Quips and Quotes from the Academy Awards Luncheon

So, it was with a nice dark suit, an unfortunate hair situation, bleary eyes and a runny nose that I attended the glamorous 28th Annual Luncheon for the 81st Annual Academy Awards Nominees at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, and I just got back a few minutes ago to file this report. By glamorous, I mean that the glamor was neatly partitioned away from those of us in the press, although our herding pen was nicer than usual – little bottle of water on each chair, and there was a podium in front of two giant Oscars, which felt fancy-pants. A general note about how observant I am – this is the first time I’ve noticed that Oscar is holding a sword, pointed downwards. Go figure. There was a vaguely Star Trek villain look about them, truth be told. Or perhaps that’s just my cold meds talking.

Anyway, despite being nestled away from the neatly numbered tables where interesting mixes of actors, directors, art directors, composers and what-have-you would be seated to eat salmon or ahi tuna or sushi or eggplant hummus or grilled goat cheese medallions, we got a very respectable parade of thespian nominees at the podium to answer questions for about five minutes at a time. Here are the potent quotables.


Best Actor Nominee Richard Jenkins, for The Visitor, on any advice he was given by his Oscar-vet Burn After Reading co-workers:
“I just saw Joel and Ethan Coen at the Directors Guild Awards the other night, and they said ‘how are you holding up?’ I said something and they just started to laugh. Nobody told me anything, because I don’t know how you explain it to somebody, what it is you have to go through, and giving the same stupid answers. I wish I could come up with something new to say, but there is nothing going through my head.”

Best Actress Nominee Kate Winslet, for The Reader, on the importance of winning:
“At some point in my life, I would absolutely love to have that happen to me, but I have been here so many times and lost so many times that, quite honestly, I have a really good ‘losing face’ now. I’ve perfected that strange zen blank calm that you have to have in that moment when they don’t call out your name. But it’s been such an amazing year. There have been such extraordinary performances by men and women. To be a part of this global film community in this particular year, with this nomination at this time in my life feels really special. It really does feel like the most poignant nomination for me ever.”

Best Actor Nominee Frank Langella, for Frost/Nixon, on what Richard Nixon might’ve thought of his portrayal:
“I would hope, but doubt, that he might see something of his inner soul in what I tried to do with him and for him, but I doubt it because I don’t think any of us could necessarily do that. I would hope that he might see that I tried to portray him with a certain amount of compassion and understanding for his demons. Even though you can’t agree with what he did, you can understand where he came from. The Nixon family – the grandchildren were very moved by it. They didn’t know him well – they only knew what history had said about him, that he was an evil man. One of them said ‘you made my grandpa a human being.’

Best Supporting Actor Nominee Robert Downey Jr., for Tropic Thunder, on taking the controversial role:
Ben Stiller called me up and told me this idea, and I said ‘well, that seems like a really ridiculous, ill-humored and terrible notion.’ Then I read it, and it was actually handled in a smart way, and I thought ‘if we do this right – an italicized, capitalized IF – then there’s something about it that’s kind of transcendent. I remember when I saw Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda, there was something so transportive about what he did. It was just so weird – other people’s close-ups, his finger was in their face. That guy’s just taking liberties! So I think there’s a certain, for lack of a better adjective… a surprising courage to some roles that you get a chance to do.”

Best Supporting Actress nominee Taraji P. Henson, for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, on how she’s coping:
“I’m nervous, I’m excited, I want to scream, I want to cry. Sometimes I feel like I have Tourette’s, because I’ll be driving along and everything is fine, and then I think about Oscar and I’m like ‘AAAAAH!’ and then I’ll pull it together. So, hopefully, that will pass soon.”

Best Actress nominee Melissa Leo, for Frozen River, on what she thought this would feel like:
“I didn’t ever think about it, sweetie. I really didn’t. I’m an actor. I think about what the next job is, I think about what my character is, I think about what my director’s needs are. I don’t dream about this. It’s a dream I have not yet dared to dream, and a great delight. Win, lose or draw come the 22nd, I’ve got more than I’ve ever dreamt of.”

