For three decades, J.K. Simmons has been one of the best and most recognizable “That Guys” around. The character actor moved from stage to screen in HBO’s 1997 drama Oz, and he’s been working steadily ever since in movies such as Juno, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies, and the movie for which he finally won an Oscar, Whiplash.
On this week’s WTF with Marc Maron, J.K. Simmons spoke at length about the process of winning the Oscar — not the acting, but the awards’ season experience. According to Simmons, actors who want to be considered for Oscars basically have to put themselves through a process, which Simmons was very reluctant to do. “No thanks, I’ll be at home with my wife and kids, or working on my next project,” he had initially told Sony Classics.
However, his director on Juno, Jason Reitman, talked him into it, telling him he could be “that guy, an artiste,” or you could do it … for the film, its director, etc., but also “everyone you have ever known your whole life from your best friend in second grade to all your fourth cousins. All of those people are going to be so excited and so happy and thrilled for you. The people who you were doing theater with in Buffalo in the 1970s … all these people, and obviously, your close friends and family. That really sunk into me.”
Simmons said he and his wife had a “heart-to-heart” about committing to the process — “because it’s a whole thing” — and he agreed when the studio allowed Simmons to bring his wife and kids along with him for all of the awards’ season events. In fact, by the time the Oscars finally arrived, he’d won so many awards for the performance that when they finally announced his name at the Oscars, it came “as a relief because how big a schmuck would I have been if they’d said someone else’s name” when the odds of Simmons winning were so astronomically high by that point.
One of Simmons’ favorite aspects, however, was when he was going up to up to accept the award. “There’s a billion people watching, and you’re in the Kodak theater with every famous actor you grew up watching, so I was a little nervous, and I never actually wrote an acceptance speech. I had a theme in mind … and I wanted to talk about what’s most important in life, which is family. So, I’m kind of formulating my thoughts and walking up on stage, and Lupita Nyong’o was going to hand me the trophy and I reach out with one hand to take the trophy, and I reach out with the other hand to shake her hand, like we’re two dudes making a business deal, and then I realized, ‘Oh no, it’s Hollywood. You’re supposed to do the fake kiss on the cheek.’ So, I kind of awkwardly go in for the fake kiss on the cheek thing, and I gave her a little of a head butt. But [thankfully] not enough to take her down.”
You can see the head butt and Simmons’ family-specific speech here:
Source: WTF with Marc Maron