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2011's Potential Oscar Nominees For Acting, Directing & Writing Get Together To Talk At THR's Awards Roundtable

by Ryan Sartor
December 9, 2011 2:33 PM
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One of the necessities for any Oscar candidate is to do a lot of smiling, gladhanding interviews where they answer the same questions over and over again. An antidote to this madness is the annual Hollywood Reporter Roundtable Interviews. They’re awesome. You take six leading Oscar potentials in the categories of writers, directors, actresses and actors, put them in a room for an hour and see how they interact.

These are full hour-long interviews with some of the buzziest names this season so if you've got the time, it's worth checking out the videos (you can watch them below). There are certainly highlights in each of the videos: Aaron Sorkin on asking Steve Zaillian’s permission to take a stab at the “Moneyball” script, while the loud breathing of Nick Notle provides a backing soundtrack for every second of the actors’ hour-long roundtable.

The tensest interview was definitely with the actresses.  It’s hard to articulate, but while the actors and directors all seemed relatively comfortable with one another (the actors, really, were a hundred times more comfortable than any other group, genuinely interested in answers and trading quips), the actresses would often quietly wait for one another to finish. It seemed that the younger women in that group (Carey Mulligan and Michelle Williams) didn’t have a lot to say to the older women (Glenn Close, Octavia Spencer, Charlize Theron, and Viola Davis). Perhaps they all get along splendidly backstage, but it was just a little uncomfortable to watch. The highlight of that piece was Viola Davis speaking frankly about the challenges in her career. Davis seems to have the best “Oscar story” as Sasha Stone would say. 

The writers were also a little less than warm to one another. Even though Zaillian was gracious, you get tell he wished Sony would have just left his "Moneyball" script the hell alone. The rest of their segment is not particulary compelling as they mostly discuss what it’s like working with various directors.

The directors had a fascinating moment where one of the moderators, Stephen Galloway, asked about the lack of women getting to direct films. While those around the circle jumped in to name female directors (Andrea Arnold, Lynn Ramsey, Miranda July), Galloway suggested those women directed small, not-widely-seen movies. But someone else pointed out that they’re small movies now, hinting that if these women were invited to such roundtables, perhaps their films would get more exposure as a result.

Shame” director Steve McQueen (a British man) was more interested in the lack of black actors in American movies. “I’m always astonished by American filmmakers, particularly living in southern areas, who have never cast a black person or have never actually put him as a lead in a movie. It’s shameful.” Galloway asked McQueen why he thinks that the case, and McQueen said, “Ask them,” pointing to the other (all American, white) directors in the room. No one spoke. Galloway said, “Anyone want to take that on?” Jason Reitman was the only one with a response, “I’m not stepping into that.”

On the actors’ front, Albert Brooks and George Clooney seemed to have a nice repartee going on, and it would be great to see them act together soon (they were both in 1998’s “Out of Sight”). Christopher Plummer is pretty awesome, revealing with some great candor, “It wasn’t until I hit the drunk stage of my life, in the 40s, that I suddenly had fun on film, playing character roles.” Albert Brooks had some hilarious one-liners throughout the actors’ segment. When Christopher Plummer said that a great actor needs to have “the rage,” a scene in the movie where he gets to flip out, Gary Oldman agreed, and Brooks quipped, “Fifteen minutes before we started, he was yelling at the hairdresser.”

The best moment of all of the videos also comes from Brooks (around the 45 minute mark)—after most of the actors agree about that ‘rage’ point: “The actors that have always been the most affecting to me,” Brooks said, “are the ones that allow me to interpret on my own. And there are some actors that give you 100%, they don’t let you get in. They’re working. You see them working. And there other actors that instinctively lay back. And it’s really like a painting. Why should any modern artist sell for hundreds of millions of dollars? It’s only because people are standing there and they’re thinking, ‘What does this mean to them?’”

It's all pretty fascinating stuff. Check out the vids below.