Best Supporting Ator nominee Josh Brolin, for Milk on No Country For Old Men co-star Javier Bardem’s advice:
“Javier and I are very, very close. The preparation, he said, is to allow happiness. He called me from Spain. When the nomination came, he was one of the first calls I got and, I’m not kidding, he was running down the streets of Barcelona screaming at the top of his lungs. So for me, what would be the proudest moment is to be able to grab that thing – forget about winning, forget about competition – but to be able to grab that Oscar from him that night – that would be an incredible moment.”

Best Supporting Actress Nominee Marisa Tomei, for The Wrestler, on how the film’s nominations speak of director Darren Aronofsky:
“It says everything about Darren. He loves his actors, he put his heart into every character and he intended to make an actor’s piece. He cherished us and we’re really grateful to him.”

Best Supporting Actress Penelope Cruz, for Vicky Cristina Barcelona, on the nomination day:
“My phone collapsed that day. I got all these congratulatory phone calls and messages, and I only got to see and hear half of the messages because it collapsed. We took it to repair and they said ‘there is nothing we can do. We’ve never seen anything like this.’ It made me happy that my phone broke for that reason.”

Best Actress Nominee Anne Hathaway, for Rachel Getting Married, on her feelings toward the role:
“Normally, when I finish a film, I feel a lot of different things, and most of them are worthy of a therapy session. But in this particular case, I just felt satisfied. I felt like I had prepared and performed to the best of my ability, and any limitations I came up against, i had either pushed through or was supported by the most amazing cast and director, and they got me over any obstacles that I had. The nomination, if it’s heightened anything, it’s my gratitude for the people that I worked with, because one thing I’ve learned – which I knew from my first film, The Princess Diaries, and it’s only been proven to me again and again – is that you’re as good as the people you work with. That film really is a group effort.”

Best Supporting Actress Nominee Amy Adams, for Doubt:
“I’ve had an opportunity to work with really amazing actors, and the one thing everybody has in common is a really great work ethic. It’s not about celebrity, it’s not about getting attention or being the best, it’s about bringing your personal best.”

Best Actor Nominee Mickey Rourke, for The Wrestler:
“The biggest change is people that I burned bridges with many years ago seem to have forgiven me for the horrible way I carried myself for many years. I just didn’t have the tools to play the game and understand the politics. I have a lot of regrets.”

Best Supporting Actress Nominee Viola Davis, for Doubt:
“People look at you differently. It’s the same people who saw you before, but now there’s kind of a divine light around you, which I’ll accept, seeing that I’ve taken rejection for most of my life. Strangely enough, it’s given me a real big boost of confidence. I feel like I’m on top of the world, suddenly. It’s the medicine that’s solved my shyness. I’ve seen it all, and this has just been pure joy.”

Best Supporting Actor Nominee Michael Shannon, for Revolutionary Road, on talk that he steals the movie:
“That’s a bittersweet thing to hear. People are obviously being kind and sweet, acknowledging that they were really excited by what you did. On the other hand, I think it’s one of the best ensembles in a movie I’ve seen, and I’ve been seeing a lot of them – not to denigrate anybody else. First, I think Kate and Leo’s performances are gigantic, and all of the supporting players – if you read the book, they nailed every character. So, as honored as I am to get this individual acknowledgement, I wish the Oscars had an ensemble award, too.”

Shannon, on how Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio helped him through the film:
“These scenes have five people in them, and we had to do them from a lot of different angles. Each angle had quite a few takes. I watched Leo do the second scene maybe 70 times before he even got his close-up, and he brought the same ferocity and concentration to every single take, even if he was off-camera. That kind of discipline is key in this business, and out of fairness to your fellow players, you have to try and maintain that. And then Kate – she was aware off the bat how nervous I was. She really went out of her way. Every time I’d kind of glance in her direction she’d [give thumbs-up]. It’s a really smart thing to do. Acting can make you very introspective, but Kate and Leo – and you saw the parts they had to play, they were excruciatingly difficult – but they always kept their wits about them and paid attention to other people. It’s a beautiful thing.

