Imagine a room full of people not watching the Oscars. They’re listening to them on headsets. They’re laughing when Jon Stewart cracks wise. They’re also watching and listening to the people coming through, depending on who it is. Some they ignore.
There are nine rows of tables here in the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel, more rows of chairs at the front where Jeanne Wolf sits, with some 300 journalists filing different kinds of reports from the interview room. They hold up a card with a number and they get to ask a question. We aren’t allowed to take pictures in here. (There’s another photo room, and even a photo editing room, where people sit in front of computers full of little pictures, and a TV media room.)
I had to have an Academy PR person stand next to me as I shot a photo of the room. I also took some shots from the red carpet bleachers, where I was lucky enough to have a front row slot. My guardian angel was London Daily Mail veteran Baz Bamigboye, who saved me a seat. One guy gave me water. Another guy gave me a phone cord when I found out they don’t have wifi in the press room. Everyone shared info about designers and dresses as it came in on their cell phones. (My editors edited out all my designer references.) It was a cooperative group effort, as a guy from Dallas, a woman from Germany, a guy from London and a woman from a trade tried to do as well as possible.
Those folks who came over to the print press corps –we were at the end of the long gauntlet they had just run–would answer one or two questions. I need to learn how to prep questions in advance for the people I really want to talk to. Well, I wasn’t planning to report the red carpet arrivals story. I was planning to take notes for the blog. But there I was, with the indefatigable Bill Higgins laid low by flu, asking questions and getting caught up in the “Amy!” “Cameron!” “John!” “Harrison!” “Javier!” “Cate!” of it all. (No, Amy Ryan, Cameron Diaz, Harrison Ford, John Travolta, Javier Bardem and Cate Blanchett did not come over–partly because they were rushing in to take their seats.)
Right this moment the gorgeous Marion Cotillard is answering questions as she clutches her Oscar. She says, “I am overwhelmed with joy and sparkles and fireworks and things that go with like ‘bom bom bom!’ I just ate all those things and it’s happening right here, right now.” Cotillard is singing for us! Big applause! “Padam Padam.” Sitting next to me, Variety’s Justin Chang just looked it up on the list of songs on the La Vie En Rose soundtrack.
Chang and David Cohen of Variety are asking questions and transcribing the answers from everyone who comes in, whether it’s the glamorous Cotillard or various and sundry sound editors and mixers from the Bourne Ultimatum. (We also have photo galleries online.) Much of the Q &As tonight were in French, Spanish and Italian, as most of the winners were not American.
Across from me sit a mighty trio from the New York Times, fellow-blogger David Carr, David Halbfinger and Michael Cieply, who are filing and refiling the ever-changing updating Oscar story for the NYT through four editions of the paper. They pull a good quote from the show. They pull a good quote from backstage. They show each other things. It’s called multi-tasking and the people in this room are very good at it.
[Photos: Oscar nominees Cate Blanchett and Ruby Dee pass by the print press in red carpet bleachers.]
[Originally appeared on Variety.com]