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The Minnesotan who "cleaned up" at the Oscars

Posted by: Neal Justin under Awards, Behind the scenes, Movies, Television Updated: February 26, 2013 - 3:01 PM

Abe Diaz, left, during rehearsals for Oscars ceremony. Photo by Richard Harbaugh/A.M.P.S.

Minnesotans didn't exactly clean up at the Academy Awards--unless you count Abe Diaz, a recent graduate of Duluth East High School, who graced the stage Sunday night at least three times, including the moment when First Lady Michelle Obama announced "Argo" was named best picture.

How did the 18-year-old end up standing next to Ben Affleck, George Clooney and Jack Nicholson in front of over a billion viewers?

He was one of six winners of the "Oscar Experience College Search," a new program that allows young, aspiring filmakers to replace those leggy models who traditionally helped usher out winners after their acceptance speeches.

In addition to being part of film's biggest night, Diaz spent a full week in Hollywood, visting the Disney animation studios and getting an invite to the Governor's Ball.

It was there that Affleck took time from all the backslapping to talk to Diaz.

"He gave us an inspirational pep talk about not giving up and not taking crap from anybody," said Diaz, who is currently studying at DePaul University in Chicago. "He told us we could tear Hollywood down."

During rehearsals and other events, Diaz got to meet John Travolta, Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep and Joshua Gordon-Levitt, who offered up his own brand of advice.

"I told him I was a chemistry major instead of a film major," Diaz said. "He suggested I watch this film, 'Primer' because it was directed by a science major."

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