Thomas S. Turgeon Professor of Drama and Film Jonathan Tazewell was all smiles when describing how his brother surprised him with an invitation to the 94th Academy Awards. “It was very dreamlike,” he said. “It’s like I fell through the looking glass, and now I’m back in Ohio.”
Professor Tazewell, along with other members of his family, was invited by his brother, Paul Tazewell, who received his first Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design for his work on Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story.” “I was very excited just to be there to celebrate with him and to be part of our family representation,” he said.
Mr. Tazewell has received six Tony Award nominations for costume design, winning in 2016 for Best Costume Design for Hamilton. He put his talent to work on Oscars night as well, according to Jonathan Tazewell, by designing the outfits for his mother and her partner.
The journey to Los Angeles wasn’t completely smooth sailing for Professor Tazewell. The academy’s dedication to having an in-person, unmasked event meant that all attendants had to be fully vaccinated and present two negative PCR tests before attending. Unfortunately, after testing in both Mount Vernon and Los Angeles, Professor Tazewell still hadn’t received his test results and spent the morning before the ceremony frantically trying to get them. Luckily, an hour before he had to leave for the Oscars, he got his results. “I was able to upload them and got a last-minute green light to go,” he said. “Otherwise, I would have been watching it on TV like everyone else.”
After arriving, the Tazewell family waited in an area dedicated to observers, while photographers took pictures of Mr. Tazewell and other nominees on the red carpet. Upon entering the Dolby Theater, the venue of the annual Academy Awards ceremony, nominees and guests alike mingled together on the three floors of the theater. Professor Tazewell sat on a mezzanine level with his family to enjoy the ceremony. “There was a bar, food, hors d’oeuvres, all kinds of stuff. And lots of famous people were walking around, just hanging out,” he said.
When asked about the highlights of the night, Professor Tazewell certainly ascribes “the slap” as one of the more memorable moments, but he enjoyed watching winning speeches and the after parties most of all.
While speaking about his brother, Professor Tazewell noted that, although he didn’t win, he was grateful for being nominated and is looking forward to future projects. “Of course, the moment when my brother didn’t win was memorable, but he was really cool about it. He actually told me, ‘It took me six tries to get Tony, so I’ll be back,’” Professor Tazewell said.
After the ceremony, Professor Tazewell went to the Governors Ball, a continuation of the ceremony at the Dolby Theater. The night didn’t end for him then, though, as he later went with his brother to the Variety party. At the party, Professor Tazewell saw Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, Trevor Noah, James Corden and others, but spent most of the night enjoying time with his brother and the cast and crew of “West Side Story.” After a whirlwind night, he flew back to Ohio the very next day.
Getting a front-row seat to the lives of celebrities has made Professor Tazewell realize that he has no desire for that lifestyle. “I do not want the scrutiny. Everyone looks at what you do, or when you do it, or what you’re wearing, how you walk — every single thing is being watched and commented on,” he said. “I would not want to live in that kind of circumstance.”
Professor Tazewell said that the Academy Awards is undoubtedly a valuable ceremony, but he also stressed that it does not encapsulate all the work that goes into the film industry. “It doesn’t mean that the award isn’t useful and important, and it doesn’t mean that the films that win aren’t deserving — because of course they are — just that there are a lot of directors, cinematographers and people who are getting left out of the conversation that deserve recognition,” he said.