On Oscar night last year, L.A. resident Octavia Spencer was plopped on her living room couch, running the pool at her Oscar party, $5 a shot. Running the gauntlet of awards events, from her breakthrough award at Palm Springs and supporting actress win at the Critics Choice Movie Awards, she’s trying to keep her head on straight. “If anything else happens after that, great, if not, I’m having the time of my life,” she told me at the BAFTA brunch the day before her next win at the Golden Globes. Arriving at last week’s AFI lunch at the Four Seasons, she made a bee-line to Clint Eastwood. And then “The Help” producer Steven Spielberg came over to say hello. “He’s such a kind calm gentle spirit,” she said. “You don’t want to do anything to make a fool of yourself.” Well put.
Now Spencer’s getting ready for Sundance, where James Ponsoldt’s film “Smashed” will debut January 22. The film stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead as a woman with a drinking problem. Spencer’s character is a recovering alcoholic who helps Winstead get sober. “I’ve got to get a parka,” says Spencer. “Mine is probably in the closet crawling with spiders.” She’ll be back in LA in time to hear about her likely nomination on January 24. Next month she starts filming Diablo Cody’s new untitled movie, and she’s up for another feature and an animated film as well.
As for her “The Help” star Viola Davis, says Spencer, “she’s the salt of the earth. She’s always going to be honest.” Accepting her Golden Globe award Sunday night, Spencer said, “With regard to domestics in this country, now and then,” quoting Martin Luther King, “‘all labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance,’ and I thank you for recognizing that with our film.”
Afterwards backstage, Spencer added:”It’s a very important part of our history. And while the characters are fictitious, the narrative is part of our fabric. It’s important to keep the younger generation abreast of how far we’ve come. Because this is really foreign to them…These women we played are fictional but they represent scores of real people and how can we not pay homage to them?… I’m probably the most militant person you’ll ever meet, I speak my mind without provocation. When I read the book I bristled at the dialect from the first page.” But she then relinquished her judgement, she said, because it’s about uneducated women of a certain socio-economic class. “I didn’t like ‘Gone with the Wind,’ the book or the movie… We live in a multi-faceted, multi-cultural world and once we stop labeling ourselves, maybe everyone else will.”
She kicked off her high-heeled spikes and brandished her Globe. “This is the ultimate party. I am living the dream of so many young actors and actresses out there. And I got the ultimate party favor.”