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Oscar Nominees Luncheon Q&A: Blanchett, Bullock, McConaughey, DiCaprio, Cuaron and More UPDATED

Oscar Nominees Luncheon Q&A: Blanchett, Bullock, McConaughey, DiCaprio, Cuaron and More UPDATED

TOH! was set up in the interview room at the Beverly Hilton for the 2014 Oscar Nominees Luncheon. Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Matthew McConaughey, Leonardo DiCaprio, Lupita Nyong’o, Amy Adams, Jared Leto and Jonah Hill are just a few of the names who paid us a visit over the past hour. 

Check out highlights of what each nominee had to say, below.

June Squibb (Best Supporting Actress nomination, “Nebraska”)

Squibb says that her foul-mouthed graveyard scene in “Nebraska” was written into the script — no improvising on that one. When asked why actors want to make films with Alexander Payne, Squibb says Payne “knows where actors are going, and what actors want.” 

Lupita Nyong’o (Best Supporting Actress nomination, “12 Years a Slave”)

Nyong’o impressed the press room by switching fluently to Spanish to answer a question. Nyong’o is from both Mexico and Kenya, calling them her “two countries.” In response to whether she’ll celebrate with tequila if she wins, she laughs and says she doesn’t know. The journey of being nominated has been very revealing, she says; what difference does it make to her career? The Oscar nod is “the highest stamp of approval,” but Nyong’o seems genuinely unsure of how it will impact her acting career — “I guess we’ll see.”

Alfonso Cuaron (Best Director nomination, “Gravity”)

Cuaron made it! The room is happy about this one. Cuaron talks about the emotional experience of “Gravity,” saying the reason it’s appealing to audiences on a mass scale is that normal people “go through adversity every single day of our lives. It’s about our attitude toward adversity, and [the film is about] embracing that adversity.” So the journey of Sandra Bullock’s character in the film is the process of dealing with challenging problems writ large. 

Alexander Payne (Best Director nomination, “Nebraska”)

Despite being warned we’d get no time with the nominated directors, Payne is also making an appearance. He says he considered Henry Fonda and Walter Brennan for the Bruce Dern role — if Warren Oates had been alive he would have been ideal, too — but none of them “would have been as good as Bruce.” Where did the small bit part actors in “Nebraska” come from? Payne says half of the speaking parts in the film are non-actors, from rural Nebraska and Iowa. It took about a year of casting to find this part of the cast, sought out via rural radio and local papers. Payne was inspired by his own relationship with his aging parents for the film, though it’s an unusual project for him as he didn’t write the script. 

Jonah Hill (Best Supporting Actor nomination, “The Wolf of Wall Street”)

In terms of his recently announced next project with Leonardo DiCaprio: They were both moved by the story of Richard Jewel. Hill says he’s “beyond excited” to collaborate with DiCaprio again. Would he negotiate a better pay deal if approached for another Scorsese film? “I wouldn’t care” about the money, he says. “I would paint his house if he asked me to.” In terms of planning for the Oscars, and speech-making: “It seems indulgent to write a speech — but I guess I will just in the one-in-a-billion chance [I win].” He has a “Moneyball” speech tucked away from his last time getting nominated.

Steve McQueen (Best Director nomination, “12 Years a Slave”)

“It was always my ambition to get [Solomon Northup’s] book into schools… to unearth an American hero.” McQeen feels like he’s winning the battle against the stigma that “12 Years” is “too hard to watch,” particularly in the US. “Audiences are interested in challenging films,” he says. How is he handling the nominations “circus”? He says he’s having a lot of fun. McQueen believes that “a great debate is occurring, every Q&A has become like a Town Hall meeting.” He didn’t want the press room Q&A to end, asking for more questions beyond the assigned two or three.

Bradley Cooper (Best Supporting Actor nomination, “American Hustle”)

Will he bring a lucky trinket to the Oscars? A press members suggests some female friends who would like to go along as his lucky trinket! “I wish Tom Hanks was in there,” Cooper says, re: the nominations. “I am absolutely living the dream,” he says when a reporter suggests he’s shown no entitlement in terms of his Oscar streak the last two years.

Amy Adams (Best Actress nomination, “American Hustle”)

Adams is looking fabulous in a bright red blouse and pant; she’s clearly still got the sassy spirit of her “Hustle” character in her blood. She says of director Russell: “David has created two really diverse roles for me, and he has a way of challenging an actor past what you think you’re capable of. He keeps on you until you give him what he saw in you. I’m really grateful.”

Sandra Bullock (Best Actress nomination, “Gravity”)

She said that the experience of working on “Gravity” was fantastic: “I was working with the nicest group of people, who had a tremendous amount riding on them — creating new technology. It should have been a stressful situation, but everyone was so supportive and kind.” What made her trust director Alfonso Cuaron? “I had watched him for so many years and longed to work with him… I trusted him 100%, because I had the body of his work as proof. That trust made it so easy to go into the day — whether the film would work or not, it didn’t cross my mind.” 

Matthew McConaughey (Best Actor nomination, “Dallas Buyers Club”)

How will he celebrate if he wins? Hasn’t thought that far ahead, but “I’m going to celebrate no matter what, this is my first time nominated, and there will never be another first time.” What’s surprised him the most about this whole awards season journey is that “Dallas Buyers Club” has scored six Oscar nods — “we have a real presence here. The Academy’s shining a light on it in a huge way with those six nominations.” Says he hasn’t found the Oscar promotion circuit laborious at all — “I could talk about Ron Woodruff until the day I die and not be too exhausted by it.” 

Cate Blanchett (Best Actress nomination, “Blue Jasmine”)

Blanchett is literally luminous in a silver frock, joking that she made it herself. Of “Blue Jasmine”: “Sometimes you’re ready to take a role by the teeth, it felt like a synthesis of my work on stage and on screen.” In terms of wardrobe for the film, all of her fancy outfits from “Blue Jasmine” had to “go back at midnight,” she didn’t get to keep anything — she says the costume designer budget was “less than a price of an Hermes bag,” though it appeared extravagant. She’s genuinely surprised when it’s pointed out that this is her sixth Oscar nomination. “Is it? Wow!”

Leonardo DiCaprio (Best Actor nomination, “The Wolf of Wall Street”)

“Look, there’s a lot of disgusting behavior in this movie. We wanted this to be a cautionary tale — it was a reaction to what happened in 2008. Marty’s never been a didactic director, who spoon-feeds what the ramifications of the actions [on screen] are. He purposely didn’t cut away to the victims. He shows a character who doesn’t get his full due at the end — but that’s the way it is. That’s what Marty does — his films are timeless and not specific to a period. Those are the types of films I want to be involved with.”

More on his relationship with Scorsese: “He’s one of the first filmmakers that I became transfixed by. He inspired my whole generation. I’ve learned so much about film history, cinema as an art form, and the decisions you make during a film [from him]. I’m willing to do whatever it is he wants up there on screen.”

Jared Leto (Best Supporting Actor nomination, “Dallas Buyers Club”)

Leto says of his mother: “We were born very poor, and my mother always wanted to do something better with her life. The biggest lesson she taught me was to dream, and then do the work it takes to make those dreams a reality.” In that vein, he says the best part of this nominations journey is getting to thank Mom. In terms of his eccentric awards season attire (he wore a very sparkly pair of slip-ons to the Luncheon): “You want to feel like yourself, not like your agent.” Says he would never do the weight loss/gain thing again: “It’s really bad for my body.” True enough.

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