Leonardo DiCaprio, Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett share their joy at Oscars luncheon
Final voting for the 86th Academy Awards is just four days away, but Monday allowed this year's nominees one more stress-free event before it all gets "oh, so serious" again. For the public at large, the annual Oscar Nominees Luncheon is a celebration of the honorees as they all crowd into one room to take the "Class of" photo. It's also a huge press opportunity where the contenders can subtly communicate their final pitches in hopes that a stray Academy member will read it or hear about it on TV.
According to media on hand who'd endured the luncheon interview room before, the talent that wandered in to take questions was much more impressive than in years past. No doubt, just a reflection of how competitive the season has been and how much is still on the line. While Jennifer Lawrence, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender were unable to attend, contenders such as Matthew McConaughey, Cate Blanchett, Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale, Sandra Bullock, Lupita Nyong'o, Bono, Pharrell Williams and Amy Adams all stopped by for a light afternoon meal.
Here are the nominees' thoughts on the day, their films and the Oscar season in their own words.
June Squibb (Best Supporting Actress, "Nebraska")
On being invited into the club:
"It's very exciting. I feel like I'm a part of a community; those of us who are lucky enough to be nominated are gathering to celebrate together. I saw Lupita [Nyong'o] upstairs and other people I've known."
Lupita Nyong'o (Best Supporting Actress, "12 Years a Slave")
On whether she saw all this coming:
"I didn't expect anything. No, there is no way I could have dreamt any of this stuff up. It has been an incredible journey. It's an adventure and a very exiting one and a very rewarding one and a very revealing one as well."
On her birthplace, Mexico:
"I have a warm place in my heart for Mexico and I do for my other country as well, Kenya. I have been celebrated in other places and also in America and many different places in the world. That is a humbling experience to have so many people embrace you. That is the beauty of film. It brings so many people together."
On the nomination and thoughts on winning:
"It's a recognition of the highest -- everyone regards the Oscars as the ultimate stamp of approval and I don't know. I guess we'll see."
Alfonso Cuaron (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Film Editing, "Gravity")
On what his film means to audiences:
"First of all it's the emotional experience of the film. We go through adversity every single day of our life and those adversities shape who we are. Our attitude toward adversity. In many ways it's about embracing their adversity."
On "Gravity's" Latino support
"I'm very grateful with the Mexican crowd and the whole Spanish gang who have been so supportive about this process. Since the moment the movie has been released through all the celebrations."
Alexander Payne (Best Director, "Nebraska")
On what films served as inspirations:
"That's always a hard question to answer. I just liked the screenplay. I just liked the deadpan humor and the sadness underneath and the austerity and it was about kindness. I just saw the Oscar-nominated short documentaries yesterday and they are fantastic. I recommend watching the Osar-nominated short documentaries. No concrete films inspired it. I was inspired by my own relationship with my own aging parents."
Jonah Hill (Best Supporting Actor, "The Wolf of Wall Street")
On reuniting with Leonardo DiCaprio on a new film:
"We wanted to work together again and we have the same manager, Rick [Yorn], and he was trying to find another project for us to act in. And this story about Richard Jewell came to us and we were both so moved by it it was something we had to do."
On working for scale in "The Wolf of Wall Street":
I wouldn't care honestly. Martin Scorsese is my favorite filmmaker of all time. "Goodfellas" is the movie that made me want to make movies. Money is never a concern [when you can work] with people like Martin Scorsese. I would paint his house if he asked me to.
Does he still have his unused acceptance speech for "Moneyball?":
"It's in my safe. I figured I could just change some of the names from the 'Moneyball' speech. The possibility of winning seems so insane to me. It seems so indulgent to me. I guess I will write one just in the one-in-a-billion chance it happens."
Steve McQueen (Best Picture, Best Director, "12 Years a Slave")
On the recent success of Solomon Northup's novel on the New York Times bestseller list:
"For me it was always my ambition to get this into schools when I read it for the first time. We have made this film and it's not bad and we have recognized this novel, which everyone will now know his name, which is fantastic."
Have audiences embraced the film or are they still concerned about the intense violence?:
"For sure. Look at the box office here and the box office in Europe. We passed the $100 million mark. It proves it's not a question to raise anymore. All audiences are interested in challenging films."
On trying to have fun during awards season:
"Someone told me very early on -- beforehand I wouldn't have done this -- but someone told me, 'This movie is more important than you.' I understood that and I took that with me. And actually it's been wonderful. What is happening is a great debate. Every Q&A has been like a Town Hall."
