MOVIES | Backstage at the Oscars: Jeff Bridges on family ties, Kathryn Bigelow on James Cameron, “The Cove” producers face off with Japanese media

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HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA—Best Actor winner Jeff Bridges said his family is what keeps him grounded. Greeting the press backstage following his win at the 82nd Academy Awards Sunday, Bridges enjoyed seeing the groups of journalists seated at tables: he asked if he was at a bingo hall.

When asked what his key to success was, Bridges said his family. “[My wife] holds that kite string. Lets me go way out there, and then it’s so sweet being reeled back in,” he said. “I love coming home. She pointed out the other day, we’ve been apart 11 of the last 14 months. So I went, whoo, really far out there. But my wife and my girls—I guess the girls are the tail of the kite—keep me centered like that.”

He says music is what he finds familiar with in his winning role of Bad Blake in Crazy Heart. “The music, that’s what I most identified with Bad. I’ve been writing music, playing music since I was a kid.”

Although Bridge’s character was married four times, his personal life is not like Bad’s. “I have a very strong marriage, you know. Bad didn’t have that. There’s a lot of stuff he didn’t have.”

Best Director winner for The Hurt Locker Kathryn Bigelow was repeatedly asked by reporters about her ex-husband James Cameron, also nominated in the Best Director category for Avatar. One reporter even asked if Cameron had given her any filmmaking tips while they were married. Bigelow handled it all with poise and grace. “Well, I think Jim is very inspiring, and I think he inspires filmmakers around the world, and for that I think I can speak for all of them. We’re quite grateful.”

Bigelow’s win was a first for a female director. “I hope I’m the first of many,” she said. “And, of course, I’d love to just think of myself as a filmmaker, and I long for the day when a modifier can be a moot point.  But I’m ever grateful if I can inspire some young, intrepid, tenacious male or female filmmaker and have them feel that the impossible is possible and never give up on your dream.”

Louie Psihoyos, Fisher Stevens, Richard O’Barry, and Paula DuPre’ Pesmen—producers of Best Documentary winner The Cove—got into a heated discussion about the Japanese mistreatment of dolphins. The use of those animals for entertainment and food is the focus of The Cove. The Japanese media who were present said their country has strong feelings on both sides about The Cove, and asked whether the producers have a message for Japan.

Louie Psihoyos tackled the issue. “The Japanese press likes to present this without seeing the movie, [saying] that it is about Japan bashing. To me, this movie is a love letter to people in Japan. I myself have had mercury poisoning from eating the wrong kind of fish. I hope the Japanese people see this film, decide for themselves,” he said. “Every piece of dolphin meat that’s ever been touched in the last ten years has been toxic by Japanese law. So our hope is the Japanese people will see this film and decide themselves whether animals should be used for meat and for entertainment. Jacques Cousteau said the educational benefit of watching a dolphin in captivity would be like learning about humanity only by watching prisoners in solitary confinement. If you take a captive animal out of the wild and you force him to do stupid tricks for our amusement, it says more about our intelligence than it does theirs.”

Producer Rick Barry added, “We like Japan. We like the Japanese people and there’s no Japan bashing [in] this film. The Japanese people have a right to know. Article 21 of the Japanese constitution guarantees them the right to know, but the media won’t give them the information. And this film will do what the Japanese media failed to do, and that is inform the people so they can make up their own mind about what they want to do. We’re not telling the Japanese people what to do.”

Tension began to build over accurate mercury counts in dolphin meat and the selling of dolphin meat as whale meat in Japan. The reporter stated The Cove was not technically correct and lacked official statements. “For me the film is shocking,” he said. “Taiji [Japan] town officials have issued a statement and they say that the film lacks some scientific facts. Dolphin meat does not include 2,000 parts per million, such high mercury, and they argue that the fishery does not sell dolphin meat as whale meat, and so how would you respond.”

Psihoyos disagreed. “First of all, we never say all dolphin meat has 2,000 PPM of mercury, which would be a thousand times [more mercury than is allowed by] Japanese law. But every single bit of dolphin meat ever tested in the Ministry of Health is 0.4 PPM, and so just based on your own country’s standards for health, for seafood, every piece of dolphin meat ever tested exceeds the standards. So if they adhere to their own standards, we wouldn’t be talking about this issue,” he says. “The second part is that fisheries don’t sell the dolphin meat. We tested a lot of meat, 200 samples from all over Japan, all over the place, and the middle men are selling dolphin meat as whale meat. This is well-documented. Scott Baker from the University of Oregon, who is our DNA surveillance person, can give you the details on that, but there is a lot of meat being sold in Japan. Dolphin meat being sold as whale meat. It’s not necessarily in Taiji, it’s in the country. The film doesn’t say that the meat is sold in Taiji specifically. It says that it is sold in the country, though. Please, we want the Japanese people to see this film. They’ll have a chance to see it next month—it’s coming out in theaters there.”