An hour before actors started the walk down the red carpet into the Oscars, hundreds of people ignored rain, chill and elbows to cheer, then chant for the U.S. military.
It was a result of the Oscar’s Red Carpet announcer asking the crowd to “show some love” for the U.S. military. An American Forces Network (AFN) team on the red carpet recorded it all while waiting to record shout-outs from the stars to the American military serving overseas. “It was ear-splitting,” said a member of the five-person AFN team, Major Rosy Poulos. “They started out with this loud roar, then they spontaneously started chanting ‘U.S.A.—U.S.A.’ It made me proud to be an American.”
Producer Eric Gabriel felt the reaction was the crowd’s loudest of the night, “It’s why we’re here. It gives us a chance to serve as a bridge between stars and troops and let Hollywood know we have an American military audience overseas that appreciates the Oscars and all the entertainment the stars provide. Steve Carrell said he had no idea AFN aired stateside movies and entertainment overseas.”
Gabriel also feels AFN’s coverage helps the U.S. entertainment industry. “By AFN being here and getting shout-outs from the stars to the troops, I think it helps contradict the misconception some have that Hollywood isn’t connected and doesn’t care for the U.S. military. It’s also a chance to give our overseas military viewers a morale boost from some of their favorite celebrities.”
“Hollywood is very supportive of the U.S. military,” noted Poulos. One reason is many stars have family in the military. “Ethan Hawke has a Green Beret brother, Julianne Moore’s father served in Europe and Reese Witherspoon has several relatives who served in the military.”
In their interviews, Moore said she grew up watching AFN in Germany when she attended Frankfurt American High School while her father was serving with the 3rd Armored Division. Witherspoon said her parents were military and she has an uncle and an aunt who served.
While noting his brother’s service, Hawke thanked U.S. military personnel for “the courage of your convictions.” He commented on film making too, saying that he was sometimes asked if it was a risk for him to take a part in certain films. “The answer is no,” Hawke said. “It’s a risk to put your life on the line (like the U.S. military does) for your beliefs.”
Of course one movie nominated for Best Picture has a direct military tie: “American Sniper.” The film tells the story of former Seal Kris Kyle. It was AFN’s interview with Kyle’s widow, Taya, who impacted Poulos the most that night. “This woman was at her first Oscars, dealing with the stress of her husband’s death and a trial but she still found the strength and dignity to seek us out and offer support for the troops.”
In all, more than 60 Hollywood stars, producers and directors gave messages of support to the U.S. military, including Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Hudson, Robert Duvall, Renee Russo, Scarlett Johansson, and Michael Keaton.
One reason why the AFN team got so many interviews is that stars and publicists saw the American military network reps were on the red carpet and they sought them out. Others walked over when they saw the team’s military personnel, Poulos and Air Force SSgt Rob Harden, in uniform, working with cameraman Rock Grant and photographer Fabian Montgomery, as well as Gabriel.