The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had just opened its doors for ticket pick-up for the 85th Oscar telecast.
Forty voting members, the distinguished director Norman Jewison, and I were on a long single-file line that snaked through the lobby. We patiently waited to go upstairs to pick up our tickets, clutching our photo IDs.
Suddenly, a messenger slipped in and cut the line. He announced to the uniformed guard in a stage whisper, “Dreamworks,” and it was as if God-like Steven Spielberg himself had just delivered the Gettysburg address: The messenger was ushered upstairs–the final act of the “Lincoln” campaign.
Sleep deprived and jet lagged, I had just taken a six-hour flight from New York sitting next to Paula Wagner, who was Tom Cruise’s agent-turned Broadway producer for Jessica Chastain’s theatrical presentation of “The Heiress.” We discussed Jessica’s nail biting chance to beat Jennifer Lawrence for Best Actress. Chastain was bringing her new aristocratic boyfriend, Count Gian Luca Passi de Preposulo to be premiered on the red carpet.
I mentioned Oscar guru Harvey Weinstein’s concern about Emmanuelle Riva’s last-minute surge for Best Actress for “Amour.” The French phenomenon doesn’t speak English; neither did last year’s Best Actor winner Jean Dujardin. Riva had never been to L.A. Her campaign felt like voting for a ghost, even for her 86th birthday.
This was the year I got phone calls in September from top studio executives, all announcing their win for Best Picture. This giddiness was due to the excellent quality of the films, which resulted in the priciest Oscar war on record.