Did Elinor Burkett really pull a Kanye at the Oscars?

Roger-Ross-WilliamsImage Credit: Craig Sjodin/ABCWhen Music By Prudence director Roger Ross Williams was interrupted during his acceptance speech for Best Documentary Short during Sunday’s Oscars, viewers were aghast. Who was the woman who cut him off? Why was she up there? Did Kanye West have something to do with this?

Turns out the woman who rushed the stage was Music By Prudence producer Elinor Burkett, whose name had also been called for the award. She tells EW that the confusion began because Williams had refused to discuss beforehand which one of them should speak on stage if they won. (The two aren’t on speaking terms due to a creative conflict over the film.) She also claims she only stepped in because he was neglecting to thank the film’s main subjects, the Zimbabwean band Liyana. And she had a few things to say about being compared to a certain mic-grabbing rapper:

“It’s ridiculous. I won an Oscar. Kanye West injected himself onto the stage where he didn’t belong. I don’t know why everyone is acting like I didn’t have the right to be there. My name was called, and I went up because because I won an Oscar. And that’s the only thing I kind of resent, is people acting like I didn’t get an Oscar. It’s really demeaning and denigrating to somebody who did all the work. The Producer’s Guild certified me as the producer. HBO certified me as the producer. There’s this assumption that [Roger] had more of a right to speak than I did. His Oscar is not bigger than my Oscar.

[Note: A rep for Williams declined set up an interview with EW, although the director did share his side of the story on last night's Larry King Live.]

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  • Jenn

    First of all, did he sprint on stage, or was she just taking too long? Either way, yes, she won and deserved to speak, but she was just as rude as he was if he ran up there to talk. And I still can’t understand a word she said. How are you all able to figure it out?

    • Ethan

      He was running to the stage before they even finished reading his name. That said, she was still totally incoherent and had already disclaimed any association with the project.

      • jj

        She left the project a year ago. He made the film what it is now which she hated. It wins the oscar and now it was all her idea. haha. awful.

      • Sarah

        SHe deserved to be up there. He practically RAN to the stage. She shouldnt have grabbed the mic but she said she wanted to make sure in the 45 seconds they had to talk that they actually addressed the movie and not just “OMG I cant believe Im here!!”

      • HoneyB

        But they seated him in the back, and who wouldn’t run when excited about winning an Oscar? The stars in the front don’t have to run but the non-celebrities get put in the way far back.

    • Lisa

      The academy told them only one person could speak. It is pretty obvious that the person who abandoned the project because she did not her way should not be the one to speak. It should be the person who saw the project to the end. She publicly said the final product was not what she envisioned. She did not deserve to speak.

      • angela

        EXACTLY. The rules are one person speaks. One. They all know what the protocol is, it wasn’t any surprise. And common logic should just dictate that it ISN’T the person who left the project. She’s just an egotist who believes that the rules didn’t apply to her, that’s probably the same kind of “conflict” that lead to her outster in the first place.

    • niite

      I’m not sure why she was actually certified to accept. She left the film early in it’s beginning, because she wanted to go in a different creative direction. Even asked for her name to be removed from the credits. The film as it exists creatively is what Williams envisioned and produced – not what she wanted. She shouldn’t even be acknowledge for an Oscar – it’s just crazy. Basically she gets mad, leaves, takes her name off… the film is created in a totally different creative direction then her desire, but still qualifies for an Oscar?

      • Hux

        The person who paid for the movie to get filmed is always acknowledged. Otherwise, Hollywood would ground to a halt. She arranged financing, he did stuff with the money she didn’t like, but she still gets credit.
        Honestly, they both sound like immature idiots.

    • jared4ever

      I still thought she was super rude.

      • yea

        she was rude. and her response is not good as well. its like kanye saying he was justified because beyonce had the better video.

    • OMG

      Whatever – now anyone with half a brain knows not to work with her because she is a complete a$$hole.

    • Orwells Ghost

      This is all a load of crap and staged just like the Kanye incident.

      She is even giving the A-Ok sign in this picture. To you people this means nothing, to industry insiders, this means more is going on than meets the eye.

  • Hrfe

    I never thought that she rushed the stage, and i thought it was fine for her to want to talk, but he’d only been speaking for like 15 seconds and was mid-sentence when she began to talk. That’s why people find it so inappropriate.

    • Sally in Chicago

      These two need to kiss and makeup. What happens if that little short becomes a full-fledged movie or TV series are they still going to fight?

      • kaydevo

        No matter what her feelings (and she has made it clear that HER feelings and words were more important than his) she should not have pushed in front of the guy who was already speaking. Totally without class. By causing a to-do, she took attention away from Prudence, the film’s subject. She never gave the dude a chance to speak. Her excuse is disingenuous at best.

    • KWise

      Only the most obnoxious of people would grab the microphone away from somebody who was already speaking before a few billion people. In her shoes, I too might be frustrated. But never in a million years would I behave like that. Truly obnoxious.

    • Elle

      The Academy rules are that only one person is allowed to speak

      • Lauren

        Just because people keep saying “The academy rules are that only one person is allowed to speak” doesn’t make it true. It’s not true and it wasn’t true Sunday night as awards with multiple winners had more than one person speak.

