Introducing Elinor Burkett, the Woman Who 'Pulled a Kanye' at the Oscars
There was only one real shock during last night's 82nd Annual Academy Awards -- more specifically, a shock of orange hair that bum rushed the Kodak Theater stage during Music by Prudence director Roger Ross Williams' acceptance speech for Best Documentary Short. Perhaps more stymying than the onstage assault was the one detail that separates the woman underneath the orange hair, Elinor Burkett, from the other delinquent stage-rusher she is being most compared to today, Kanye West. Unlike West, who crashed Taylor Swift's acceptance speech during this year's VMAs to proclaim that another artist deserved the honor, Burkett was actually attached to the category's winner, Music of Prudence, as a producer. So what's the big deal?
According to Salon.com, who tracked down both Burkett and Williams within minutes of the bizarre speech, the issue was that the Academy only allows one person to accept an Oscar and since Burkett had voluntarily removed herself from the project after a creative-falling out (and ensuing lawsuit), she did not belong on the stage.
Both parties agree that the differences root back to the documentary's focus. Says Burkett:
"The movie was supposed to be about the entire band, Liyana. And the [band members] were very clear they did not want to participate if it ended up being just about one person. The director and HBO decided to focus solely on Prudence. [...] The final product, it's not that it's bad. It's not what I envisioned when I came up with this project. And it's not what we promised the boys in the band. It's just not what we wanted it to be."
Williams claims to have spent $6,000 shooting in Africa himself. Burkett claims to have conceived the documentary alone -- "Roger had never even heard of Zimbabwe before I told him about this." Regardless of those differences, the Academy still recognized Burkett as a producer on the film and included her in their nomination, but clearly stated that only one person would be allowed to accept the award.
Burkett told Salon.com that Williams would not talk to her, let alone work out the award logistics:
"He won't talk to me! This whole week, there have been events thrown by the International Documentary Association, and he hasn't passed any of the invitations on to me."
And when their film's name was called, Burkett alleges that Williams' 89-year-old mother barred her from leaving her seat:
"I'm sure you saw, when we won, he raced up there to accept the award. And his mother took her cane and blocked me. So I couldn't get up there very fast."
Williams explains that since he owns the film, he was the only person entitled to accept the award.
"She has no claim whatsoever. She has nothing to do with the movie. She just ambushed me. I was sort of in shock. I just expected her to stand there. I had a speech prepared."
He said! She said! At least the ever-neutral Oscar Thank You Cam was there to listen to both parties' speeches after the onstage scuffle. Who do you think was at fault?
· The Story behind Oscar's Kanye Moment [Salon.com]