If the 2021 Academy Awards broadcast went off without a hitch during a pandemic year, it would have been the greatest heist director Steven Soderbergh ever pulled. Instead, Soderbergh and the producers swapped the presentation order of the usual grand-finale category of Best Picture with Best Actor. Viewers guessed this was so the show could end on a powerful note, with a posthumous Oscar win for the late Chadwick Boseman’s performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. But the Academy ended up voting for The Father’s Anthony Hopkins, who was not in attendance, so the show just abruptly petered out.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Soderbergh insisted that he had meant to switch up the order of the awards show, “well before the nominations came out — we talked about that in January,” because “actors’ speeches tend to be more dramatic than producers’ speeches. And so we thought it might be fun to mix it up, especially if people didn’t know that was coming. So that was always part of the plan.” Soderbergh admits that “if there was even the sliver of a chance that [Boseman] 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 just been impossible.” It’s great that Soderbergh at least acknowledges that the team acknowledged the possibility of Boseman’s win when putting the Best Actor category last, but “that was always part of the plan”? Sure, Steve.