      • Maren

        The one-person rule IS true of the “short films” category. Not true of all categories, for instance, if a team wins Best Sound Design, they can all take turns speaking until the orchestra plays them off…

  • Bobby’s Robot

    Right or wrong, she behaved like a screeching shrew.

    • Trisha

      YOU ARE SO RIGHT!!!

    • Karl

      Agreed. She will be remembered as an Oscar show punchline, and deservedly so.

    • lady de

      Yep. Total loser, and probably won’t get any work. And she should not have been “certified” as anything but crazy if she left the project a year before it was completed. She well and thoroughly embarassed herself.

      • gina

        “And she should not have been ‘certified’ as anything but crazy.” Love it!

    • Bill

      And, don’t forget, she accused William’s 87-year-old grandmother of tripping her so she wouldn’t make it to the podium in time. Wow.

  • Kim

    It may have not been exactly the same as Kanye, but she still completely interrupted what he was saying and had a very nasty attitude.

    • rob

      At least Kanye ask permission first

  • Susan

    Isn’t she kind of ignoring the fact (if it is a fact) that she left the project before it was finished? In what sense did she “do all the work”? (I guess she’s also ignoring the fact that people are ignoring the fact she was rude! She could have taken the mike without making such an issue of it.)

    • Susan

      oops, too many “ignorings”! Should read “people are focusing on the fact that she was rude.”

  • Jed

    Maybe the Academy should have been smart and selected someone else for the honor and none of this would have happened.

  • Shamrock

    He was rude in not waiting for her.

    • UncleArthur

      Please! Would u wait for some rude wanker who had mouthed u publicly? His time was limited and he earned his moment. She only managed to prove his side of the argument.

      • UncleArthur

        Sorry, meant to type bad mouthed.

      • Trisha

        Wanker! You’re funny!

    • Babbit

      She hated the final version of the film and stated in writing that she did not want anything to do with the film. In fact, she left the film before hardly any of the actual filming too place. After the film gets nominated, all of a sudden she wants to get in on the action. I would not have waited for her either because she didn’t deserve the oscar. The other 2 producers that stuck through to the end should have been up there instead of her.

      • JuJuBee

        And thanks to her, no one knows there were other producers involved…Williams was about to thank them when she butted in and made it all about herself.

  • khia213

    The Oscar rules provide that only one person speaks, so once he started, she needed to keep her mouth shut. She also sued in 2008 because she didn’t like the direction of the film and had nothing to do with the film after the lawsuit removed her as a principle. She was rude and obnoxious…just like Kanye.

    • Ashleigh

      Well, yes…but she had way more of a right to be up there than Kanye in the first place, as she said.

      • LauraT

        She may have had more right, but she was still rude. And he’s the director of the film, and she interrupted him barely into his speech–so her claim that he didn’t thank the right person wasn’t good. I think she’s worse than Kanye, because it was premeditated. And why the heck should she get any right to talk if she left the project? Only one person gets to talk, it should be the guy who directed and stayed with it.

      • KWise

        Laura T – you are so right. He had BARELY started speaking when she jumped in. I highly doubt she jumped in “because he was thanking the wrong people.”

      • lady de

        No, she didn’t. She gave up her rights when the abandoned the project.

  • 4rocket

    Well, even if she was supposed to be there, interrupting the guy mid-speech still wasn’t the brightest move. People watching it didn’t understand that there was drama behind the scenes, so it’s natural that they thought she was “pulling a Kanye”.

  • Buster Cretin

    I’m with her. He had every intention of robbing her of her moment. And if you watch the playback, he sprinted the moment his name was called. No moment of thanking those around him. No… he had to get to that mic first to make himself look like the only winner. It worked too. Most everyone thought only he won.

    • Nelda

      Well of course he sprinted up there. I think they want people to get to the stage as soon as possible, so as not to hold up the broadcast. And these guys know that they are not the main attraction. You really want the Best Documentary Short people standing around waiting for each other on live TV? He went up to get his Oscar, and got interrupted mid-sentence.

    • LCY

      He was the director, and he was EXCITED. She pulled out of the project BEFORE it was done because she didn’t like the direction of the film. It won an Oscar… so clearly, he was right. He should have been allowed to speak. It was his movie, his vision that won. She didn’t even believe in the film.

    • LauraT

      Probably because he knew that she was planning to destroy this moment because of her pettiness. That’s why he sprinted.

      • KWise

        Exactly – my guess is he knew who he was dealing with ( a crazy lunatic who, SHOCKER, had creative differences with someone). If you were in his shoes, what would you do? I probably would have run too to avoid a confrontation (of course, he had a confrontation anyway…)

    • UncleArthur

      He sprinted, as u say, because he was sitting in the back of the auditorium and they only get 45 seconds to speak. Based on their history, he probably couldn’t have cared less what she was doing. She was a rude wench, plain and simple.

      • Mykos

        I’m pretty sure the 45 second clock doesn’t start running until the winner arrives on the stage. There is no need to anyone to run to the podium from the back of the auditorium because of the 45 sec. clock.

