STEVE INSKEEP, host:
The filmmaker Martin Scorsese finally has an Oscar. After being nominated for Best Director five times over the years, Scorsese walked away with that honor last night for his latest film, "The Departed." It also won Best Picture.
NPR's Mandalit del Barco was backstage.
MANDALIT DEL BARCO: Standing onstage to accept the first Oscar of his career, Martin Scorsese received a standing ovation and pretended he couldn't believe it.
Mr. MARTIN SCORSESE (Director): Could you double-check the envelope?
(Soundbite of laughter)
DEL BARCO: After all, the 64-year-old filmmaker had been nominated a total of seven times, twice for screenwriting.
Mr. SCORSESE: So many people over the years have been wishing this for me. So it's strange. You know, I go - I walk in the street. People say something to me. I go in a doctor's office. I go in a - whatever, elevators. People say I wish - you should win this. I go for an X-ray. You should win one.
DEL BARCO: Apparently, Academy voters also thought it was about time to honor the creator of such films as "Raging Bull," "Taxi Driver" and "Goodfellas." Backstage, Scorsese told reporters what he was thinking when his name was called.
Mr. SCORSESE: I said, you know, good thing I didn't get it before. It's a good thing I waited and good thing - you know, yeah, because maybe I would have changed the kind of movies I made or something. I couldn't trust myself. I don't know if I was strong enough if I'd gotten it before, quite honestly. You know, and I'm glad that it went this way.
DEL BARCO: After being passed over for such films as "The Gangs of New York" and "The Aviator," Scorsese won for the kind of movie on which he built his reputation, a gritty urban crime drama starring Jack Nicholson as a Boston mob boss.
(Soundbite of movie, "The Departed")
Mr. JACK NICHOLSON (Actor): (As Frank Costello) When I was your age, they would say we could become cops or criminals. Today what I'm saying is this. When you're facing a loaded gun, what's the difference?
DEL BARCO: "The Departed" won four of the five Oscars for which it was nominated, but the most nominated film, "Dreamgirls," only came away with two awards. One of them went to former American Idol contestant Jennifer Hudson for Best Supporting Actress for her role as a singer who doesn't get a chance to become a star. In accepting the award, Hudson said the story hit close to home.
Ms. JENNIFER HUDSON (Actress): I didn't think I was going to win. But, wow, if my grandmother was here to see me now. She was my biggest inspiration for everything because she was a singer and she had the passion for it, but she never had the chance. And that was the thing that pushed me forward to continue.
DEL BARCO: "Dreamgirls" had earned three of the five nominations in the Best Song category, but it lost to Melissa Etheridge in her anthem about global warming.
(Soundbite of song, "I Need To Wake Up")
Ms. MELISSA ETHERIDGE (Singer): (Singing) Now I am throwing off the carelessness of youth to listen to an inconvenient truth. That I need to move. I need to wake up. I need to change. I need to shake up. I need to speak out.
DEL BARCO: Backstage, Etheridge told reporters she was a bit surprised by the upset.
Ms. ETHERIDGE: "Dreamgirls" is what music in movies is about. It's a musical. It's what I grew up loving, and you know, had there not been three songs and maybe there might have been one, you might be talking to a different person here. You know. But that's the way it goes, I guess.
DEL BARCO: Etheridge's song came from the soundtrack for this year's Best Documentary Feature, "An Inconvenient Truth," which chronicled former Vice President Al Gore's campaign to save the environment.
On stage, Gore thanked Hollywood for spreading his go green message and he played along with the persistent questions about another run for office.
Vice President AL GORE: Even though I honestly had not planned on doing this, I guess, with a billion people watching it's as good a time as any, so my fellow Americans...
(Soundbite of laughter)
Vice President GORE: ...I'm going to take this opportunity, right here and now to formally announce...
(Soundbite of music)
DEL BARCO: This year's awards had a decidedly global cast. Winners accepted in a variety of languages - Spanish, Chinese and Italian. And the films dealt with the human costs of the diamond trade in Africa, World War II from the Japanese perspective, a little girl's reaction to the Spanish Civil War, Queen Elizabeth's reaction to the death of Princess Diana, and four families drawn together by a tragedy in Morocco.
Forest Whitaker won Best Actor for his portrayal of the notorious Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the film "The Last King of Scotland." Whitaker delivered one of the most emotional speeches of the night.
Mr. FOREST WHITAKER (Actor): When I was a kid the only way that I saw movies were from the backseat of my family's car at the drive-in. And it wasn't my reality to think I would be acting in movies. So receiving this honor tonight tells me that it's possible. It is possible for a kid from East Texas, raised in South Central L.A. and Carson, who believes in his dreams, commits himself to them with his heart, to touch them, and to have them happen. Because when I first started acting, it was because of my desire to connect to everyone, to that thing inside each of us, that light that I believe exists in all of us. Because acting for me is about believing in that connection, and if the connection is so strong, the connection so deep that we feel it and through our combined belief we can create a new reality.
DEL BARCO: While Forest Whitaker was a favorite to win, Alan Arkin upset Eddie Murphy, who took an uncharacteristically serious turn in "Dreamgirls." Backstage Arkin seemed a bit embarrassed for being singled out for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in "Little Miss Sunshine."
Mr. ALAN ARKIN (Actor): I feel in a sense like a hypocrite because I don't believe in competitions between artists. I think it's insane. This is a fun kind of insanity, but I felt for a long time that if 100 people say one person is a better actor, and 50 people say somebody else was a better actor, why did the 100 people have the vote? The 50 people may have been more deeply moved by another performance. I'm happy I have this. It's very nice, but I don't keep score.
DEL BARCO: He maybe the only one.
Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.
INSKEEP: NPR News also keeps you up to date on what everybody wore. And if you'd like a review of the best and worst of the fashion from last night's red carpet, go to npr.org. This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
(Soundbite of song, "I Need To Wake Up")
Ms. ETHERIDGE: (Singing) ...to listen to an inconvenient truth, that I need to move. I need to wake up. I need to change. I need to shake up. I need to speak out. Something's got to break up. I've been asleep. And I need to wake up now. I am not an island. I am not alone.