Oscars Producer Defends Controversial Decision to Run Best Actor Category Last

The 2021 Oscars landed itself in controversy after it changed the order of awards to close out the night with the Best Actor category rather than Best Picture. Now, more than a week later, Oscars producer Steven Soderbergh is addressing the decision, which many assumed was because the late Chadwick Boseman would win the award that ultimately went to Anthony Hopkins. Speaking with the Los Angeles Times for an interview published Tuesday, the director and producer defended the decision, revealing that it had been made even prior to the nominations reveal and was "always part of the plan."

Explaining the mindset behind the move, Soderbergh said it was the producers' belief that "actors' speeches tend to be more dramatic than producers' speeches," and as such, they thought "it might be fun to mix it up, especially if people didn't know that was coming." While Soderbergh said the change "was something we were going to do well before the nominations came out" and they "talked about [it] in January," he said Boseman's nomination for his final performance in Netflix's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom helped make the change seem more appropriate.

"And then when the nominations came out and there was even the possibility that Chadwick [Boseman] 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. So we stuck with it," he said. "If there was even the sliver of a chance that he would win and that his widow would speak, then we were operating under the fact that was the end of the show. So it wasn't like we assumed it would, but if there was even a possibility that it would happen, then you have to account for that. That would have been such a shattering moment, that to come back after that would have been just impossible."

Much of the upset sparked Oscars night was due to the fact that Boseman did not take home the prize, as many had assumed the change in category place was because those working behind-the-scenes new Boseman would win. Adding salt to the injury was the fact that the Best Actor winner was not in attendance, meaning the show ended abruptly. Hopkins later delivered his acceptance speech in an Instagram video, taking a moment "to pay tribute to Chadwick Boseman, who was taken from us far too early." Reports soon surfaced that Hopkins had requested to video call in, though he was unable to due to a no-Zoom rule. Asked by the Times if he and other producers would rethink that decision attendance via Zoom, Soderbergh said "no."