TOH! was live backstage at the 2013 Film Independent Spirit Awards. Host Andy Samberg, who calls the Indie Spirits "the only award ceremony watched by more people at the actual show than on televsion," starts off by noting that he feels like he's among peers: Indie box office numbers are similar to some of Samberg's studio films. He hopes everyone's enjoying their gallon of Jameson at every table, along with the complimentary Jameson mini-bottles, and can't resist a Michael Fassbender dick joke — yes, those were from 2012, but Fassbender's package is "so long it flopped into 2013." He holds back on nudity jokes about Supporting Actress nominee Helen Hunt, but orders John Hawkes to show him his "winter's bone." These awards are off to a characteristically bawdy and foul-mouthed start. Case in point: "Fuck the Oscars!"
Winner — Best First Screenplay: Derek Connolly, "Safety Not Guaranteed"
Connolly, who's definitely had too much access to those Jameson gallons, rambles as he thanks lead actress Aubrey Plaza. He also thanks his partner "in all senses of the world." Bryan Cranston joins him onstage and pours Connolly another.
Winner — Best First Feature: "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"
Director Stephen Chbosky accepts the award for the expected winner in this category, thanking lead Emma Watson, "who went to every studio and banged her head on every table and said 'Make this movie.'" Backstage, Chbosky starts off by saying he's "literally never won an award," and that he wasn't worried about following Connolly's boozy acceptance speech. He mentions that, in adapting his book to the big screen, he had no idea going in that it would take "so many people to make such a personal story." He waited 10 years before even thinking about adapting the story.
Winner — Best Supporting Actor: Matthew McConaughey, "Magic Mike"
Expected winner McConaughey mentions during his acceptance speech that he was going for "Baryshnikov and Richard Simmons" in channeling flamboyant strip club owner Dallas. "Let's keep making indie movies, making specific stories and not expensive ones," he says. Backstage, McConaughey mentions that indie films are "hard as hell," but the making of an independent film is fun because he's on camera ten times more during the course of a shooting day than on a studio film. "Time and money are against you… It's more precious… But there's no influence that even hints to come back to the middle." He says he had only seen two films by the time he was 18 years old, and that acting wasn't even in his vernacular while growing up, but that he comes from a family of "hams."
When McConaughey and Soderbergh were brainstorming the character of Dallas, McConaughey brought up Jim Morrison, at which point Soderbergh snapped his fingers and said, "Leather!" This slowly morphed into the Baryshnikov/Simmons inspiration. He and Soderbergh would have "week-long talks about the right thong."
Winner — Best International Film: "Amour"
"I have the impression I'm the oldest man in the whole room," director Michael Haneke says when accepting his award. Backstage with translator in tow, Haneke says that because the Independent Spirits are given by a younger audience, he's moved that this demographic would still pick his film. Haneke says the success of "Amour," despite its difficult themes, has been rewarding for everyone involved. It was clear that the film needed to be made in France — lead Jean-Louis Trintignant doesn't go outside the country. In terms of Oscar preparation, he says he "just needs to put on his tuxedo." He has "no idea" who's going to win the Best Foreign-Language Film.
Winner — John Cassavetes Award: "Middle of Nowhere"
Backstage, director Ava DuVernay thanks cinematographer Bradford Young. Short and sweet.
Winner — Best Supporting Actress: Helen Hunt, "The Sessions"
Backstage, an elegant Hunt says she's beaming that the film even got made. In terms of preparation for the role, she says she found out about the film three weeks before it went into production, so "the whole 'get a trainer' thing wasn't really an option." Her plan for Oscar day tomorrow is "very particular — I will be eating breakfast and getting dressed." In response to an annoying question about what she's currently wearing, she says flatly, "They're my clothes. I own them."
Winner — Best Cinematography: Ben Richardson, "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
Richardson says backstage that he was familiar with the Louisiana location of "Beasts" from Zeitlin's short that he shot, "Glory at Sea." Of the film's pint-sized lead he says, "The day I first met Quvenzhane [Wallis] was incredibly eye-opening — I knew that my focus was to translate [her energy] to audiences."
Winner — Best Screenplay: David O. Russell, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Winner — Best Documentary: "The Invisible War"
During his acceptance speech, director Kirby Dick notes what a "fantastic year" for documentary it's been. Backstage, Dick says that the military was largely unaware the film was being made, and as a result the crew had little cooperation from them. But: "250,000 men and women who are in the military have now seen the film." Producer and co-writer Amy Zeiring says that "in the past when anyone had spoken up, they were met with severe reprisal," and that getting these subjects to open up "was a long process."
Winner — Best Director: David O. Russell, "Silver Linings Playbook"
"Benh Zeitlin is a young man, so Benh Zeitlin will be back," Russell chuckles during his acceptance speech. "When you make a film from the heart, there is no such thing as genre."
Backstage, Russell says that he feels overwhelmed by the win — "that's the way it felt 19 years ago when I was here [for 'Spanking the Monkey']." Russell emphasizes the mental illness issues in "Silver Linings Playbook": "Veterans have said [after seeing the film] 'That's me when I came home from Iraq, and I didn't know what to do with me, and my family didn't know what to do with me.'"
In terms of the Oscars tomorrow, Russell is excited but knows not to bask in the nomination for too long. "Don't focus on yourself very much, just focus on your work — that's my recipe for happiness. I'm just excited to be going to the world series tomorrow."
The question comes up of whether the film is "independent enough" — Russell responds that the film only had 32 days to shoot. "The below-the-line was very low. We never left the set. It is truly independent in that regard. But you look at Benh Zeitlin, he made his film with toothpicks and glue in the Bayou."
Winner — Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Accepting the award, Lawrence says that she has a passion for independent filmmaking: "The only thing motivating you is not money but the belief in a story you'll do anything for."
Winner — Best Actor: John Hawkes, "The Sessions"
Hawkes says on stage that indie film is "a big part of my life… 'The Sessions' is a truly independent film. Thanks Bill Macy for the wit, Helen Hunt for the guts, and Ben Lewin for the soul and everything else… I hope [this film helps] us to all see each other a little more." Backstage, he says that Lewin is an amazing storyteller in person. "The amount of pain I dealt with is minute compared to what many people deal with daily, but [the role] was a physical challenge," he mentions. Someone completely out of the loop asks him about his Oscar nomination tomorrow — he's not nominated for an Oscar! But he takes it well, and chuckles.
What's next? "I'm working on a film in Connecticut based on an Elmore Leonard novel called 'The Switch'… Jennifer Aniston is in it, and she's already starred in a film called 'The Switch,' so we're looking for a different title."
Winner — Best Feature: "Silver Linings Playbook"
The definition of "indie" is stretched yet again with this year's winner, which cost $21 million (the cap for the Spirit Awards is supposedly $15 million, but the nominating committee has discretion on going over). "An incredible family came together to make this film," SLP producers say on stage while accepting the award, "David, this award is yours. Your spirit of collaboration knows no bounds. As Jennifer [Lawrence] said, 'You teach us everyday.'"
Backstage, the film's producers say that the win is a surprise. Hollywood Elsewhere blogger Jeff Wells is sitting up front in the press tent, and producer Donna Gigliotti points at him and says: "Jeff has been carrying the banner all the way!"