LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Discovered backstage at the Academy Awards: James Stewart still tells the best anecdotes, F. Murray Abraham seems to be a really nice guy, and Milos Forman does not like dumb questions.

Four floors above and behind the slick, clockwork 57th annual Academy Awards ceremony Monday night, reporters thrashed for position as Oscar winners answered their jumbled, shouted questions in the media area in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Reporters grew quiet only once: When Haing S. Ngor, winner of best supporting actor for ''The Killing Fields,'' recounted his tortures by the Khmer Rouge, and held up his right hand to show how they severed his little finger.

''The Killing Fields'' was ''Real, but not real enough; true, but not true enough; hard, but not hard enough; the Khmer Rouge were cruel, but not cruel enough, and the ... Cambodian people, not suffering enough,'' Ngor declared.

Jimmy Stewart, recipient of an honorary award recognizing career achievements, explained that Frank Capra's ''It's a Wonderful Life'' was not just his favorite film because of its theme, but it revived his career as well.

''Hank Fonda and I were out flying kites after the war,'' Stewart said of his quiet desperation in 1946. ''I hadn't done a picture or anything, but Frank called me up and he said, 'I've got an idea for a picture, why don't you come over?'''

''So I came over and he said 'You're a fella, you're down and out and you're about to commit suicide, and an angel by the name of Clarence who hasn't earned his wings, he jumps in to save you when you jump off the bridge, but he can't swim.''' Then, Stewart said, Capra stopped telling him the plot.

''He said, 'This doesn't sound very good, does it?'''

''I said, 'Frank, if you want to do a picture about an angel named Clarence that doesn't have his wings and a guy who wants to commit suicide, I'm your man.'''

Peter Shaffer, the British playwright who won an Oscar for adapting his play ''Amadeus'' for the screen, seemed in awe of making movies, and genuinely stunned at the concept of spinoff products, such as videos.

''I don't think I panicked. I just remember thinking, 'what a mysterious business this is, to make this huge mosaic from these tiny fragments,''' Schaffer said of piecing together the film.

When asked about the release of the ''Amadeus'' video, Shaffer answered with a question: ''What's that?''

Forman, happy to answer most questions about his Oscar-winning direction of ''Amadeus,'' was short when a reporter asked ''Why did the academy select you?''

''I won't speculate on that. They did it. Why don't you ask them?''

But Forman opened up on the topic of the relationship between Mozart and the mediocre, envious Salieri.

''Usually, when you have such antagonists such as Salieri and Mozart, you identify with one against another,'' Forman said. ''I was oscillating between one and the other one.''

''There is a little piece of Mozart in each of us. And I would dare to say there is quite a bit of Salieri in each of us. It's all right not to be a genius, as long as one tries to be one.''

Abraham, who won best actor as Salieri, didn't sound a quarter-note in person like the fatuous 18th-century musical snob of ''Amadeus.''

''Now I'm a leading man?'' Abraham said to a reporter's question. ''Do I look like a leading man? Let me tell you who a leading man is. Cary Grant is a leading man. No, I'm not a leading man.''