From 2007 to 2008, Scott Weiss crashed the quintuple-crown of awards shows: the Emmys, the Golden Globes, the SAG Awards, the Grammys, and the Oscars — and, with the help of a couple friends, filmed the whole thing for a documentary called Crasher.
Weiss, now 52, says that crashing was in his genes: he was a young Trekkie when he first noticed that every time he and his father went to a Star Trek convention, his dad never bought a ticket.
"I would always pay for a ticket, and my Dad would find some way in. 'I'm here to pick up my son,' you know he would walk right in like he owned the place," Weiss recalls. "After a while I thought, well jeez, if my dad can get in, why do I want to spend $25 for a ticket to just go in and shop?"
His interest in copping a free entry to conventions turned into a full-blown obsession, Weiss says, when he found his own Yoda to show him the ways of party crashing. He was flipping through channels one night in 1992, and he stumbled onto a public access show called The Party Crasher. He tracked down the host and made him an offer: Weiss would teach him how to get into conventions, if he would teach Weiss how to get into Hollywood parties.
"He says, 'I don't need to know anything," Weiss recalls, "'I'll charge you $2000 and I'll teach you everything you need to know during the party crashing season.'" Starting Halloween night, Weiss says he crashed a party or two every day leading up to Hollywood's biggest night: the Oscars.
"I told everyone I know, I'm going to the Oscars tonight, so I had to find a way in," Weiss recalled. "'92 was very high security but it wasn't like it was today — you know, people were not scared of terrorists in '92."
He talked his way to the front of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, where he fell in behind a group of musicians in tuxes and waltzed backstage, before branching off from the group and finding his way to the lobby and then into the auditorium itself. He sat in the first unoccupied seat he saw, moved when that person came back, found another seat, and was asked to move again before he found a seat that was unoccupied for the whole night.
It was a party-crashing coup. For years after Weiss would regale anyone who would listen with the story, until finally a friend suggested they use the stunt as conceit for the film Crasher. He would crash the Oscars again, plus the four big awards shows that came first, and they would film it.
They started in September of 2007, with the Emmy Awards. The day before the show, Weiss, along with producers Larry Toro and Ron Magid, visited the Shrine Auditorium on a reconnaissance mission.
Weiss says they approached a security table with a chart taped to it showing what each security badge looked like and what access it should be given.
"Larry put on a Swedish accent, he said, 'Ve're from Sveden…' and while he was doing that he was holding his movie camera over the table full of badge images and he photographed that the day of the show we made a really nice Emmy badge that looked really good, we laminated it, and we made one for each of us. "
Another time, the crew improvised their badges. The day before the Grammy Awards, Weiss and his cohorts went down to the Staples Center to scope the scene. Weiss recalled noticing a little booth selling t-shirts and trinkets.
"You could buy Grammy trivia cards and the artwork on the back of the trivia cards matched pretty well the logo for that year's Grammys, so what we did was we took a laminate badge holder and we put the trivia card in it," he says, laughing. "The night of the event I walked to the security entrance and held up my trivia card badge and the woman let me in and I was able to find a seat."
For the Golden Globes, they didn't bother trying to make a badge at all. "We had our own mock press badges they were just generic badges, but the fact that we had a badge of any kind — wrong color, wrong design — we walked right past this security guard and into the show," Weiss says.
That didn't end well.
"We were there for about ten minutes, and finally this time the Head of Security came up and said, 'Who are you guys, and why don't you have a badge?' So, at that point we were caught, and he got very upset at the security guard who let us walk in. She said, 'But they had badges!'" Weiss chuckles, remembering the exasperated guard. "He goes, 'They're not the right badges! They don't look anything like the Golden Globes badges!'"
The Head of Security called the Beverly Hills police, who didn't arrest them, but did confiscate their badges and a tape from one of their cameras.
"I'll admit it, I was very scared," Weiss remembers, saying the brush with the law almost scared him away from attempting the film's big finish: trying to crash the Oscars.
A week before the 2008 Oscars, Weiss and company staked out the Kodak theatre. "We would take photos with people with badges, 'Hey! Can we get a picture with you?' BAM! We would get as high-definition a photo as possible. Eventually, we were able to get enough photos that we were able to recreate in Photoshop a really good copy of the badge."
The badge they made looked and felt different than the real thing, and it didn't have the computer chip that would be register the wearer's name and picture when scanned — instead they put in a refrigerator magnet, "hoping that if they did scan it, it would register some sort of magnetic something."
In the end, it didn't even matter, since, according to Weiss, no one ever bothered to scan his badge. He explains that he walked right into the ceremony, approaching the since renamed Kodak Theater on foot from behind, walking straight past security, "up into the loading dock, which takes you to the door, that takes you to the green room and no one stopped me and I went through the green room into the lobby."
His crew filmed the whole thing from an apartment building adjacent to the theater. Once he was inside, he found a seat in the uppermost balcony, only half-full, and watched the Oscars from there. Later that night, he crashed the Governor's Ball after party.
Weiss says the main takeaway from the film Crasher is: "You could have the highest tech security in the world, and it comes down to the human element. When people aren't really thinking properly, or if their intimidated by someone or if they don't want to be rude. You know, there were times throughout this movie where someone should have just stopped me and said, 'Wait a minute. Who are you and why are you here?'"
After the crashing concluded, Weiss, Toro and Magid cut the footage of the film together. They offered to show it to the organizers of the Emmys, the Golden Globes, the SAG Awards, the Grammys, and the Oscars, as a educational tool. "The last thing we wanted to do was give someone a tool to do some mayhem at the Oscars or the Emmys," Weiss says without a hint of irony.
The Academy was not impressed.
Weiss forwarded BuzzFeed a statement written after the screening and singed by Leslie Unger, then-Director of Communications for the Oscars. "While these individuals presented themselves as benign crashers, wishing no harm upon the Academy or its guests, the fact that they committed these crimes and now intend to distribute their video as widely as possible is a matter of great concern to the Academy," Unger wrote.
"We have known for some time that the Academy Awards ceremony presents an attractive target for celebrity stalkers, international terrorists and others looking to disrupt our event in order to publicize their cause. There is a distinct possibility that the publicity about these crashers and their video — as well as the video itself — could serve as an inspiration or a road map for those looking to commit far more serious criminal acts."
At press time, Academy did had returned a request for comment on whether they still consider Weiss a serious threat.
Whether because of the Academy's pull in Hollywood or not, Crasher has struggled to find a distributor. The film was shown at a handful of sparsely-attended industry screenings, and was an official selection at Temecula Film Festival in 2009, but it has languished in relative obscurity since.
"I think that people are scared of this film," Weiss says.