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Sarah Polley, winner of the award for best adapted screenplay for Women Talking, poses in the press room at the Oscars on March 12, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.Jordan Strauss

Sarah Polley didn’t bet on herself to win the best adapted screenplay Oscar on Sunday night, for her film Women Talking. “Anyone with any kind of sense bet on All Quiet on the Western Front,” she said in a giddy phone interview Monday evening. “I’m glad I had such low expectations. It allowed me to just enjoy every moment.” It was a bet she was “totally thrilled” to lose.

Her big night began in an SUV lineup near the Dolby Theatre, where a security team checked for car bombs. “Then you pass all the people with placards saying that we’re going to hell.” On the champagne carpet, she ran into the Daniels (Kwan and Scheinert, co-directors of Everything Everywhere All at Once, which won seven Oscars). “They’ve been my besties on this trail. We were so excited for each other. They’re such a force for good in the world. Look at how Daniel thanked all his public school teachers” (in one of Scheinert’s acceptance speeches).

Sarah Polley on the roller-coaster ride of Oscar season: ‘As of next week, I’m going to be in sweatpants’

She settled into her seat, heart-thumpingly close to the stage, beside her actors Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley, Kate Hallett and Sheila McCarthy. Her brother and sister were nearby, and her husband, David Sandomierski, and Miriam Toews, who wrote the source novel. Behind her were her film’s producers, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, co-presidents of Plan B Entertainment, in what Kleiner called “our lucky Moonlight seats.”

On the campaign trail over the past seven months, Polley had “done a good job of overcoming my stage fright, the last of my paralyzing anxieties.” But this night began to feel different. “Everyone I knew was sending me texts and e-mails, photos of the decor at their Oscar parties, or the crowd watching at Paradise Theatre” in Toronto. “It suddenly felt so high octane.”

Just before her category, Polley went to the restroom. She was wearing a black tuxedo with a red rose on her lapel, secured by a magnet. “The rose fell off, I didn’t know how the magnet worked, and suddenly, I felt panicked. I told myself it was about the rose, but it was clearly not about the rose. Then Michelle Williams appeared like a fairy godmother and got the rose onto me, talking in calm, dulcet tones – ‘We love you, I love you, everyone loves you, you’re loved.’ Like she was soothing a wild animal.”

‘We were part of a movement’: Sarah Polley on making ‘Women Talking’

At the Oscar nominees luncheon a month earlier, Williams – who starred in Polley’s 2011 romance Take This Waltz – had given the director some key advice: Write a thank-you speech and memorize it, so if you win, you won’t go blank. Polley’s agents advised her to think about where she’s come from and where she is now, the better to “say something that will mean something to me.”

Deep into hour three, presenters Florence Pugh and Andrew Garfield called her name. Polley bounded onto the stage with a huge grin. She made a joke (thanking the Academy for not being offended by the words “women” and “talking” being “so close together like that”), gave shout-outs to Toews, democracy and listening, and said that her film’s last line, “Your story will be different than ours,” was a promise to her children.

In her head, it played more chaotically. “I was genuinely so excited. They handed it to me, I turned around, and people were standing up. For a second I didn’t understand why – I thought an emergency was happening, like a fire alarm. I wanted to ask Florence, ‘Now what happens?’ I was like, ‘Oh! I think now I speak!’ None of it came naturally. It was all so surreal and wonderful.”

She hit the Governors Ball and the Vanity Fair party, where “Seth Rogen was making fun of me: ‘I’ve never seen anyone run so fast to get their Oscar.’ He understood how embarrassed I was about how excited I was. My sister said, ‘Try to enjoy tonight, because tomorrow you’re going to be horrified.’ I was smiling so much I may have torn a facial muscle.”

At 1 a.m., she was invited to “after-parties at celebrities’ houses,” but she and Sandomierski headed to their hotel. “My husband and I have not been away together since our kids were born 11 years ago. We were excited to hang out and talk. David has been working so hard himself, but he created the room for me to do all the things to get to this point.

“The whole experience was joyful. It’s unseemly how excited I was, and still am. I don’t know how to process it! It’s weird, because people always use, ‘It’s like winning an Oscar!” as a metaphor for success, but when you win one it’s not a metaphor any more. It’s very strange to experience a metaphor. But so many people contributed to Women Talking. It’s not the work of an auteur, it’s the work of a huge group of people. To share their joy is completely thrilling.”

When Polley gets home to Toronto, her Oscar will take turns living in each of her children’s rooms. But it did go with her to a friend’s party in L.A. on Monday. “David said, ‘You have to bring your Oscar.’ I said, ‘That’s ridiculous, it would be so obnoxious!’ He said, ‘No, I texted them, you’re supposed to.’ We took an Uber there, and the driver said, ‘Is that real?’ He wanted his picture taken with it.

“I can only have one day like this in life, right? I’m not going to take it to No Frills with me when I get home. So I’m trying to enjoy the day where it’s socially acceptable to walk around with an Oscar in my hand.”

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