Nominees Sounded Off On Diversity & More At The Oscars Luncheon

Rooney Mara: Matt Baron/REX Shutterstock.
Kate Winslet: Michael Buckner/Variety/REX Shutterstock.
Jennifer Lawrence: David Buchan/Variety/REX Shutterstock.
Before the envelopes are opened, before Oscar statuettes are handed out, and before the 88th Academy Awards ceremony on Feb. 28 designates winners and losers, this year’s contenders — more than 150 of them, including Lady Gaga, Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, and Jennifer Lawrence — were invited to break bread together at the annual Nominees Luncheon, held at The Beverly Hilton Hotel. Before they poured into the ballroom (the very same room where a few of them picked up a Golden Globes a month ago) to take the traditional class photo and turn a deaf ear at demands for short acceptance speeches, a few wandered into the press room where fashion, thoughts on awards campaigning, and of course, the #OscarsSoWhite debate were the hottest topics of the afternoon.
The Serious Significantly fewer folks dropped by the press conference-style proceedings than in years past. Perhaps witnessing a gaggle of protestors and bulked up security on the way into the hotel made them less eager to face the press and answer questions about boycotting this year's ceremony. But for those who did pop in, here's what they had to say about #OscarsSoWhite. “There is a universal law of existence: Adapt or cease to exist. So I think adaptation is necessary. I remember I spoke with [Creed director] Ryan Coogler when this [i.e. all-white nominees] happened and I said, 'How do you want to handle this? Because I feel like you are responsible for me being here. If you want me to go, I'll go. If you don't, I won't. He said, ‘Just go there and represent the film.’ Michael B. Jordan should have been given a lot more respect and a nomination. Eventually, all talent will rise to the top after a paradigm shift. I really do owe everything to these two young guys [Coogler and Jordan] so I would have boycotted if they asked,” — Sylvester Stallone (Creed), on whether or not he should boycott. “It is there in the back of your mind. Casting is story-driven, but if there is a positive to have come out of this, it is that it has alerted everybody to the problem. It is really interesting to me how television responded way earlier than I think cinema has in all countries in terms of diversity.... Films are story-driven and if the story warrants it, there should be diversity of all kinds,” — George Miller (director, Mad Max: Fury Road), on the need for greater diversity in film. “I would never pretend to presume that the film would have any sort of huge effect on [the trans community], but what I hope we’re doing is continuing the conversation. It is extraordinary to us that transgender issues have come into the media in the past year or two, but what is dumbfounding is it is almost 100 years since Lillian’s story. Everyone goes, ‘Change is happening.’ But what is staggering to me is how long it has taken and how much of a distance is left to go. I hope [the film] continues the discussion,” — Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl), who plays Lili Elbe (a transgender woman who lived in 1920s Denmark), on trans awareness.
Photo: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images.
“I have been in my own little bubble, but it is definitely a conversation that we should all be having. I read a piece in the New York Times yesterday and it also talked about Carol. It said there should also be a hashtag #OscarsSoStraight," — Rooney Mara (Carol), on her reaction to #OscarsSoWhite. “I don’t think there is one solution. It is a very emotional issue. It comes down to personal accountability. It raises the big question: What can we all do? Everyone has to take part. Every writer, director, actor, producer, theatergoer. If we all ask ourselves 'What’s my part in this?' we’ll move the needle. That said, I think Cheryl [Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences] has done an amazing job of navigating change. It is a great example of how quickly change can come about,” — Tom McCarthy (Director, Spotlight), on the need for greater diversity in film.

The Silly
"The last time I was here, Lincoln was in the White House," — Sylvester Stallone, who was last a nominee in 1976 for Rocky. “I keep promising Hannah [Bagshawe, his wife] that the sun will be shining whenever we come to LA. Last year, it was pouring with rain. But this time it has been. I hope [Oscar day] will be sunny and we have a gentle day. Try to relax and enjoy it. Last year, I was a frenzy of nerves,” — Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl), on L.A.'s non-cooperative weather. “No. I have never been, but I have now seen the pictures of what goes on there. I can see there are kindred spirits there,”— George Miller, on whether Mad Max: Fury Road was inspired by the Burning Man festival.

Sometimes it can feel like a little bit much. Like, I want the birthday party to end.

Rooney Mara
Photo: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images.

The Significance Of A Nomination

“I have been through this process one other time. There’s two hands to it. On one hand, it’s a huge honor and a great way to celebrate all the films. But on the other, it can be very overwhelming. It feels like we’ve been celebrating the same person’s birthday for months on end. Sometimes it can feel like a little bit much. Like, I want the birthday party to end,” — Rooney Mara (Carol), on handling awards season. “I saw a bit when we were shooting [The Danish Girl] last year. He was in the mix of doing all this, and I wondered how do you keep your head straight when you have to fly out to LA each weekend and do interviews and go to things? I think I learned from watching him. He said, ‘Try to enjoy it because it is pretty wonderful.’ That’s what I am trying to do,” — Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl) on learning how to handle the Oscar campaign trail from Eddie Redmayne.

Ellie Saab might kill me, but I had a great photo shoot with my sister’s Chihuahua ... after the SAG Awards.

Rachel McAdams
Photo: Rob Latour/REX Shutterstock.
“I think Quentin knows what he is doing. Somehow he saw Daisy in me. I have no idea how. I don’t move that way or laugh that way. But we found her in a very organic way and she came to be. It was a blast. I had the greatest time. Working with Quentin is something I longed for for a very long time,” — Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), on receiving her first Oscar nomination. “It’s great that people are paying attention to our movies. We don’t really think about which movie is going to win what. But we’re happy that movies that deal with entrenched power and corruption like Spotlight and our movie are being considered. Whatever wins wins, and we are happy to be a part of this,” — Adam McKay (director, The Big Short) when asked about the competitive horse-race aspect of awards season.
The Style

As with any awards season and show, conversation eventually turns to clothes, though not everyone took to this line of questioning. “Is that what you really want to ask me? Fashion is a great way for me to express what’s happening on the inside, so my goal with each dress that I’ve worn has just been to try and reflect my soul, which is far more complicated than any dress could be,” — Brie Larson (Room), on what she plans to wear on the big night. “It is always really not glamorous when you go home at the end of the night. Like, so sad. You just fall on the floor in a puddle. You really do feel like you turn into a pumpkin. I shouldn’t say this out loud because Ellie Saab might kill me, but I had a great photo shoot with my sister’s Chihuahua... on the dress after the SAG Awards," — Rachel McAdams (Spotlight), on the least glamorous thing she’s done this awards season. “I haven’t tried any on yet, actually. Hopefully I will soon because time is ticking. It is always different. Sometimes you try one on and that’s the one you wear, and sometimes you try 20, and you still can’t find one,” — Rooney Mara (Carol), on her sartorial plans for the ceremony.

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