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  • jingmei | December 10, 2011 1:46 AMReply

    This post comes kinda late since these videos have already been posted by another column blog on indiewire. I would say THR picked the artists who shined from this year's good films seriously instead of pop stars, or rather say just coming awards season potential competitors. They are just awesome performers or artists with great talents from current subject films, rather than competing in the coming soon awards comepititions.

  • YU | December 9, 2011 4:14 PMReply

    @KT - This is a British film. Attack the Block had a black lead, Retreat had a black woman as co-lead, Wuthering Heights has a black Heathcliff for once, Luther has a black lead-- their TV/films in general are much more diverse than America's. I realize McQueen was asked the question but he didn't have to attack the others in his response. And tbh, he's much more of a culprit because the British film industry is more progressive in that aspect and yet he's not taking advantage of it.

    @Ryan - I believe Fassbender was attached before the move to America as well. But I don't really see what that has to do with the casting? Why didn't he pick a black actor in London from the start?

  • Ryan Sartor | December 9, 2011 4:24 PM

    @Yu Yeah, that's a good point. He's so convincing the way he argues it in the video. I don't know much about race relationships in England, but there have been so many clashes and injustices occurring in America regarding race that it seems especially, as McQueen put it, shameful that more black actors aren't cast in major productions. I don't think the weight should fall completely on his shoulders.

    Also, by analyzing McQueen's supposed "hypocrisy," we skip right over the fact that he's RIGHT.

  • Paul | December 9, 2011 3:36 PMReply

    Really? Steve McQueen is up there at all?
    I saw SHAME and I thought it reminded me of an awful student film. Awful dialogue, the shots were terrible and the acting was really turn-key. The nudity was shot terribly and overused - there was no restraint in this film and not a hint of care. The screen was too busy in every shot and suffocated the audience. Thanks but no thanks.

  • Ken | December 9, 2011 6:03 PM

    Wow, I couldn't disagree with you more. The dialogue wasn't a strongpoint but I thought it was very well shot and the acting, especially Fassbender's, was a highlight of the movie. Why should there have been restraint in the film? I don't get that at all. I don't see how the screen was "busy" at all either, I thought everything was shot simply and carefully and I never felt suffocated. I think you're way off in your assessment.

  • yu | December 9, 2011 2:51 PMReply

    “Shame” director Steve McQueen (a British man) was more interested in the lack of black actors in American movies. “I’m always astonished by American filmmakers, particularly living in southern areas, who have never cast a black person or have never actually put him as a lead in a movie. It’s shameful.” Says the man who could've easily made Brandon black in Shame. I know his next movie will have Chiwetel Ejiofor as lead (...playing a slave) but he really is one to talk.

  • Sara | December 9, 2011 7:29 PM

    He also complained about lack of casting latino and black actors, not only in lead roles, but supporting too. and he did put an black girl. Well... he made his fame in Hunger, which was amazing mostly because of Fassbender. They are now partners like DeNiro-Scorsese. So... we he made the right choice cast Fassbender.

  • KT | December 9, 2011 3:40 PM

    No, he couldn't have made Brandon "black", because he knew and we know the film wouldn't have gotten a greenlight (unless he had cast Will Smith). Because if he suddenly starts doing things like that everyone will call him a racist like Spike Lee who only casts "blacks" in "black movies" and thus it's a lose-lose. It's not so black and white (no pun intended).

    "Shame” director Steve McQueen (a British man) was more interested in the lack of black actors in American movies."

    He was pointedly asked the quesiton and therefore he gave a response... I don't think he was terribly interested in discussing the subject because it usually falls on deaf ears (i.e. not unlike those of the other directors surrounding him).

  • Ryan Sartor | December 9, 2011 3:20 PM

    I thought that at first, too. But, in McQueen's defense, he tried to make "Shame" in London first, and as Mulligan points out in her segment, McQueen couldn't get British people to talk about sex. I don't KNOW, but I'd imagine it's possible Fassbender was already attached when they moved over to America...?

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