Academy Award: what are Oscar awards made of, how much do they cost, where did the name come from?
The award remains relatively unchanged from its original design
and live on Freeview channel 276
This weekend (12 March) sees the annual Academy Awards emanate from Hollywood, where the brightest and best filmmakers of the past 12 months will be honoured at the swanky red carpet event.
Multiverse comedy drama Everything Everywhere All At Once leads the list with 11 other films hoping for Oscars glory include The Banshees of Inisherin, All Quiet On The Western Front and Top Gun: Maverick, with all films picking up multiple nominations each.
There is also excitement in the acting categories. The 2023 ceremony will see the highest ever number of Asian nominees, with Stephanie Hsu, Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Wan, and Hong Chau all picking up nominations.
But how did the iconic ‘Oscar’ statuette come to be, and why is it known as an Oscar in the first place? Here is everything you need to know about it.
Where does the design come from?
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences held a dinner in the Crystal Ballroom of the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles shortly after it was founded in 1927 to lay out its objectives.
How to best recognise exceptional filmmaking accomplishments and promote excellence in all facets of motion picture production was one of the topics discussed that evening, and after deciding to start an annual award, the group focused on designing an appropriately regal trophy.
A statuette of a knight holding a crusader’s sword and standing on a reel of film was designed by MGM art director Cedric Gibbons, and the Academy commissioned Los Angeles sculptor George Stanley to bring the design to life in three dimensions.
The five spokes on the statue’s film reel represent the five founding branches of the Academy: writers, producers, technicians, directors, and actors. Although the statuette still retains its original design, the size of its base did vary before the current standard was adopted in 1945.
Why is it called an ‘Oscar’?
“Oscar” is the popular nickname for the statuette, which is officially known as the Academy Award of Merit. But where did that more informal moniker come from?
Although the name’s origins are unclear, a well-known myth claims that Margaret Herrick, an Academy librarian who would later become an executive director, made a remark that the trophy reminded her of her Uncle Oscar.
Even though the moniker wasn’t adopted by the Academy until 1939, Sidney Skolsky, a Hollywood columnist, used it in a piece about Katharine Hepburn’s first Best Actress win in 1934.
What are Oscar statuettes made out of?
The statuettes consist of a 24-karat gold finish over a solid bronze interior. The trophies stand at 13½ inches tall and weigh in at a relatively hefty 8½ pounds - just under four kilograms.
The awards have always been constructed in this fashion, except for a three year period when they were made of painted plaster due to a lack of metal during World War II. Filmmakers who won Academy Awards during this spell were offered the opportunity to exchange their plaster figures for gold-plated metal ones after the war.
What are they worth?
You’d think that one of the world’s most recognisable awards - coated in a precious metal no less - would be worth quite a bit. But in actuality, each Oscar statuette is only worth $1 (83p).
That’s because each nominee agrees to a contract that forbids them from ever selling their prize in the event that they win. The Academy’s rules specify in that: “Award winners shall not sell or otherwise dispose of the Oscar statuette, nor permit it to be sold or disposed of by operation of law, without first offering to sell it to the Academy for the sum of $1.00.″
That symbolic value previously stood at $10, but it was decided to reduce it to $1, and the winners’ heirs are forbidden from selling the statuettes. As for the Oscars’ literal manufacturing costs, the trophies each cost $400 (£332) to produce.