14 Fascinating Facts About the Oscars You Probably Didn't Know

Jacqueline Burt Cote | Feb 23, 2017 Movies

Oscars 2015
London Entertainment/Splash
Looking to impress everybody at this year's Oscars party with your stunningly in-depth knowledge of Academy Awards trivia? With decades of history to draw upon (this is the 89th annual ceremony, after all), there are definitely plenty of fascinating (and sometimes just plain weird) facts to brush up on. 

Read on to learn about groundbreaking firsts, bizarre behind-the-scenes happenings, and so much more! 

  • You Don't Have to Be a Star to Go to the Oscars

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    A photo posted by The Academy (@theacademy) on

    If you've always dreamed of going to the Oscars but never managed to become a movie star, there's still hope (sort of): The Academy Awards (and most other awards shows) regularly hire seat-fillers so the audience doesn't look empty -- they're even required to be on standby for when celebs take bathroom breaks! The only problem with this glamorous gig is that it's super hard to snag (usually you have to know someone, though you can apply through an agency). And oftentimes, you don't even get paid!

  • Ellen DeGeneres Was the First Openly Gay Host

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    Pioneering comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres broke major barriers when she became the first openly gay person to host the Oscars in 2007. She was so successful, she came back for a second round in 2014 -- and the resulting selfie became the most retweeted image ever!

  • There's a Long Wait for Dinner

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    Back in the early days of the Academy Awards, dinner was served to guests during the actual ceremony. The shift was made to a post-awards feast after the Oscars began to be televised (apparently stars were worried about getting caught with their mouths full on camera).

    The very first meal, in 1929, featured such relatively simple dishes as broiled chicken on toast and cake with ice cream; last year's dinner (prepared, as usual, by Wolfgang Puck) included baked potatoes with caviar (one of Brad Pitt's faves) and black truffle-laced chicken pot pie. Nominees and other guests reportedly get so hungry during the hours-long ceremony that they've been known to stash protein bars (and sometimes flasks!) in their pockets and purses.

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  • 'Lord of the Rings: Return of the King' Had a Unique Triumph

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    Tied for most wins ever with Ben-Hur and Titanic, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King is the only movie that ever took home every award it was nominated for at the 76th Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The final installment in Peter Jackson's epic trilogy won in a whopping 11 categories!

  • Even the Losers 'Win' Thousands of Dollars in Prizes

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    Nothing can replace the prestige that comes with winning an Oscar, but swag bags filled with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of really, really cool stuff ain't a bad consolation prize. Last year's bags were valued at more than $200,000 and included such items as a "Vampire breast lift" ($1,900), a 15-day private walking tour of Japan ($54,000), and laser treatments at 740 Park MD ($5,530); pictured here are some of what 2013 "losers" received (valued at a comparatively paltry $45,000). Interesting side note: The marketing company responsible for the bags, Distinctive Assets, actually has no affiliation with the Academy Awards (and the Academy disapproves!).

  • The Longest Acceptance Speech Was Really, Really Long

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    Back in the days before the Academy started playing music to let winners know their acceptance speech time was up, those expressions of gratitude could go on ... and on. Greer Garson still holds the record for longest speech ever: The actress spoke for seven minutes when she won Best Actress for Mrs. Miniver in 1943!

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  • The Youngest Oscar Winner Ever Was Really, Really Young

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    With a famous father (Ryan O'Neal), Tatum O'Neal unsurprisingly got into acting young -- but no one expected her to win an Academy Award at the age of 10! O'Neal took home the Best Supporting Actress award in 1974 for Paper Moon, making her the youngest Oscar winner ever -- and decades later, no one has yet broken her record.

  • A Color Film Didn't Win Best Picture Until 1939

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    A photo posted by watchmovies (@watchmoviesss) on

    Sweeping historical drama Gone With the Wind was the first of its kind in many ways; case in point: It was the first color film to win Best Picture (one of eight total wins at the 1939 Academy Awards). 

  • Whoopi Goldberg Made Hosting History

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    Whoopi Goldberg broke lots of Oscars ground: She was the first (and only) African-American woman to host the ceremony in 1994, and she was only the second African-American woman to win an Academy Award (for Best Supporting Actress for Ghost).

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  • Oscar Is No Lightweight

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    Waving your Academy Award triumphantly in the air might be more of a workout than you think: The Oscar statue weighs in at eight and a half pounds (and stands 13 and a half inches tall). That's a heavy souvenir to carry around all night!

  • A Bizarre Heist Turned Dozens of Oscars into Trash

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    A photo posted by Average Jane (@averagejanes) on

    We're not sure why anyone would want to steal 55 Oscar statues, but somebody did -- or, two somebodies did, to be exact, in 2000: Anthony Keith Hart and Lawrence Edward Ledent were charged with grand theft for pilfering 55 Oscar statuettes from a loading dock prior to the ceremony (52 of which were later found in a trash bin behind a laundromat). Interestingly, before they're personalized, the statues are only worth about $400 bucks each -- you didn't think they were solid gold, did you?

  • Oscar Winners Don't Really Own Their Statues

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    Just because you win an Oscar doesn't mean it's technically yours! The Academy actually requires winners to sign an agreement stating that they will not try to sell their statues without first offering them back to the Academy ... for one dollar. If you don't sign, the Academy keeps your trophy! 

  • Meryl Streep Has Way More Nominations Than Anyone Else Ever

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    Not only does Meryl Streep have the honor of being the most nominated human being in Academy Awards history, but she's also the most nominated by a huge lead! This year's nomination for Best Actress in Florence Foster Jenkins is the star's 20th; the only other actors to receive anywhere near as many nominations were Katharine Hepburn and Jack Nicholson, who each got 12.

  • Oscar Winners Live Longer

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    Academy Award winners aren't just living the good life. According to one study, they might even be living longer lives -- about four years longer than mere nominees, apparently. For Oscar winners, the average life expectancy was around 80 years; for "losers," it was 76. (Not much to complain about either way, really.) 

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