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Things I Heard on the Oscar Party Circuit

Things I Heard on the Oscar Party Circuit

‘Tis the season for Oscar parties. They come in different shapes and sizes.

The week started off with a garden-tent party at Lawrence Bender’s Beverly Hills pad to celebrate the DVD release of Inglourious Basterds, which has passed the $300-million mark worldwide. The mighty combo of the Weinstein Co., Universal Pictures and Nadia Bronson, who herded members of the Hollywood Foreign Press, yielded a sprawling melange of guests. On the way in, Judd Apatow (who’s enjoying a year off) and the 16-year-old son of ex-Universal co-chairman David Linde agreed that the person they most wanted to meet was Don Rickles. Jonah Hill and others were hanging on the aging insult comedian’s words at the party; on the way out, Rickles accosted an elderly man, asking his name. “Noel,” he answered. “Are you important?” Rickles asked. “That’s what I like, Jews with nothing. That’s what this movie was about.” As the man made his way to his car, Rickles said, “Nice man, but ‘Noel’?”

Tarantino was locked into a series of intense one-on-ones in the garden. Tiny Michael Cimino is looking more and more girlish. So is Sharon Stone. And while I was duly dazzled by close-up brushes with Jacqueline Bisset, Sacha Baron Cohen and tiny Isla Fisher, Michael Bay, Josh Brolin and Diane Lane, Robert Duvall, Ron Howard, Diane Kruger and Eli Roth (pictured), Christoph Waltz (pictured with Bender), Julie Taymor, Bill Maher, Participant’s Jeff Skoll and Ridley Scott, the high point of my evening was when screenwriter Howard Rodman introduced me to Tarantino’s editor, Sally Menke. She admitted that they did try to edit the movie seamlessly at one point, but decided to stick to the five-part structure Tarantino had intended–all the while recognizing that Waltz was money. And then there was Daniel Bruhl, sigh. WME agent Jerome Duboz has lined up many Hollywood meetings for the young German star, who says that Inglourious Basterds played really well in Germany.

This week Summit celebrated the holidays with a party at XIV on Sunset that was jammed with press and the filmmaker and star of the one movie Summit has going in the Oscar race: The Hurt Locker. Careful what you wish for: Kathryn Bigelow and Jeremy Renner both admitted that it’s been a long haul since the movie premiered in Toronto in September 2008, when Summit acquired it. The Iraq thriller opened way back in June. Renner is blowing off other work to stay in town and do the obligatory rounds (I’ll post our flip cam interview soon). They both live in L.A.. Bigelow is trying to concentrate on developing some other projects. James Cameron has shown her some of Avatar, she says. “It’s wonderful.” Well, she used to be married to the guy.

Fox Searchlight threw a “holiday” party at Craft in Century City attended by Maggie Gyllenhaal, who told me her mother Naomi Foner helped look after her baby at the Crazy Heart junket that day. Her co-star, a bearded Jeff Bridges, seemed pretty chipper considering he was turning 60 the next day. He joshed modest writer-director Scott Cooper for not turning on the “sell” enough. Bridges knows what glad-handing at these parties usually means: not winning an Oscar. He’s been nominated four times, once for best actor (Star Man) and thrice for supporting, and never won. But this could be his time. He’s respected, popular, and due.

Cooper told me his mentor Robert Duvall read the script and asked him what he needed to get it made. “T-Bone Burnett,” the legendary music producer, was the answer. So that’s who they got. Plus Bridges, a bonafide singer and gifted guitarist who knew how to perform the eight original songs in the film that were crafted to express his burned out, hard-drinking character’s emotions. Burnett (who was also at the party) convinced financeers Informant Media (brought in by ICM), who came up with the initial financing to start the film, to raise more money to mount the music properly. Smart.

Other folks at the party included Fox co-chairman Tom Rothman, who always wears his anxiety on his sleeve: Avatar looms. He insisted he’s not as anxious as he was on Titanic 12 years ago; the budget is neither as much as has been reported ($350-400 million) nor is the global marketing budget as high as $150 million. So if the movie barely shot on location and boasts no stars, where did the high costs come from? “Man hours,” he said. Sheer Weta Digital rendering time, thousands of hours, to make all those CG characters come out just right. Rothman says the era of movies grossing Titanic numbers ($1.8 billion) are long gone. There’s simply too much competition for folks’ attention. $1 billion worldwide is about as much as you can hope for these days. He’s thrilled that Fox’s Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs grossed $800 million globally.

Searchlight co-president Nancy Utley told me the new movie from Mark and Jay Duplass (pictured) turned out great. It’s going to Sundance with a new title: Cyrus, starring Jonah Hill and John C. Reilly.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox star Jason Schwartzman was glowing from his recent honeymoon in the Polynesian islands and enjoying his TV series Bored to Death, despite its hideous shooting schedule.

A clutch of press chewed over the Comcast/NBC Universal deal. Jeff Zucker won’t last, we decided. As for Barry Diller’s suggestion that the staff at The Daily Beast are “happy as clams?” Bollocks.

The new Carpetbagger looks at the NY variety.

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