We were set up in the interview room at the Beverly Hilton for the 2014 Oscar Nominees luncheon. Patricia Arquette, Michael Keaton, Marion Cotillard, Laura Dern, Felicity Jones, Steve Carell and Bradley Cooper are just a few of the names who paid us a visit over the past hour.
Patricia Arquette (Best Supporting Actress nominee, "Boyhood"):
The "Boyhood" leading lady hopes she doesn’t faint on Oscar night, but that "at 46, it’s a really beautiful thing" to be nominated. "I can appreciate all the beauty of what’s meaningful about it." Arquette spoke about what makes this 12-year-long project so special. "We gave so much of ourselves for 12 years. It’s such a rare movie. it’s never been done before because we are in a movie business and the concept of asking a financier to give you money 13 years before they can get [the film] is impossible. [Linklater’s] movies have a more European sensibility but they’re so much about Americans that they don’t really fit in Europe and they don’t really fit in America. He has championed his own path."
She also explained, to laughter in the room, how nothing ruffles Linklater’s feathers. At one point, money for the film was looking increasingly unlikely, but in a meeting he said, "Luckily my house burned down, I have an insurance check, we’re good."
Michael Keaton (Best Actor nominee, "Birdman"):
On director Alejandro González Iñárritu: "He was passionate and crazy and at the end he was more passionate and crazier. He’s become a very good friend… I had seen [his] really diverse films and was an enormous fan, like everyone I think, and [‘Birdman’ is a] movie where there’s no choice but to be intimate and talk and he’s extremely open and forthcoming about his personal life and what he thinks about things. It really transfers to the film."
Reese Witherspoon (Best Actress nominee, "Wild"):
"Wild" star and "Gone Girl" producer Witherspoon, fresh off the plane from New Orleans where she’s shooting (and wrestling) with Sofia Vergara on "Don’t Mess with Texas," started her production company Pacific Standard "two years ago because I saw six of my favorite actresses fighting over a really crappy role in a movie and, I thought, we deserve better. I set out with the idea that I wanted to develop material with strong female leads."
Talking about "Wild," Witherspoon said "I’ve never been so physically, emotionally challenged by a story and a director. I’m older now; I feel like I really fought for this movie to get made, and it was a hard process. But it’s so rewarding. I get more letters and emails about this film than any other film I’ve ever made."
She added: "I thought it was such a hopeful beautiful story about a woman who had nothing, she ends the movie with no man, no money, no parents, no opportunity, and it’s a happy ending. That’s such an inspiration."
Felicity Jones (Best Actress nominee, "The Theory of Everything"):
Jones said that the most surreal moment of her Oscar path so far was meeting Patti Smith, "who I am a huge fan of and I have to say I think that might be my favorite moment of the whole thing." In playing Stephen Hawking’s wife Jane, Jones stayed in touch with the real-life Jane Hawking quite often.
I felt when I met her I was definitely being auditioned by her and when you’re playing a real person it was very much just wanting to get her blessing, and more than it being a piece of advice, she gave me this lovely look… where I thought, hopefully she feels relaxed and can trust me with her life story." Throughout filming, Jones would get texts from Jane saying "Hi Jane, I want to see how you’re getting on."
Steve Carell (Best Actor nominee, "Foxcatcher"):
What’s the best way to play conniving, according to Steve Carell? "It’s playing your opposites. The best way to play an intoxicated person means trying not to be intoxicated. The same would go for someone who’s conniving or is dumb. You play at the top of your intelligence because a dumb person doesn’t want to be registered as dumb."
Carell said that taking on this dark, weighty role "wasn’t part of a master plan or what I was aiming for, it just kind of happened. This wasn’t a part that I had solicited or gotten in touch with, I didn’t read the breakdown of, ‘Oh, here’s a guy who killed another guy and he’s a very dark character, that has my name written all over it.’ I didn’t think I’d be in the mix in terms of a character like that."
"If it has any sort of impact career-wise," Carell said, "I want to do things that scare me a little bit more."
Eddie Redmayne (Best Actor nominee, "The Theory of Everything"):
"I’m not sure I’ve ever earned any cool points from anyone." The svelte Brit said one of his favorite parts of the Oscar circuit has been seeing his "Savage Grace" costar Julianne Moore, and thanking her for pushing him into that controversial role as the son of a mother-son incest relationship. He also offered up a funny tidbit about flying out of LA after the Golden Globes, where he won Best Actor in a Drama. "I was taking my Golden Globe through the X-ray machine and I went through and I saw the bag going through and I saw the woman stop the thing and go close up and say, ‘I think it’s an award or something.’ I was praying they would make me open it up and they did!"
