The newly rebranded “pink” carpet at the Film Independent Spirit Awards, held in a tent on the Santa Monica beach, brought in this year’s nominees who stopped to talk with us along the way. Jessica Chastain, Laura Poitras, Pawel Pawlikowski, Desiree Akhavan, Justin Simien, Eliza Hittman, John Ridley, Emma Stone, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Damien Chazelle, Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane and hosts Kristen Bell and Fred Armisen were just some of the faces who sailed by.
Winners were slow to make their way backstage to greet their press public. Here’s what they had to say.
One question on everyone’s mind: Where was Richard Linklater? An IFC spokesman said it was a “last minute family thing.” Ethan Hawke accepted the Best Director award on behalf of the “Boyhood” no-show. His biggest Oscar rival, “Birdman,” took home Best Feature to gasps and shocks in the press room.
“We made this movie in 23 days. I brought my own bras,” said Best Female Lead winner Julianne Moore, who’s having a great weekend ahead of the Oscars on Sunday, of “Still Alice” before making her way backstage. She thanked her co-directors including Richard Glatzer, who has ALS and was directing on an iPad.
“You can poo-poo awards all you want, but I don’t have to,” Moore said, looking radiantly beautiful in Tom Ford, all smiles, just tickled to be here.
Disinterested and possibly baked Special Distinction winner Bennett Miller chided his press for their uninspired questions. And what will the Academy Award nominated director of “Foxcatcher” miss most about this film when its journey finally comes to an end tomorrow? “I’m going to miss the questions from people for whom the movie lingers.”
TV news indictment drama “Nightcrawler” pulled a bit of a coup on Saturday, nabbing Best First Feature and Best Screenplay for writer/director Dan Gilroy, Oscar-nominated for Best Original Screenplay, whose wife and muse Rene Russo got teary-eyed in the “ballroom” (i.e. gigantic slipshod tent).
“Your first instinct as a writer is to plug a hero into your story and I beat my head against a wall trying to put a hero into ‘Nightcrawler.’ But somehow an antihero plugged into the film thematically,” said Dan Gilroy of his protagonist Lou Bloom, a go-for-blood aspiring newscaster played by Jake Gyllenhaal. “It was the most fun I had writing.”
“Maybe when you watch the film you can say, ‘I am one of the people who watches,'” said Gilroy, whose movie indicts us all– not just those grubby headline-snatching newscasters.
“There’s a war on journalism right now in the US, so we were very aware of the risks,” said Laura Poitras on the carpet when I asked if she and her producers have been living in any kind of fear since “Citizenfour” bowed at the New York Film Festival. “And they’re ongoing.”
Best Supporting Male winner JK Simmons said of his role as a domineering drumming instructor in “Whiplash,” “I recognized that it was great and a good fit [for me personally], which is the ideal combination I’m always looking for.”
Simmons, like Arquette, has been answering these same questions for the last year, feigning engagement. “This took no bravery at all,” he said of the part, which has all but locked him down for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Where does he keep all these awards season prizes. “In a mini-fridge in my bathroom.”
Best International Feature-winning “Ida” director Pawel Pawlikowski, fielding queries from the press corps while Silversun Pickups blared in the next room, said of his black-and-white Oscar frontrunner “‘Ida’ was a film made with no hope of commercial success, the actors are unknown, this recognition elevates the whole thing. We need that. These little miracles happen and they keep us going and make us take risks. This was a huge one. It made no commercial sense whatsoever and politically it turned out to be pretty dangerous as well. These awards are great protection, and keep us going.”
Upon accepting his award, Pawlikowski nodded to all the other nominated foreign films — “Mommy,” “Leviathan,” “Force Majeure” — but incidentally elided “Norte, The End of History.” Cut to director Lav Diaz, politely bemused.
Writer/director of 2014 meteoric Sundance smash “Dear White People” Justin Simien picked up the Best First Screenplay prize. The young indie admitted on the pink carpet that he’s eager to get off the awards circuit and get back to work. A publicist turned director like Ava DuVernay, he’s juggling a number of projects including a horror movie, among other things. Where’s he going to put his award? “Somewhere in my tiny apartment, next to my bed. This is nuts.”
“I’ve made a lot of independent films, and I’ve never been invited to this party before,” thanked Patricia Arquette who, natch, won Best Supporting Female for “Boyhood.” The award was handed to her by presenter and co-star Ethan Hawke. “As everyone who’s made a small film knows, you can make a great work of art but if you don’t have a distributor [like IFC] pushing your movie, you’ll never have a chance to reach your audience.”
Backstage, Arquette said “I’ve turned down many movies,” recalling “it was difficult being a single mom at 20 turning down movies that I didn’t love. I was doing independent films, so it’s very nice to be here. At one point I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a midwife or an actress so I decided I would give myself one year between 18-19 to work toward acting… I ended up getting work and kept getting work. Most people hold themselves back from that so the best thing to be is brave.”
On the long road of “Boyhood,” Arquette added “People buried their parents, got married, had kids.”
Spirit Award winner Emmanuel Lubezki, accepting his statuette for the one-take illusion of “Birdman,” said it “looks like a little bird.” To Iñárritu: “You’re a pain in the ass but you’re one of the greatest directors I’ve worked with.”
Stay tuned for more as the Spirit Awards are now underway. Oh, and they’re airing live on IFC too.
Best Editing: “Whiplash” – Tom Cross
Best Cinematography: “Birdman” – Emmanuel Lubezki
Best Supporting Female: Patricia Arquette – “Boyhood”
Best First Screenplay: “Dear White People” – Justin Simien
Robert Altman Award: “Inherent Vice”
Best International Film: “Ida” – Pawel Pawlikowski
John Cassavetes Award: “Land Ho!”
Best First Feature: “Nightcrawler”
Best Supporting Male: J.K. Simmons – “Whiplash”
Someone to Watch Award: “H.” – Directed by Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia
Best Screenplay: “Nightcrawler” – Dan Gilroy
Special Distinction Award: “Foxcatcher”
Best Documentary: “Citizenfour”
Best Director: “Boyhood” – Richard Linklater
Best Female Lead: Julianne Moore – “Still Alice”
Best Male Lead: Michael Keaton – “Birdman”
Best Feature: “Birdman”