The most recent Academy Awards took some major diversions from ceremonies past but the biggest was a re-ordering of the presentation of the Oscars. In every typical year the Best Picture award comes last and closes out the night; for the 2021 Oscars however, the Best Actor award was the final one given out and many assumed that it was positioned that way because the producers assumed the late Chadwick Boseman would take home the prize posthumously. That didn't happen though but a new interview with filmmaker, ceremony producer Steven Soderbergh confirms that the order was chosen before the nominations but Boseman's nomination made them stick to the idea.
"That was something we were going to do well before the nominations came out — we talked about that in January," Soderbergh told The LA Times about the order change-up. "It’s our belief — that I think is not unfounded — that 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. And then when the nominations came out and there was even the possibility that Chadwick could win posthumously, our feeling was if he were to win and his widow were to speak on his behalf, there would be nowhere to go after that. So we stuck with it."
When asked if it would be fair to think that he and the other producers anticipated him winning, Soderbergh added:
"I said if there was even the sliver of a chance that he 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 been just impossible."
As we now know, not only did Boseman not win the prize, but Anthony Hopkins, who wasn't in attendance, did. This resulted in what seemed like a rushed and anti-climactic ending as presenter Joaquin Phoenix quickly noted that The Academy congradulated him and accepted the award on his behalf; the credits rolled soon after.
Some fans of the late Black Panther star though that his losing the award was a snub on the part of The Academy, but Boseman's family and friends disagree with that assessment. To make things more touching however, Hopkins released a video the next morning accepting his award and paying tribute to Chadwick.0comments
"I want to pay tribute to Chadwick Boseman," Hopkins said, "who was taken from us far too early."
You can watch Boseman’s final performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom with Viola Davis on Netflix right now.