This year's Academy Award-nominated actors took to the podium moments before today's annual Nominees Luncheon to answer media questions. Judging by applause and laughter, the interview room crowd favorites were Annette Bening, Helena Bonham Carter, Nicole Kidman, James Franco, Jesse Eisenberg and Javier Bardem, who kicked it all off.
Javier Bardem, Lead Actor, Biutiful:
Although the road to getting Biutiful made and then seen has not been easy, Bardem said the film "was always going to be made." The hard part? "Finding the right people" to make it. Bardem said the support he and Biutiful received from Julia Roberts, Sean Penn and Michael Mann was "a great honor" and "a gift" to "have the support of people of that quality." While this is his third nomination, he said, "this time the honor is different because it's Spanish; its not easy to be here for a Spanish [film] performance."
Jeremy Renner, Supporting Actor, The Town:
Is the actor proud of his second-year-in-a-row nomination? "My mom is really proud, I don't know if I can be proud of myself, but I can tell you I feel lucky." The second time around is somewhat different (than being nominated for The Hurt Locker last year), but he said it's no more or less exciting -- just different. "I'm still wide eyed about the whole process and the whole thing...I'm so lucky to do what I do." Did he research by watching old genre movies? No -- it goes against his instincts on any job. "I don't like to be influenced." But he did cite Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid as something he watched before shooting The Town. In the marathon that is Awards season, which "really flashes by" in ten-minute increments, Renner sticks to what works for him: "I just stay focused on what's happening…I like to be present in my life."
Jennifer Lawrence, Lead Actress, Winter's Bone:
As she approached the podium she said, "I feel like the president, just less important," a joke well-received by the journalists. Of Winter's Bone's success, she said: "everything has surpassed all expectations" since Sundance 2010: "I cried when we got into Sundance." The difference between her life last year and now? "My life was a little bit more boring, I slept in more." Now, she is "busier and less sleep but happy."
Jesse Eisenberg, Lead Actor, The Social Network:
Looking shocked as we applauded him entering the room, he said: "I did not know this existed. Thank You." The awards season reminds him of when he was young: "I had to go to bat mitzvahs every weekend and this is like the same thing. You have to put on a suit every weekend to go meet with a lot of Jews. It’s been very nice." On how he thinks the film has impacted Facebook: "I think [it] has ultimately been good for them…Mark has been so gracious about something that must have been so uncomfortable…The fact that he would do SNL and make fun of the situation is so sweet and so generous. It’s the best possible way to handle something that, I think, could otherwise be very uncomfortable." Who is he intimated by at the Nominees Luncheon? "Anyone with a name tag I am intimidated by…I have this general sense of feeling like I don't belong." But he knows that he's not alone: "it's just a room full of a lot of insecure actors."
Melissa Leo, Supporting Actress, The Fighter:
"It's been such a delightful season for me," she said. "I don't listen to much of what all y'all [reporters] get out there, but thank you," as she hears it's been good. "It's quite a race this year and I'm thrilled to be a part of it."
Mark Ruffalo, Supporting Actor, The Kids Are All Right:
"Please, sit down," he joked, arriving at podium. On Annette Bening and Julianne Moore: "I get to work with two of the greatest American actresses around, and it's a part that I get to do everything in: I get to be funny, I get to be touching, I get to do everything I like to do as an actor. That's rare [and] it's rare to get to act in an ensemble." On savoring the nominations, he said: "It's taken me twenty years to get here, and I've been savoring it very slowly over that time. It's a huge honor, and I probably have the least showy performance of the group, so I'm surprised I made the cut. But I'm also very very grateful that I made the cut…it's really been a meditation to enjoy the hell out of it." On director Lisa Cholodenko: "I think it's always great to see a woman in the lineup, and I'm a team player. I would have loved to see her nominated as a director."
Geoffrey Rush, Supporting Actor, The King's Speech:
On The London Sun's recent report that the Queen enjoyed the film: "Colin [Firth] has suggested it might not be the most reliable source." On what winning this award would mean: "It would be an overload but I wouldn't mind it…if it doesn't happen that's fine, it's still a film I'm very very proud of."
Colin Firth, Lead Actor, The King's Speech:
Does he get treated differently now, after his nomination? "I do get the odd bow, which I put down to confusion or facetiousness." On how he feels throughout awards season: "It does change throughout the day. I feel I should take my temperature. One thing I feel about this out-of-body experience, it's like there are two of you and one has to interview the other to see how you're feeling."
Jacki Weaver, Supporting Actress, Animal Kingdom:
"It's been mind-boggling. I've been an actor for 48 years in my native Australia. I've never had grand ambitions [to work elsewhere]." The attention she's getting has "become addictive very quickly." With a new American agent, manager and lawyer, she can't wait to play American characters. But for now, "you've really got to concentrate on enjoying the moment." How she feels: "If I was a bell I'd be ringing."