  • kelsey

    If she hated the “direction in which the film was going” (as I’ve heard reported elsewhere), then why was she in such a rush to accept an Oscar for it? Did she suddenly change her mind, now that it won something? This woman’s behavior is such a turn-off, regardless if she had a right to be up there, that I can’t muster much sympathy for her. I’m sure she’s happy with her Oscar, even though the details are fuzzy on what, exactly, she did for the movie.

    • Sally in Chicago

      Good point. If you’re no longer affiliated with the project, you shouldn’t be there in the first place.

    • Tom

      exactly. If she left the project because she didn’t like where the film was going and the movie won precisely because the academy liked how it turned out, then he has more of a right to accept an Oscar for it. Really classless on her part

  • oooo

    Who cares about documentary short subject, I fast forwarded thorugh this part…

  • Samuel

    Yeah, that dude totally sprinted to the stage. It was awesome. That old biddy didn’t deserve to speak, and he did what he could to make sure she didn’t. Guess he didn’t count on her having not one ounce of shame.

    • Dylan

      They both seem pretty shameless and egomaniacal.

      • Leo

        they should have worked this out beforehand in case they won. Both were immature about the whole thing.

      • Maren

        I don’t believe her that they DIDN’T work it out beforehand! You know how she claimed she was “shut out” of Oscar week events??? Check out this videotape of her appearance in a panel discussion following a screening of the film the day before the Oscars, in LA:
        http://www.listal.com/video/108303378
        http://www.documentary.org/images/programs/DocuDaysLA_Flier_Mar3.pdf

        See that Elinor Burkett was NOT “shut out” from all Oscar weekend events in LA!

        See her pissed-off body language at “Docudays” screening on Saturday, March 6!

        See Elinor Burkett interrupt Roger Ross Williams and Prudence Mabhena in the Q&A!

        (And, at about 10:00 on the video, hear Roger Ross Williams’ discussion of the difficult editing decisions made in editing the film from feature length to short documentary focusing on Prudence… the “creative differences” that caused Burkett to disown the project)

      • Bill

        R. Williams is not shamless at all, lol. He and all the others involved in the project (to the end) are quite hard-working. Burkett on the other hand, is well known around film circles as being a fruitcase. She proved that the other night.

  • Mr. Cairo

    His Oscar might not be bigger than her’s, but she take the prize for being a bigger douche. How the heck does she know WHO he was going to thank anyway? Besides, she left the project in a snit a year ago.

  • Alyssa

    I think you guys are looking to far into this. HE Won an oscar, who wouldnt run to the stage? WTF are people talking about. She acted like an old bag who didnt get her way. My dad and I were watching the show and he was speaking, I turned my head and all of a sudden this lady is there saying all this mumble jumble and its like, let the guy have his time to thank who he wants. Keep your dirty laundry or grudges at HOME.

    • Sharilou

      I did comment to my son that something like “what’s up with that guy that he can’t wait for the other person” while he was heading up toward the stage. But when she interrupted him, he showed a lot of class by staying pretty calm, having a neutral half smile on his face and just waiting until he got to the press room to talk about what was important to him. She could have done the same thing. The academy gives one person an opportunity to talk on camera and then everyone can go to the press room and talk to the press corps there. She was very unclassy and pulled their dirty laundry onto the national stage and drew attention away from the subject of their documentary short. Very unfortunate. The winners of the Documentary “The Cove” were incredibly classy and drew attention to their subject matter by contrast.

    • heather

      maybe excitement led him to run to the stage but what caused him to accept his oscar and start his speech as if there was no other winner but him? i defy any of you to find another time that has happened in the history of the oscars. despite their personal war, he had no cause to run up and try to exclude her. she was rude to interrupt the way she did but the way he snubbed her….i can’t say that i blame her.

      • Maren

        Heather — when large groups (of 5 or more) gather to accept an award, I have certainly seen the speaking begin before all the stragglers get to the stage. The difference is that none of the stragglers has every been rude enough to shove the speaker away from the mic and interrupt!

        As for a co-producer leaving a project but receiving an Oscar — again, it happens, but it’s usually not obvious because the person who left the project is just happy to get the Oscar and wants to “work in this town again”! If that person is professional, they know enough to just be happy their name is still attached to the Oscar, but that it’s not their place to speak!
        (Google “Nicolas Chartier” and “Hurt Locker” for an example)

      • heather

        maren- i agree with you that, as the director who saw the project through to the end, he should have been the one to speak. but you can’t tell me, after reviewing the tape, that the sprint down the aisle and start of his speech was anything like what we’ve seen in the past, when numerous people are winners. he did it on purpose to try to exclude her. THAT we’ve never seen. and even when it’s 4 winners (avatar visual effects, for example) they all walked up together and accepted their oscars together. it’s what everyone always does. my problem is the media chooses to ignore what he did and only concentrate on her rudeness. and who’s to say what she would have done if he had politely walked with her and accepted with her. it was his behavior that ignited the whole situation. i don’t understand why people are ignoring this fact. also, no matter what happened in the past, she was nominated that night. she had a right to be up there. him pretending she didn’t is inexcusable. as inexcusable as her interrupting him.

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