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Oscar interrupter says she was wronged

By Alan Duke, CNN
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Oscar interrupter tells all
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Documentary producer interrupted director's acceptance speech
  • She says he made a point of getting to stage first
  • Director says he was there to talk about documentary's subject

Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- A documentary producer who interrupted a director's Oscar acceptance speech Sunday night says she was the one who was "big-footed" on stage.

Elinor Burkett, appearing Tuesday on HLN's "The Joy Behar Show," said Roger Ross Williams' charge that she ambushed him is wrong.

" 'Ambushed' makes it sound like I was just some woman who stormed up on the stage," Burkett said.

Williams and Burkett worked together on "Music by Prudence," a half-hour film about a Zimbabwean woman who overcomes a severe disability and family rejection in one of the world's poorest countries. It won the Academy Award for best short documentary.

Williams was 10 seconds into his acceptance when Burkett, 63, edged him from the microphone.

"He tried to make sure I couldn't get there before him," Burkett said. "He just didn't seem to think I would be so rude to interrupt him."

Burkett told Behar that Williams "big-footed me" by running to the stage while she was slowed by Williams' elderly mother.

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"I couldn't get out," she said.

"I think you get up and wait for me to get up, and we go up together graciously," she said. "He starts talking when I'm halfway up."

Video of the event showed Williams jogging from the rear of the Kodak Theater to the stage to take the gold Oscar statue and the microphone.

"Oh, my God, this is amazing," Williams said. "Two years ago, when I got on an airplane and went to Zimbabwe, I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I'd end up here. This is so exciting."

By that point, Burkett had reached him.

"Just like a man, never lets a woman talk," she told the Oscar audience. "Isn't that just the classic thing?"

She explained to Behar that "either I could let him blather on for 45 seconds, or I could interrupt so I could get to talk."

She wanted the acceptance speech to be about Prudence and the musicians in the documentary, "not that 'I am so happy,' " she said.

Williams quietly watched as Burkett spoke, until the Oscar director cued exit music a minute into the speech.

"Prudence is here tonight," Williams said, pointing to the audience. "This is for Prudence."

Williams, appearing on CNN's "Larry King Live" on Monday night, said the incident was "a little shocking."

"I was there to talk about Prudence," he said. "We were there to honor Prudence and her incredible message and her incredible story."

King allowed Williams 80 seconds of airtime to complete his acceptance speech.

Williams said he and Burkett were no longer friends.

"There's always, in the creative process, you get in disputes," he said.

The incident, which played out before a television audience estimated to be more than 40 million viewers, has been compared to rapper Kanye West's infamous interruption at MTV's Video Music Awards last fall.

West jumped on stage to declare his belief that Beyonce should have won the award, not Taylor Swift.

Burkett said it was not the same, since "Kanye didn't get the Oscar."

"We should have been able to flip a coin on who would speak," she said.

"Music by Prudence" will make its television debut in the United States on HBO on May 12.

 
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