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|| News Item: Posted 2009-12-28

Decade Collection: Robert Hanashiro
'My first time backstage at the Oscars was one of the most nerve-wracking, pressure-filled assignments I have ever had.'

By Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Jack Nicholson watches Martin Scorsese deliver his speech in the Kodak Theater during the 79th annual Academy Awards.
Through a lot of hard work by Life section picture editor Jym Wilson, in 2007 USA TODAY became one of just three news organizations with backstage access to the Academy Awards.

This exclusive access enabled me to make photographs that that showed our readers a part of the Oscar show that they would not see on the TV broadcast: Big-time actors, directors producers and studio executives in unguarded, candid moments during one of the most watched events of the year.

Clint Eastwood laughing at a Jerry Seinfeld joke, Jennifer Hudson mouth agape being greeted after winning best supporting actress, John Travolta dancing around, Forest Whitaker hugging a tearful Marion Cotillard after she won best actress, Gwyneth Paltrow getting her hair sprayed before taking stage, former Vice President Al Gore having his make up touched up…

My first time backstage at the Oscars was one of the most nerve-wracking, pressure-filled assignments I have ever had. Besides making photos in near total darkness, I had to dodge set pieces being rolled on and off stage, keep out of the way of the presenters (and their hangers-on), stay clear of several TV cameras AND stay out of sight on the audience in the theater.

But my favorite photograph from backstage at the Oscars breaks one of the general rules of photojournalism: Readers want to see a subject’s face.

Jack Nicholson is one of the most recognizable personalities in Hollywood, but at the 2007 Academy Awards, he showed up with a shaved head. When we ran into him, literally, backstage, it took me a minute to recognize him.

After presenting an award, Nicholson just hung around back stage. The final 30-minutes of the Oscars are what everyone waits for: The presentation of the best actor, best actress, best director and best film.

As Martin Scorsese made his acceptance speech for best director for “The Departed”, Nicholson (who starred in the film) stepped up to the edge of the curtain, peeking around it like a kid would at his first school play.

Shot from behind, the image shows Nicholson, Scorsese in the background, framed by the curtain and the tiers of balconies of the Kodak Theater.

Shaved head and all.

(Robert Hanashiro is a staff photographer with USA TODAY. He started the Sports Shooter Newsletter in 1998.)

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