The Academy Nominees lunch is always a convivial way for Oscar nominees to relax (while they work a room full of voters) and congratulate each other at tables full of fellow nominees, and pose for the annual group photo, 20 days ahead of the Academy Awards.
150 gathered this year at the Beverly Hilton; notably absent were working pros Cate Blanchett, Michael Fassbender and Tom Hardy. Brie Larson has to fly back to Australia for "King Kong" before returning for the Oscars. She’s been logging a lot of airline miles, she said.
The Oscars producers Reginald Hudlin and David Hill announced a new "bottom of frame" thank you scroll and permanent record for winners. When they mentioned winners forgetting to thank their directors, Sylvester Stallone raised his hand. He gave young "Room" star Jacob Tremblay a boxing lesson for the photographers. Larson told me she couldn’t have given her performance without Tremblay; they did "Room" together.
It’s fun to see who sits with who: "Inside Out" writer-director Peter Docter and Ridley Scott, Leonardo DiCaprio and "Son of Saul" director Laszlo Nemes, "Spotlight" star Mark Ruffalo and songwriter Diane Warren, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and costume designer Sandy Powell, Steven Spielberg and producer Mark Johnson, and Brie Larson and cinematographer Ed Lachman.
I sat with production designer Jack Fisk and singer actress Schuyler, his daughter with Sissy Spacek. He said "The Revenant" was not the toughest movie he ever made, judging by how exhausted he was afterwards. That was Terrence Malick’s "The Thin Red Line."
While Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs told the crowd that she had asked "the elephant in the room to leave," the new voting eligibility rules—designed to diversify the Academy by cutting back on inactive older white male voters—were the hot topic, and several Academy governors told me that they expected some rejiggering of the hastily announced rules and that the Academy would lean on the lenient side. So many members work in television now, or joined too late to be able to log 30 active years as voters.
I asked Matt Damon (posing with fans above) about his gracefully adept introduction to DGA nominee Ridley Scott Saturday night. He said he never likes to use the teleprompter and while he prepped what he wanted to say, spoke off the cuff.
Cinematographer Roger Deakins, who has been nominated for 13 Oscars, is going back to work with his "Sicario" director Denis Villeneuve on his next film, "Blade Runner." (Ridley Scott is doing "Alien: Covenant.") This has got to be the one that breaks his long no-Oscar streak!
Called up first by Ed Begley, Jr. to pose for the group photo was Stallone, who got a huge round of applause; all the well-known actors got enthusiastic claps, along with Inarritu and Lubezki, who stood with Deakins on the riser, George Miller and his wife/editor Margaret Sixel, documentary director Liz Garbus ("What Happened, Miss Simone?"), Steve Golin, who produced both "Spotlight" and "The Revenant" (Scott Rudin performed this feat in 2011 with "True Grit" and "The Social Network"), "Spotlight" writer-director Tom McCarthy and writer Josh Singer, Steven Spielberg, Laszlo Nemes, and "The Big Short" writer-director Adam McKay. Everyone agrees that with the most wide-open race in years, with the Guild votes going in different directions, anything can happen.
After the nominees photo, Jennifer Lawrence, wearing a trim black pantsuit, said she couldn’t wait to kick off her high heels. (All these actresses torture themselves, while smart Charlotte Rampling wore black patent leather flat ankle boots.) And this is the sort of thing that happens at the nominees lunch: supporting actress rivals Rooney Mara and Alicia Vikander met standing next to each other on the riser for the photo.