’t stop hugging him and Pacino smiles, delighted. I say: ‘You, Al Pacino. Me, Al Modóvar.’ Javier roars with laughter. I think it’s the worst joke I’ve made in my life.”

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