Belfast Telegraph

Oscars suffers 'Kanye West moment' as animosity spills into speech

By Guy Adams

Film producer Elinor Burkett was yesterday coming to terms with overnight celebrity after making a brief but memorably combative appearance on the winner's podium at Sunday's Academy Awards.

They're calling her Lady Kanye, but she has very little in common with the eccentric hip-hop star except a healthy sense of self-righteousness and a tendency, when her hackles get raised, to flout the saccharine conventions of showbusiness.

In one of the night's strangest incidents, Ms Burkett barged fellow Oscar-winner Roger Ross Williams off the microphone, midway through his acceptance speech, and accused him of trying to steal the limelight.

"Isn't it just like the man to never let the woman talk?" she declared, before launching into a series of unintelligible remarks about their film, Music by Prudence, which had just been named Best Documentary (Short Subject).

Although the flummoxed-looking Williams made occasional efforts to interrupt, Ms Burkett refused to surrender the microphone until the band began playing.

It soon emerged that the film is at the centre of a delightfully petty dispute which has seen the pair on non-speaking terms for almost a year. This meant they had not agreed who would make a speech if the film won.

Burkett therefore said she'd been highly upset to see him "race up there to accept the award". The director's elderly mother even used a walking stick to delay her arrival on stage, she alleged.

Williams, meanwhile, claimed that he was merely following instructions given to him by the Academy in making the speech. On Monday, each duly began courting public sympathy via the chat-show circuit.

Speaking to CNN's Larry King, Mr Williams claimed they had fallen out last May, for creative reasons: he'd wanted the film, about disabled musicians in Zimbabwe, to focus on Prudence Mabhena. Ms Burkett was adamant that it should instead be about Ms Mabhena's entire band.

They were unable to reach a compromise, so HBO, which was backing the film, had Burkett removed. A lawsuit was settled by giving her the co-producer credits, which entitled her to the Oscar.

"She has nothing to do with the movie. She just ambushed me. I was sort of in shock," said Williams. Asked whether his mother had attempted to hijack Ms Burkett's progress to the stage, he added: "That's ridiculous. She got up to hug me. My mother is 87 years old and has bad knees. She was just kind of excited."

Burkett was meanwhile described as a long-standing controversialist. "She is extremely bright, a gifted writer and an unabashed self-promoter," said Ellie Brecher, a former colleague on The Miami Herald, where she once worked.


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