Martin Scorsese may have won best director, but Al Gore wore the crown in Hollywood last night.
When "An Inconvenient Truth," the Gore-inspired work about the dangers of global warming, won the Oscar for best documentary, the former vice president reveled in the attention like an old Hollywood hand. And he was in the enviable position of gently swatting away softball questions about another potential run for the White House.
"My fellow Americans," he joked at the podium, making light of his narrow loss in the 2000 presidential election. "We need to solve the climate crisis. It's not a political issue, it's a moral issue."
Throughout the evening, presenters tipped their hat to Gore's film. Soon after host Ellen DeGeneres kicked off the show, she opined, "and then Al Gore is here. America did vote for him."
Later, when Melissa Etheridge won for best song for "I Need to Wake Up" from "An Inconvenient Truth," she reserved her highest praise for him. "Most of all, I have to thank Al Gore for inspiring all of us."
George Clooney joked at one point that he'd seen Gore and Jack Nicholson drinking backstage, adding "I don't think he's running for president." As the audience roared, cameras caught Gore and wife, Tipper, laughing in their seats.
Gore was all over Hollywood during the week, schmoozing with celebrities, waving to fans on the red carpet and promoting environmentally friendly transportation to the awards. Celebrities from Leonardo DiCaprio and Penelope Cruz to Forest Whitaker and Nicole Kidman arrived at the ceremony in low-emission vehicles.
DiCaprio joined Gore onstage earlier in the show to announce that the ceremony had "gone green," with bio-friendly methods such as using recycled paper and serving organic food at the Governor's Ball.
The former vice president, who has ruled out another run for the White House, joked about the sentiment shared by some in Hollywood who want him to campaign for the presidency.
"Even though I honestly had not planned on doing this, I guess with a billion people watching, it's as good a time as any. So, my fellow Americans, I'm going to take this opportunity right here and now to formally announce ... " Gore said before the pit orchestra's music drowned him out.
But strategists close to Gore insist that it's still possible for him to enter the race as late as September or October, and win the nomination in dramatic fashion. And activists inspired by Gore's triumph at the Oscars are ramping up the pressure for him to get off the fence.
"Honestly, this was the inaugural parade we all envisioned," Gore's former campaign manager Donna Brazile told Politico.com. "Gore's political stock is hot right now."
Over the next few months, Gore may not be striding down any red carpets, but he will be the star attraction at some headline-grabbing events. He'll testify at global warming hearings in both houses of Congress on March 21. And in May, his new book, "The Assault on Reason," will be hitting bookstores.
The Associated Press contributed to this story