Each of the Lead and Supporting Best Actor nominees, save Christopher Plummer, met the press during the annual Oscar Nominees Luncheon at Los Angeles' Beverly Hilton on February 6. Double nominee George Clooney (Best Actor for "The Descendants," Best Adapted Screenplay for "Ides of March") was first up and had the room full of journalists in giggles within seconds. The man knows how to work it. Check out what the nominees had to say:
(Here's the Actresses)
Best Actor Nominees: Damien Bichir, "A Better Life"; George Clooney, "The Descendants"; Brad Pitt, "Moneyball"; Gary Oldman, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"; Jean Dujardin, "The Artist"
Best Supporting Actor Nominees: Max von Sydow, "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close"; Christopher Plummer, "Beginners'; Jonah Hill, "Moneyball"; Nick Nolte, "Warrior"; Kenneth Branagh, "My Week with Marilyn"
George Clooney, he's been here before. But, he said, "The nice thing is, it's always nice when people are kind to you... It doesn't always happen." Highlights of award season for Clooney? Being nominated by the people he works with and seeing old friends, like fellow nominee Brad Pitt. Clooney says he hadn't seen Pitt in a year until recently, despite people imagining they're hanging out together all the time. "People love to pit Brad and I against each other, but I just really enjoy being around him."
Of fellow nominee Damien Bichir's role in "A Better Life," he said, "He's realllly wonderful in it," and added, "I think his is one of the great stories [among the nominees], because this is a career-changer for him."
His opinion of "The Help" and any possible adverse social impact? "The good news for that film is that is made so much money," but added that "it never hurts to have these conversations constantly. 'The Help' has done a wonderful job of reminding generations that just drinking from the same drinking fountain wasn't an automatic... it's good to remind people of that. I know there is a version of that that is adverse, but I don't see that."
Who he wants to win on Oscar night? It's obvious, he knows, but it's his "Descendants" director Alexander Payne. "I have a great affection for him... he's done five films and he hasn't done a bad one. He's got the best track record in the business."
Jean Dujardin, who's having a tough time with English, has his translator get the message across to us that he's enjoying it all, loves American cinnamon rolls and -- of his time shooting "The Artist" in Los Angeles -- he said, "I love to play with the extras, the Americans, the food, and uh, je ne sais pas, I'm sorry…" He mentions working with amazing people like James Cromwell, and said it wasn't American actors and French actors, it was all "just silent actors together."
Gary Oldman, in a fine mood, said: "I'm deeply honored to be a part of it, and I've decided to just completely embrace it; I'm having the time of my life. It's a fairy tale." A reporter reminds Oldman that at a "Tinker Tailor" press junket he admitted money was the primary way to get him to do a film. So does the nomination make it all that much better? "I was being glib," Oldman said. "The villains are the ones you do for money. They will be now," he added, straightening his tie.
Damien Bichir, who someone pointed out is the first Mexican actor nominated since 1965 (Anthony Quinn for "Zorba the Greek"), said the experience is bizarre. "I was talking to Brad and George and I was like 'what?! really?!'" He adds, "Just to be a part of those names, with so much talent everywhere, it makes the whole thing an incredible honor. I wish this nomination could solve a lot of problems in Mexico, but I don't think that's going to happen. But I keep my hopes high."
He thinks the film, "A Better Life," could make a big difference if the right people see it. He hopes it spreads the message that immigration is not a political issue but a human one.
He's thankful to currently be busy doing a play in Mexico, to help keep his mind off the Oscars. He said he isn't nervous, though: "This is already great, this is beautiful."
"Moneyball"'s Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill take the podium together. Answering a question about his humanitarian interests, Pitt said that, like many in his position, he has "won the lottery" and feels fortunate and in a position to give back. Of Bichir's performance he says, it's an "extraordinary, subtle performance," and adds, "it's something we're dealing with in the states, and to humanize that argument, has great importance beyond the film itself." Plus, Bichir sent him tequila, so he likes the guy.
Pitt and Hill agree that their film's ultimate message is that, "We don't need to sum ourselves up based on our last success or failure."
Asked about Pitt and his infamous pranks, Hill said that even when he tries to get him back for something, Pitt is always "three steps ahead" and a "master of the [prank] artform."
Max von Sydow said, "What an exciting day." He was looking forward to seeing Christopher Plummer, "I worked with him a few times, with great pleasure," but alas, front-runner Plummer didn't attend. Of being nominated, Von Sydow said, "It moves me, because who are these people who nominate? Your colleagues, and they should know something about your craft. And if they think you're good, it's wonderful."
Kenneth Branagh, his first time at the luncheon, said he feels the camaraderie and delight among the nominees in the room. He said there was a sense of responsibility playing Sir Laurence Olivier in "My Week with Marilyn," and said that he used the actors' own methods to find the way to portray him. He is fond of his co-stars, and not just Michelle Williams. Judi Dench -- not just motherly, "she's as sexy as a sexy woman can be," and it's "always a beautiful experience to play across her." As for Eddie Redmayne: "Handsome, sexy and very, very talented."
Nick Nolte started off, "I don't know why I'm here. I'l tell you my best joke, and I'm not a comedian, so it's not funny." We didn't make it to the joke, but I asked about his experience working with Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy (who play his sons) in "Warrior," and he said that because their relationship was meant to be estranged, director Gavin O'Connor didn't allow him to bond with the actors the way he usually would during production. Nolte also made a deal with O'Connor not to drink during the shoot (since his character is a recovering alcoholic). "That lasted four days," said Nolte, before going into a very long and convoluted story that I won't attempt to accurately retell here.