Last year’s Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel had been looking for ways to keep the ceremony short
Nothing bogs down an event like a long and boring speech.
While a sharp and succinct speech can keep things moving along nicely, a monotonous and rambling speech will often prompt yawns in the audience – whether it’s at a wedding, a birthday party… or the Oscars.
The Academy Awards ceremony often runs to more than three-and-a-half hours, which can be a bit much even for the most fanatical film fan.
So, last year, presenter Jimmy Kimmel came up with an idea to keep things moving.
At the beginning of the 2018 ceremony, the chat show host announced he’d be offering a jet-ski to the winner who delivered the shortest speech of the night.
“I will be timing you. I have a stopwatch,” he said.
“Why waste precious time thanking your mom when you could be taking her for the ride of her life on a brand-new jet-ski?”
And he wasn’t kidding.
Dame Helen Mirren was tasked with presenting the jet-ski to the shortest speech winner
The eventual winner was Mark Bridges, who went home with the prize for best costume design for Phantom Thread.
But his 30-second speech meant he was also the recipient of a jet ski worth $18,000 (£13,800) – which was presented to him by Dame Helen Mirren.
“I have the philosophy that nobody wants to hear the costume designer yammer on about who to thank,” Bridges tells BBC News ahead of this year’s Oscars.
“I want to make it short and sweet.”
Despite his speech policy, Bridges says his jet ski win was accidental rather than deliberate – as his speech was shorter even than he had intended.
“Basically, I forgot one sentence I was going to say, which was thanking [director] Paul Thomas Anderson more for working with me all these years,” he explains.
“So I guess that’s why it ended up being the shortest speech, because I skipped that sentence… so winning [the jet ski] actually was coincidence.”
Most other winners at last year’s ceremony were unswayed by the prospect of prizes and delivered the long speeches they had planned.
“Obviously I’m not going to win the ski,” best actor winner Gary Oldman joked at the end of his three-minute speech.
Best supporting actor winner Sam Rockwell was more ambitious , commenting when he arrived on stage: “Run that clock, Jimmy, I want to get that ski-jet or whatever that was.”
(Obviously he was unsuccessful too.)
But the whole idea was generally praised by critics for brightening up the ceremony.
“As ‘Oscars too long’ riffs go, the jet-ski business was actually brilliant,” wrote Tasha Robinson in The Verge .
Dave Fawbert of Short List described it as “the funniest part of the Oscars”, praising Kimmel for “Injecting a little levity into proceedings”.
So, the big question, of course, is whether Bridges has now become a regular jet ski user.
“No, there were a couple of reasons why I was not going to use that jet ski,” he explains.
“Someone had asked me shortly after I won it whether I’d had any experience on a jet ski. And all I could reply was ‘none good’.
“And also it’s interesting here in America when you win something, then you’re liable for taxes on it, so it was quite expensive jet-ski, so it was quite a bit of money to pay for taxes for it.
“So I thought I’d turn lemons into lemonade, so to speak, and I donated it to the Motion Picture & Television Fund (MPTF). That does a lot of charitable work for people in the industry.”
Bridges explains the MPTF has a senior citizens home and a health facility, adding it’s an organisation he’d wanted to contribute to for a while.
“And I thought they could probably auction it and make some money, and I got a lovely phonecall from [Foundation board chairman] Jeffrey Katzenberg thanking me, and I do think it was a win-win situation, I think they were able to get some influx of donations from it.”
This actually wasn’t the first time the Academy had offered a prize for the shortest speech.
In 2001, it was announced at the Oscar nominees luncheon that the winner who delivered the shortest speech would win a flatscreen TV.
That year, it ended up going to Dutch animator Michael Dudok de Wit, who won for his animated short Father and Daughter.
With his 18-second speech, De Wit won the prize despite not even knowing it was on offer, as he had missed the luncheon.
Not wanting to ship it home to the Netherlands, he instead donated itto an LA-based residential facility for abused children.
But Bridges took away more then the jet-ski. As part of the prize, he also won a vacation to Lake Havasu, Arizona.
The very mention of the holiday at the Oscars resulted in a tourism boost for the city.
But, as a result of work commitments immediately after the Oscars, Bridges says he hasn’t yet had the time to take that holiday.
“No, I still have the gift certificate in my drawer some place,” he laughs.
“Although I got a request to go and talk to school children there about water safety – I’m not kidding you.
“And I was like ‘I’m sorry I won’t be able to partake in that at all!’ It was really interesting because there was a moment where winning the jet ski was overshadowing me getting my Oscar.
“I’m all for a gag and everything, it was a fun moment, but that was [too far]!”
Bridges was the costume designer on Phantom Thread, which starred Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps
Last year’s Oscar win for costume design was the second for Bridges, who also took home the same prize in 2012 for his work on The Artist.
And he could well find himself nominated again next year. His next project to hit the big screen will be Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix as the DC Comics character, which is released later this year.
Bridges recalls advice the Academy gave to all nominees back in 2012 in order to keep their speeches succinct – something he clearly paid attention to.
“The Academy used to give you a very informative DVD to give you some suggestions about your speech and how to make it personal and succinct. So I kind of go by the suggestions that they gave.
“It’s already a very long show, and they also have a thank you camera backstage. After you are on the main stage you go backstage and then you’re able to thank people too.
“So rather than bog down the show, I could go backstage and thank my mom and my family and things like that. So nobody gets missed, but a billion people don’t need to listen to you thank your mom for tucking you in at night.”