When Mira Sorvino announced the nominees for Best Supporting Actor at the 1998 Academy Awards, it was obvious who the winner would be based on the level of applause each name received. Robert Forster (nominated for Jackie Brown), Anthony Hopkins (Amistad), Greg Kinnear (As Good as It Gets) and Burt Reynolds (Boogie Nights) all received a polite if somewhat unenthusiastic ovation, but when Sorvino read Williams’ name (nominated for Good Will Hunting), the crowd suddenly became a whole lot noisier.
Seconds later, Sorvino opened the envelope and confirmed what everyone had suspected: Williams was the winner.
Like his performance in Good Will Hunting, Williams’ acceptance speech perfectly blended humour with deep, heartfelt emotion. “This might be the one time I’m speechless,”; he began. “Thank you so much for this incredible honour. Thank you for putting me in a category with these four extraordinary men. Thank you Ben [Affleck] and Matt [Damon]. I still want to see some I.D. Thank you Gus Van Sant for being so subtle you’re almost subliminal. I want to thank the cast and crew, especially the people of south Boston. You’re a can of corn, you’re the best.”;
As his speech progressed, Williams became more and more emotional. “I want to thank the Mishpucha [Yiddish word for “family”;] Weinstein. Mazel tov!”; he continued. “And I want to thank Marsha [his second wife] for being the woman who lights my soul on fire every morning. God bless you. And most of all, I want to thank my father, up there, the man who, when I said I wanted to be an actor, said “Wonderful, just be sure to have a back up profession like welding.’ Thank you! God bless you!”;