Helena Bonham Carter, Supporting Actress, The King's Speech:
"Good morning everyone, are you having a nice time?" she asked as she approached the podium, then took her shoes off: "I could do a Black Swan." She was definitely a favorite with the crowd. The film is "proving very fruitful and good for my career," though she didn't confirm what projects she has under consideration. Was she nervous to play the Queen Mother? "I wanted to play George because I thought that was the best part…then I thought Lionel, that's the honest truth." She had three weeks to rehearse. "I didn't particularly look in the mirror and think, 'God, I'm a dead ringer for the Queen Mother.'" But to answer the question: "It was daunting." On what to expect from her Oscar night attire, "It's probably going to be a catastrophe, but I'm going to go for it."
Amy Adams, Supporting Actress, The Fighter:
She called our applause for her "tepid," and added, "I know it's a long season for all of us, but…" [we laughed]. "I was able to meet Charlene," she said, answering a question submitted via Facebook. "She was awesome, she didn't really give me any advice, but she did ask me not to wear the fishnets. But [director] David O. Russell disagreed, so I did wear the fishnets." On working with Christian Bale: "All that really matters to me when working with an actor is what happens between 'action' and 'cut'." Is it challenging? "No, because between 'action' and 'cut', I'm not Amy and he's not Christian, they're just the characters."
Annette Bening, Lead Actress, The Kids Are All Right:
She received one of the more enthusiastic welcomes, and spoke on her connection to the story: "I loved the script, right in my gut, when I read it. I felt a connection to the story…an intuitive response to the character, which is the best you could hope for as an actor. Anything intuitive is much richer." She added, "I've been doing this for a few years now, so I've learned a few things, and one of them, I hope, is if you have a gut level response, just go with that, [and] don't worry." On the film's significance in the fight against homophobia, "I think when something is a good movie -- first of all -- well-made, entertaining, funny, maybe has some heart to it…that comes first. If you can open people's hearts first, maybe people's minds get opened after that. I am proud of this movie, it stands up for the dignity of all these families."
John Hawkes, Supporting Actor, Winter's Bone:
On being nominated: "It's crazy, I am very blown away by the whole thing." He explained his somewhat aloof behavior, saying that he wouldn't have been able to have the career he's had for twenty years if he'd "blown his cover," and he doesn't want to blow it now either. But, he said: "It's a wonderful time in my life, and I don't mean to seem ungrateful." He called his character in Winter's Bone "an easy one to love."
Michelle Williams, Lead Actress, Blue Valentine:
The stunning star got stuck with the two dullest questions of the hour before being ushered out, one about her shoes and the other asking if it was hard to be nominated without her co-star, Ryan Gosling. She confirmed: "I just said when I walked in that I missed him."
Nicole Kidman, Lead Actress, Rabbit Hole:
On her fellow Aussie nominees, "[It is] so wonderful to see Geoffrey nominated again, and Jacki Weaver who I grew up watching; to have this chance, it says to actors it doesn't matter how old you are…you can have a break…a lot of times you're told if you don't make it by 35, it's too late, and that's changing." On her Oscar night attire, she confirmed daughter Sunday Rose likes to help her choose, "fingers crossed guys, I could be wearing a tutu."
Hailee Steinfeld, Supporting Actress, True Grit:
On her chances of being nominated, "I guess it's not that I didn't believe 'em, it's that I never thought about it…I think back to auditioning for the role, and knowing I was so fortunate to being called in with all the other girls..so this is just incredible." On her past Oscar-watching experiences: "Gosh, I just don't know…[this time] I'm just in such great company," but in the past, "I would watch them, I gotta be honest, mainly for the red carpet…but I'm so honored to be a part of it now."
Jeff Bridges, Lead Actor, True Grit:
"Looking backwards, the advice that I'd give is the same advice that my mother gave me and that my wife now gives me…'remember, have fun and don't take it too seriously.'" On competing with Colin Firth again: "From my side there's no competition, it's an honor to be in the presence of these other honorees. I'm taking my mommy's advice. I'm here to have fun and not take it too seriously. Colin will probably take home the trophy this year, its a wonderful performance."
James Franco, Lead Actor, 127 Hours:
Did he feel physical pain on set? "Oh yeah, there was a lot of physical pain…and [director] Danny [Boyle] knew it was going to cause a lot of pain," he said, "I asked him after, 'how did you know how far you could push it?'…[Boyle] looks at the actor and the actor will say when its too far." On the 20+ minute take, "that wasn't a foam rock…those long takes work, that makes it real. Not only am I experiencing physical pain, I'm getting exhausted by it…it became less of a facade and more of an experience I went through."
Natalie Portman, Lead Actress, Black Swan:
Similar to the fate of Michelle Williams, Portman was asked a nonsense question about picking a gown while pregnant. She politely said it was unfortunate that that's what the questions have become these days. On her interest in the world of Black Swan: "I was really drawn to the world of dance itself," and added that "finding a character [Nina], her artistic voice is something I was really interested by, in a world where men are the directors and women are the stars."