The Oscars: The Message of the Red Velvet Curtain

Anne Hathaway reflects on the ‘hate’ she endured after winning her Oscar nomination for her role in Les Misérables.

The year was 1982. I was 20 years old, fresh out of drama school and the acting workshops that I’d signed up for. My family had gone to the Oscars. I was dressed in a white shirt and a black sheath with a little black bow. I was standing behind a red velvet curtain that had been draped over a small area on the West Coast, where my sister, brother, parents and I had to remain until the ceremonies were over.

I knew from the moment that people first walked onto the red velvet carpet that the Oscars were going to be extraordinary. There was an entire world of Hollywood out there ready to be a part of the moment. I was happy to be a part of it.

Even though I had heard of the ceremony just before the Oscars, and even though there was a buzz all around the city waiting to take centre stage, my plan was to enjoy it as it happened. After all, I had already been on television and movies for a few years by that point, was playing parts on stage and in films. I had a part in a Disney film, I was working in a Broadway production and was starring in a live-action drama. So everything before this day had been a part of my life before I knew there was an Oscars. I had had success and I had seen the power of fame and was aware of how things are judged in the press. So I was in no mood for the hate that was to come, I can’t recall exactly what the message was, but I can tell you where it came from; it came from my mother and from my sister, who were standing behind the red velvet curtain.

I can pinpoint the exact words that they said to me. They said: “If you show up here you’d better be on your best behaviour because you’ll be called names.” I will always remember the way they said it to me, I can’t say for certain that it was in front of other people, but they were standing in the middle of the red carpet and they said it in such a direct and angry way. So I know that they’d read the headline in the newspaper and they were saying it in such a way that they could hear it very clearly.


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