Freeze Frame: The famous 2014 ‘Oscars selfie’ marked a dramatic change in Hollywood

Remember 2014? It doesn’t seem that far away, but just eight short years ago, Hollywood was a very different place.

A refresher: 2014 was the year of Beyonce, Solange and Jay Z’s elevator stoush, the year Kim Kardashian and Kanye West got married and when Taylor Swift released her smash-hit album 1989.

It was also the year the Oscars broke the internet with a now-famous selfie of A-list actors at the 86th Academy Awards.

The photo was essentially a “who’s who” in Hollywood at the time, including host Ellen DeGeneres, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Meryl Streep, Lupita Nyong’o, Kevin Spacey, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.

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The selfie also made social media history after DeGeneres posted it on Twitter. It held the “most-retweeted” crown for three years until it was dethroned by a teenager’s viral Wendy’s post.

“If only Bradley’s arm was longer. Best photo ever. #oscars,” DeGeneres’ original tweet read. It attracted over three million retweets around the world.

A photo like this likely wouldn’t go viral in 2022. In 2014, Instagram was relatively new and we didn’t have access to celebrity selfies on several different social media platforms like we do today.

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And according to Fred Graver, Creative Lead, TV at Twitter, the selfie wasn’t quite as “spur of the moment” as we had initially been led to believe. Instead, it was a highly-orchestrated moment.

In a 2017 essay on Medium, Graver said the Twitter team worked with DeGeneres to figure out how to make a photo from the Oscars “viral” in the months leading up to the awards.

Initially, DeGeneres was supposed to only take a selfie with Meryl Streep, who was sitting in the front row.

Graver said there was a moment of “panic” when a raft of other celebrities decided to join in on the fun.

Oscars Selfie 2014

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“You’ll see the look of panic quickly fly across her face as her selfie with Meryl suddenly becomes a selfie with Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyong’o, Julia Roberts, Jared Leto, Kevin Spacey and – holding the camera – Bradley Cooper,” he wrote.

“When Bradley grabs the camera, you can see this kind of shocked look break on Ellen’s face. Would he know what to do? Obviously, he did. 

“The selfie was retweeted 750,000 times in 45 minutes, and in the end actually ‘broke Twitter’ for a few minutes.”

For a long time, the famous Oscars selfie remained just that: an innocent, memorable selfie.

But as the passing of time goes, the picture has since transformed into a relic of an unrecognisable Hollywood.

So much has changed for the participants of the selfie. Since then, Ellen DeGeneres has been “cancelled” for fostering a toxic workplace and ended her talk show, Kevin Spacey was charged with sexual assault, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie parted ways in a messy divorce and the #MeToo moment uncovered a horrific level of abuse within Hollywood.

Ellen DeGeneres cancelled – in more ways than one

Talk show legend and comedian Ellen DeGeneres was the reason the Oscars selfie exists in the first place.

At the time, she was still hosting the 11th season of The Ellen Show and was a beloved persona in Hollywood.

Since then, DeGeneres cancelled her show after 19 years and was the subject of media frenzy over her toxic and “mean” behaviour at work.

In March 2020, podcast host Kevin T. Porter wrote on Twitter that Ellen is “notoriously one of the meanest people alive,” asking followers to respond with the “most insane stories you’ve heard about Ellen being mean.” 

The Twitter thread was filled with thousands of responses.

Ellen DeGeneres

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A few months later a BuzzFeed News journalist spoke to 10 anonymous former employees of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, who detailed a number of ways that the mega-star had created a toxic work environment.

A former employee told them: “That ‘be kind’ bullshit only happens when the cameras are on. It’s all for show. I know they give money to people and help them out, but it’s for

The picture has since transformed into a relic of an unrecognisable Hollywood

DeGeneres made a public apology on social media and on her show. In 2021, she announced that the upcoming season of The Ellen DeGeneres Show would be the last one, but maintained that it was always her intention. 

Kevin Spacey departs The Old Bailey Court on July 14, 2022 in London, England.

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Kevin Spacey accused of sexual assault

In 2017, three years after the selfie was taken, actor Anthony Rapp alleged Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey had made a sexual advance toward him in 1986.

At the time, Rapp was aged just 14 and Spacey was 26. Spacey later said he had no memory of the encounter, but apologised for “deeply inappropriate drunken behaviour”.

Then, in September 2020, Rapp sued Spacey for sexual assault, sexual battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress under the Child Victims Act.

Another 14 men came forward with similar stories after this. As a result, his new film Gore was shelved and Spacey was cut out of the final season of House of Cards.

In July 2022, Spacey pleaded not guilty to charges of sexually assaulting three men. The actor denied four counts of sexual assault and one count of causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent.

He will face court again in early 2023.

Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt

Brad and Angelina’s messy divorce

In DeGeneres’ smiling Oscars selfie, former Hollywood golden couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are pictured together.

Then, the pair rocked Hollywood when they announced their shock split two years later in 2016.

Jolie and Pitt officially divorced in April 2019, after a judge allowed them to be declared single while other issues remained, including finances and child custody.

Pitt was also accused of being abusive toward his then-15-year-old son during the flight, but investigations were closed and no charges were filed against the Once Upon A Time In Hollywood star.

Jolie requested sole custody over the pair’s six children, with details of the reason behind her filing slowly unfurling in a drawn-out court battle.

In May 2021, the couple was eventually awarded joint custody over their kids.

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