Shannon, on Kate’s help to get him through the award circus:
“She just said ‘go and do things you’re supposed to do and go to the places you’re supposed to go and, when you’re done, go back and remember that you’re just a normal person and you need another job. Just don’t start thinking you’re incredible, because it’s really just this individual performance. My next movie could be terrible and you could all be saying ‘oh, what happened to him? He had so much potential!’


Jenkins, on who he’s taking to the ceremony: “My son is coming with us. He’s really excited about coming. He’s 23 and he’s an accountant for Price Waterhouse. A conflict of interest? I don’t know! How do you think I got the nomination? Whoops!”

Winslet: “I don’t take any of it lightly, and I get very emotional about these things, I’ve discovered. I’m not cut out for this! I’m too emotional to lose and I’m too emotional to win!”

Langella, on what work this nomination will bring him: “I’ve been at it for more than four decades. The privilege of being nominated for an Oscar is really extraordinary, but I don’t really think that suddenly I’m going to turn into one of those actors who makes millions and millions of dollars and stars in films holding a gun.”

Downey: “The funny thing is that I was playing a guy, an Oscar-crazed weirdo whose every motivation was somehow geared towards accolades, so I thought it was kind of – kind of? What isn’t ironic when you think about me standing up here?”

Downey, on the length of time between his nomination for Chaplin and now: “You mean, like they finally became sensible again or something? You’re talking about actors, you’re talking about egos, and mine has some extremely liberal viewpoints on itself, so I tend to think I should be nominated for everything I do, once I’ve watched it. It’s not the truth. It doesn’t turn out that way. What I think is endearing about Kirk Lazarus and Lincoln Osiris in Tropic Thunder is that there is no way that I could’ve read the script and thought ‘it’s Oscar time!’ I was just hoping I wasn’t going to get shot at the premiere.”

Henson on her first nomination: “Today, it’s official, so I can stop pinching myself. Clearly, they’re not going to ask for a recount, so I’m here.”

Leo, on preparing for the red carpet: “A physical trainer, a masseuse, all kinds of other spa aspects that work in a very healthy way. I’d rather do that than visit the botox and the liposuction labs.”

Brolin, on his famous family: “It’s just everyone else talking to that. I’m just in a situation where it’s ‘hi, Josh Brolin! Your dad, your this, your stepmom, your that, and that gets a little old after a while. So this helps.”

Tomei, on what her prior Oscar experience has taught her: “I’ve learned to put a little snack bar in my purse, because you get very hungry. A couple of nuts make the night go easier.”

Cruz, on award season travel: “I think you reach a point where you have so much jet lag that it cancels out and you don’t have jet lag anymore. I wake up and I really don’t know what city I’m in.”

Hathaway on preparation for the role: “I felt her very strongly. I had her voice from the beginning, so when I met Jonathan Demme for the first time, I was myself for about ten minutes, and then I just slipped into character and wanted to see if he’d notice. The scariest part for me was when the film was done, wondering if Jonathan was going to like me, because I’d been Kim so much around him, and he loved her. But he seems to be all right with my personality, too.”

Adams, on her prior Oscar experience: “It’s fun. I’m able to process it a little bit more this time and really enjoy it. The first time, I was so overwhelmed. It was like being launched out of a cannon.”

Rourke, on plans for his Oscar speech: “I don’t think that far ahead. I’ll probably be sitting out there clapping for Sean Penn.”

Davis, on changes since the nomination: “My sense of cuteness. Never thought I was cute, and now I’m walking in front of these photographers just kinda feelin’ cute!”

Shannon, on name recognition: “About ten or fifteen years ago, I got a letter from a guy named Michael Shannon. He was an actor and he lived in England, and he said ‘I’ve started to see your name popping up here and there, and you really need to change your name. I’m Michael Shannon and I was here first. If you don’t change your name, I can make your life very difficult.’ So I’m just glad that I’ve gotten to the point where I can write him back and say ‘You can’t intimidate me, man.'”

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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