Oscar Backstage: Clooney & Co. Captivate

03/06/2006 at 12:00 AM EST

Oscar Backstage: Clooney & Co. Captivate
Frank Micelotta/Getty
As host Jon Stewart said at the outset of Sunday's 78th annual Academy Awards, "the theme of tonight's show is 'a return to glamour.'"

He was mocking the slogan, but it was especially true backstage at the Kodak Theatre, starting with the evening's first winner, a very suave George Clooney.

Having just collected the Oscar for his supporting role in Syriana, PEOPLE's veteran Sexiest Man Alive was asked what kind of love story he might contribute to Hollywood's current wave of "gay chic," as well as "what the world wants to know: Are you or are you not dating Teri Hatcher?"

"Thanks for those important questions," Clooney carped, though he did dignify the questions with answers. For gay chic, he said, he'd contribute a Batman sequel. As for the Hatcher query, he said respectfully, "I never talk about my personal life."

On a more serious note, as one whose movies embrace socially relevant themes, Clooney said: "I think what's important is that we are starting now to reflect, two years later, some of the social and political issues that – for the first time, probably since Watergate – are concerning us. We did it in the '30s, we did it in the '50s, we certainly did it in the '60s and '70s, and we'll probably continue to do that ... to reflect society, not truly lead it."

Finally, pressed by a Taiwanese journalist about the directors' race, which includes the winning, Taiwanese-born maker of Brokeback Mountain, Clooney (who was also in the running, for Good Night, and Good Luck) joked: "Is this about Ang Lee? Let me tell you something right now – I don't like that guy. At the last award show I was at I caught him stealing. So take that home, and you tell everyone."

Reese Witherspoon, clutching her Best Actress Oscar for having played the real-life June Carter Cash in Walk the Line, kept the glamour theme going with her vintage silver beaded gown, which she described as being "very light ... it's an original Dior from 1955. I found it in Paris. And it's mine, which is nice."

Describing her day today, Witherspoon did not make it sound glamorous, however. "I woke up, fed the kids, changed a lot of diapers, then got my hair done, got my makeup done, got my nails done, and I was out the door."

What she couldn't remember was a June or Johnny Cash tune that seemed appropriate to her victory. "None of their songs were celebratory enough. " She also admitted that "my mind's a big blank. I just found out that my husband (Ryan Phillippe)'s movie (Crash) just won (Best Picture)."

When it was time for Capote Best Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman to face the press, he looked at all the waving hands and said, "This is like an auction." He said winning an Oscar is a "nerve-wracking moment," though he would not describe it as a "highpoint. It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with millions of people watching you." He also said that he's had high points all through his career, "for personal reasons."

As for the bet he made with a friend that he'd bark his acceptance speech should he win, Hoffman said of his moment on the podium: "I literally lost all control of my bowels up there. I was swimming in my head. I was lucky to get out what I could."

The Constant Gardener supporting actress winner Rachel Weisz, who is expecting a baby in the spring, said: "There are a few names" that she and her companion, director Darren Aronofsky, are considering. "We don't know if it's a boy or a girl, (but) Oscar isn't amongst them, for sure."

She also said that she didn't think winning the Oscar in some way made up for her losing the British Academy Award in her native country, where she was categorized as a leading actress. "Reese Witherspoon absolutely deserves to win the Best Actress prize," she said.

As for future plans, "Having a baby, that's the next for me," she replied to a question whose answer was plain as the nose on her face – or the bump in her belly.

Brokeback Mountain director Ang Lee spoke up in support of his Best Actor nominee Heath Ledger, who lost the Best Actor prize to Hoffman. Calling Ledger's performance "not only remarkable, but a miracle," Lee said, "Some people tell me he reminds them of a young Brando."

Asked if he thought Brokeback was bypassed as Best Picture because of its gay theme, Lee said: "I don't know. I really don't know. In (terms of) box office, it did the best of all five movies. But I really don't know."

Lifetime achievement honoree Robert Altman came clean on the Oscar stage to having had a transplant 11 years ago, when he received the heart of a female in her 30s. Asked why he finally decided to break the news, the 81-year-old M*A*S*H and Nashville director said: "I don't know, it just occurred to me. I kept it a secret because I thought no one would hire me. There's such a stigma in this town."

One other confession backstage: Rapper Juicy Jay, whose real name is Jordan Houston and whose "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp," from Hustle & Flow, took Best Song, said, "We completely changed the song for the (Oscar) show. We (cleaned up) the lyrics. Had to. My mom was watching."

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