From true life stories, to sassy period tales to rich domestic dramas, this year’s crop of contending actresses have had some great material to dive into. And when rounding up Amy Adams (“American Hustle“), Emma Thompson (“Saving Mr. Banks“), Julia Roberts (“August: Osage County“), Octavia Spencer (“Fruitvale Station“) and Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years A Slave“) THR undoubtedly has wealth of things to talk about, from their films to the wide range of experience in the biz.
And among the many highlights is Winfrey’s recollection of her first acting job on Steven Spielberg‘s “The Color Purple,” and her difficult transition from the talk show world to the acting realm. “I was in ‘The Color Purple,’ 1985. I didn’t know anything about acting. I’d never even been to Universal Studios. So I walked in—first scene, first day, Steven Spielberg—and I looked directly in the camera because that’s what you do on television. I walked in and went, ‘How you doing, Miss Celie?’ And he went, ‘Cut! Cut! Cut! What is wrong with you?’ And I’m standing there, trembling. ‘Where are you looking?’ I go, ‘I’m looking at the camera.’ He goes, ‘Miss Celie’s over there!’ [I was] terrified,” Winfrey said.
“And then there was a scene where he asked me to cry,” he continued. “I loved being in that film so much, it just changed everything in my life, and I came to the set even when I didn’t have to work, and I’d be in the background crying. So Steven goes, ‘I want you to do that this afternoon.’ Well, I had no idea how to make that happen again. I had no technical skills, and when the scene was being filmed, I couldn’t cry. I could hear the film turning in the camera, and the entire room waiting for me to cry…”
Meanwhile, Nyong’o (who tearfully credits “The Color Purple” as one of her inspirations to get into acting) shares an anecdote from her time as a PA on the set of “The Constant Gardener.” “That was the first film that I worked on, and I would escort Ralph [Fiennes] from his tent because in Kenya we don’t have trailers, and he was always in some sort of funk, in a zone, and I would be like, ‘So, what was your favorite movie to work on?’ You know, just trying small talk because the silence was uncomfortable for me,” she shared. “And he would be trying to be polite, but he really didn’t want to speak to me. And now I understand! (Laughter.) That’s such a precious moment, when an actor is approaching the set.”
Much more below in the 50-minute conversation. And if you missed them, check out the awards season roundtables for directors, screenwriters, producers and cinematographers.