Julianne Moore (Best Actress nominee, "Still Alice"):
Julianne Moore, all smiles, reminded us that "When the Oscars are over, it won’t have even been a year since we shot ‘Still Alice,’ which is just nuts." Admittedly baiting for laughters, she also reminisced about her first time at the Oscars lunch, for her 2003 nominations for "The Hours" and "Far From Heaven." "I had just had a baby and I got out of the car, my publicist met me at the curb and I decided to wear this day coat and he said, ‘Oh my gosh we’ve got to get you away from that intellectual fashion.’ I feel more comfortable now, my children are older so I don’t have to wear something so misshapen."
Marion Cotillard (Best Actress nominee, "Two Days, One Night"):
The French superstar, wearing a sequined number with a shock of kelly green, fielded questions about her surprise Actress nomination. "I never expected to be here today with an actress nomination," she told the press corps, admitting "I really wanted the movie to get nominated for Foreign Language Film and when we didn’t make the shortlist… my dream flew away," and reminding us that this was the first time Belgium submitted the Dardennes to the Oscars. But her dream "came back that morning at 5:30. There was no stress at all, and now I’m just enjoying it so much." When asked how she copes with such a depressing role? "You drink beer. Belgian, baby. Sometimes."
Laura Dern (Best Supporting Actress nominee, "Wild"):
Dern, here with her father Bruce, said that in making "Wild," "Our goal was to honor Cheryl Strayed and her story, as we all learned, even our own stories are told by other people, in all relationships that’s the case. Our goal was to honor Cheryl. That remains consistent always. Art is elusive whether you’re playing Stephen Hawking or you’re telling Cheryl Strayed’s story: when it comes to live stories, you have to honor what you know."
J.K. Simmons (Best Supporting Actor nominee, "Whiplash"):
The first time Simmons saw the final product of his Sundance premiere "Whiplash" was at the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes, where he had never been. "It was the most gratifying first viewing of a film that I’d ever seen and the response in Cannes was crazy. Damien Chazelle and I were there, and it was unbelievable, they wouldn’t shut up. [It was] both the sort of visceral standing ovation and the genuineness of the French cinephiles appreciating the movie."
Emma Stone (Best Supporting Actress nominee, "Birdman"):
Stone is juggling both the Oscar circuit and the leading role on Broadway in "Cabaret," which she’ll be finishing in a few short weeks just before the Academy Awards ceremony. "I’m playing sally Bowles and then I’m going to come and be in a fancy dress. It’s like her dream to be doing this. Gin swilling, playing a very sad character every night, so it’s pretty fun."
When asked about the rapid sea changes within the industry of late, Stone looked a little puzzled. "Obviously the industry is changing in a major way, with all these different outlets we have to tell stories. Things are definitely changing. How? I don’t know. But it’s very exciting." Probably not the right person to answer this question.
Rosamund Pike (Best Actress nominee, "Gone Girl"):
"I feel like I’m in one of these gameshows and you turn a corner and don’t know what to expect. Everything is not what I expect," said a very glamorous Pike, newly a mother, who didn’t even realize there were press folks in the room when she crossed the curtain. In talking about Amazing Amy and what a "handful" audiences find her to be, Pike said, "It comes up occasionally, ‘Why wasn’t justice done?’ Justice was completely done. These two narcissists got exaclty what they deserved: they got each other. What part of David Fincher’s oeuvre to date made you think that justice would ever be done?"
Bradley Cooper (Best Actor nomination, "American Sniper"):
An acting nominee three times running, Bradley Cooper tactfully fielded questions about the flurries of controversy storming around Clint Eastwood’s Chris Kyle war picture. "You never know when you make a movie if anyone’s going to see it…. Any discussion that sheds light on the plight of the soldiers and the men and women in the armed services, for that discussion to occur is great."
Cooper, who was "raised on Oscar" as a kid, called this role "life-changing… Chris Kyle was murdered two years to the day today, February 2. It was a huge endeavor, and something I knew was going to be important for [his family]. Going about preparing was different. You have this real source material. You’re not just using your imagination, there’s the material there. His wife gave us thousands of hours of footage… It was a completely different thing to allow him to come inside me, basically."
Robert Duvall (Best Supporting Actor nominee, "The Judge"):
The seasoned character actor, in his typical press-facing fashion, kept it terse. How will he celebrate on Oscar night if he wins? "I’m not going to win it."
Ryan Lattanzio is a staff writer for TOH! at Indiewire. Follow him on Twitter.