Graham Moore gave the most personal Oscar acceptance speech last night (yes, there are more superlatives for the superlative statue receivers). “I tried to commit suicide at 16, and now I’m standing here,” Moore said onstage Sunday night, after accepting his Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Imitation Game from Oprah Winfrey. “I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she doesn’t fit in anywhere. You do. Stay weird. Stay different, and then when it’s your turn and you are standing on this stage please pass the same message along.”
It wasn't the only suicide prevention speech from the night, though. Ellen Goosenberg Kent told the theater that we need to be more open in discussing suicide as a society when she was accepting her Best Documentary Short Subject award for Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1. Her documentary team was getting the orchestra wrap-it-up music when she began that sentence, and the maestro immediately shut down the strings—because you can't play off someone talking about suicide.
Moore, expanded a little bit backstage on why he used that moment to get so personal: “The cameras are little black circles,” he said. “It’s not like a billion people out there when I’m looking around. It was really hard, but it felt, I’m a writer. When am I ever going to be on television? It was my 45 seconds in my life to get on television. I felt like I might as well use it to say something meaningful.”
Moore also mentioned that the subject of his film, mathematician Alan Turing—who built the machine that cracked the German Enigma code, greatly turning the turning the tide of WWII, but was also later arrested for practicing homosexuality, while that was still illegal in Britain, and ultimately committed suicide—was a particular teenage inspiration and help for him.
“I’ve been obsessed with Alan’s story since I was a teenager," Moore said backstage. "I feel very lucky to have known it when I was young, to have known about it. He was a tremendous hero of mine. Alan always seemed like the outsider’s outsider in his own time for so many reasons. Because he was the smartest man in every room that he entered. Because he was a gay man at a time when that was not simply frowned upon, but also illegal. And then, because he was keeping all these secrets for the government. He was a guy who was apart from society for so many different reasons, but because he was apart from society he was able to see the world in a way that no one else had, and I found that incredibly inspirational.”
Between Birdman's big wins (including Best Picture), and Moore and Goosenberg Kent's speeches (and also the short film The Phone Call, which is set in a suicide prevention office), mental health was definitely front and center at the Oscars—but it was Moore who spoke most vulnerably. He was even more vulnerable than host Neil Patrick Harris was in a near-nude stage bit.