Everything you missed, plus backstage gossip

Everything you missed, plus backstage gossip

SANTA MONICA, California – What went down at Sunday’s Critics’ Choice Awards?

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” won best picture, “The Irishman” took home best acting ensemble and Renée Zellweger continued her path toward Oscar domination with a win for best actress.

On the TV side, HBO’s “Succession” won best drama series and Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s “Fleabag” continued its sweep with a slew of awards, including best comedy series. 

Onstage, a hoarse Waller-Bridge said all her recent wins (the Golden Globes were just a week ago, after all) have incited a lot of screaming. “It has given me a really sexy voice,” she laughed.

And there were so many more moments you probably missed. From emotional speeches from Joaquin Phoenix and Eddie Murphy to stars joking about the plant-based menu, here are highlights from the Critics’ Choice Awards – which was held the night before Oscar nominations.

More:Jennifer Lopez thanked by Phoebe Waller-Bridge for inspiring TV’s ‘Fleabag’ at Critics’ Choice Awards

Brad and Leo missed ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s big win

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” took home best picture, but Quentin Tarantino was without his film’s biggest stars to mark the moment. Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie were all MIA. “Conflicts,” producer Shannon McIntosh told USA TODAY backstage.

Pitt won best supporting actor for “Once Upon a Time” earlier in the night. Tarantino ended up running up onstage, saying “I agree with the critics for the very first time!” The film also won for original screenplay and production design.

Joaquin Phoenix thanked his mom when he accepted the best-actor award for "Joker" at the 25th annual Critics' Choice Awards on Sunday.

Joaquin Phoenix gave an emotional toast to his mom

After winning the best-actor prize for “Joker,” Phoenix took the stage with one person top of mind. “I need to thank my mom. Mom, you’ve always been my greatest inspiration, even when self-pity led me astray,” Phoenix said. “You’ve never given up on me and I deeply appreciate your support.” Phoenix appeared on “60 Minutes” Sunday, opening up about how vulnerable his family felt in the media glare after his brother, River, died in 1993.

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Phoebe Waller-Bridge says ‘Fleabag’ was inspired by … J.Lo

“Fleabag” creator Waller-Bridge made a the surprise admission after winning best actress in a comedy TV series Sunday night. The British actress said once she decided the pivotal sexy priest character, played by Andrew Scott, would have a peculiar favorite song – Lopez’s “Jenny from the Block” – “it opened the entire character for me.” “So thank you, J.Lo,” Waller-Bridge told the crowd from the podium

“Fleabag” was the big TV winner of the night, taking best comedy series, actress and  supporting actor for Scott.

Backstage, Scott joked, “J.Lo inspires all my characters.”

The plant-based meals got mixed reviews from the stars

The awards, held in the Barker Hanger of the Santa Monica airport, fed the stars a meal of plant-based burgers from The Counter and vegan burritos from Baja Fresh. “Thank you so much and I will go down and finish my half-eaten vegan burger” cracked “Parasite” director Bong Joon-ho onstage, shaking off his surprise after he tied with Sam Mendes for best director.  Phoenix also praised the conservation efforts during his speech. But others were on the fence. “It’s a good thing the food critics are not here,” Seth Meyers cracked.

Worst dressed at the Critics’ Choice Awards: Zendaya, Anne Hathaway and more

Laura Dern revealed Meryl Streep is a spicy texter

Dern showed a new side to her “Big Little Lies” co-star Meryl Streep, revealing the venerable actress is also a hilarious texter. Speaking backstage after winning best supporting actress for her role as a ruthless lawyer in “A Marriage Story,” Dern revealed not only is there a “Big Little Lies” text chain, but Reese Witherspoon is “the organized leader” of the group. Meanwhile, Streep is quite the cut-up. “Meryl Streep is the funniest person that ever lived,” said Dern. “She will spice up every conversation.”

While he was accepting his Critics' Choice Lifetime Achievement Award, Eddie Murphy offered his best advice to aspiring actors: "Never play a spaceship!"

Eddie Murphy finally got the microphone

After losing out at last week’s Golden Globes, “Dolemite Is My Name” had a big night. The film won best comedy, and star Eddie Murphy took home the Critics’ Choice lifetime achievement award. 

“To make a living making people laugh, there’s no higher — you’re the luckiest person on Earth to be able to do that. And I’ve gotten to do so many different types of things. I’ve played everything: a cop, a robber, a doctor, a professor and different ethnicities. I’ve been animals; I’ve been a donkey. I even played a spaceship once,” Murphy said, laughing. “That (one) didn’t go too well, though. That’s the thing — when young actors come up to me on the street I say, ‘Never play a spaceship!’ “

Norman Lear had the best comeback to an ageist comment

Lear said he’s eternally grateful to friend Jimmy Kimmel for suggesting a live remake of “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons,” which won best comedy special. The TV legend even laughed about someone who asked a rude question. “Somebody asked tonight, ‘What’s it like to be an old man?’ I said, ‘I’m only 97. I’ll let you know when I meet an old man,’ ” said Lear, laughing. He then strode triumphantly off the stage, promising, “I may not stop.”

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