On the emotional difficulty of making the film:
"Well, that wasn't actually the case. We came together as a group of filmmakers, grips, gaffers, electricians. It was a foundation of people, a family, to make this film. As a group we made this movie. It wasn't at all a burden. As a collective we came together to make this film. It was an honor to make Solomon Northup's story."
Bradley Cooper (Best Supporting Actor, "American Hustle")
Does he have a good luck trinket or charm to bring to the ceremony?:
"Trinket? That's a good idea. I'll have to think about that. Any suggestions?"
Any favorite performances among the other nominees?:
"There are a lot of great people nominated this year. I wish Tom Hanks was in there. Sort of crazy he is not."
On staying humble in Hollywood:
"It would be hard not to. I get to do the things I dreamed of as a kid. To be working with Clint Eastwood. I am absolutely living a dream. Working with David O. Russell and Cameron Crowe in the fall? I keep waiting for [the Oscars publicist] to take me away. [Laughs] Maybe it was the way I was raised?"
Amy Adams (Best Actress, "American Hustle")
On what she'll wear at the Oscars:
"Sometimes I feel like I am dressing in costume on the red carpet, but I can guarantee this year it is something I would wear. I'll be myself."
On what she enjoyed most about "American Hustle":
"Working with the actors that I got to work with. Christian Bale, Jeremy Renner and Jennifer Lawrence -- I think she's busy with 'Hunger Games' and I don't think she's here today -- it was such a great opportunity to work with them."
On working with director David O. Russell:
"David has a way of challenging an actor past what he's capable of. He keeps on you and he stays on you for what he saw in you when he wrote the role. You get to create these characters you haven't had in your repertoire before."
Sandra Bullock (Best Actress, "Gravity")
On working in the United Kingdom:
"It was probably one of the most beautiful experiences I ever had coupled with I was living in the most beautiful place, and to go to a soundstage for four months with the nicest group of people, most patient group of people... They had so much riding on them, new technologies, it should have been a very stressful situation and every day was so kind."
On what made her trust Alfonso Cuaron:
"I never thought in a million years I would be able to work with him. It was a joke in the office [that we'd offer him something] but he only directed his own scripts. I trusted him 100%. We didn't know what we were making, really, but we kept looking back and it wasn't supposed to be a big blockbuster film. It was supposed to be an avant garde, esoteric film about loss and trust set in space. He made it so easy to make it through the day. Whether the film worked or not, I don't think it crossed anyone's mind. It didn't cross mine. I trusted him."
When she watches the film does she have the same emotional reaction audiences do?:
"Normally we don't. You have seen so much of it by the time you see the film. George [Clooney] and I saw nothing. We saw a black box with wires and camera equipment. We knew how emotional it was on the page. We didn't have that experience until we saw it together at Venice. You [watch] it for the third time and you see something in the background you didn't see. A very emotional and visceral experience for the moviegoer. I think everyone was having a reaction to the film because of something that was happening in their own life. Sort of what you like when you read a book. I think that was incredibly brave on his part. It was his job to figure out how to make that moment so everyone could step over it."
Matthew McConaughey (Best Actor, "Dallas Buyers Club")
On what he'll do if he wins:
"I am gong to celebrate no matter what. This is my time to be nominated. If I ever get nominated again? Who knows? But there will never be another first time."
On what has surprised him about the Oscar journey so far:
"I think one of the surprising things is that we have six nominations for this little film that we thought would never get made. Getting it made, we thought, was a huge victory. That surprised me. I thought it had the potential to be something special, but as you know, there is no guarantee. That stuck with people and they are shining a light on it. Other than the whole process? I have had a good time doing it. I think it has to do with the experience I had. I can talk about this experience with Ron Woodroof for the rest of my life."
Cate Blanchett (Best Actress, "Blue Jasmine")
On her gorgeous silver dress and this recognition:
"Thank you. I made it myself. [Laughs.] Sometimes you are ready to take a role by the teeth and having worked so long and intensely in theater and it felt like a synthesis of my work on stage and on screen. These roles don't come around every day."
On her character's amazing wardrobe in the film:
"They all had to go back at midnight. Everything had to go back. I think the entire costume budget was less than the Hermes bag, which was also borrowed."
On this being her sixth nomination:
"Is it? That's great. This one certainly took me by surprise. I threw myself at the role and you have bits of nervousness and trepidation with the role, but it's always a thrill. Especially since I've been away at the Sydney Theater Company, so it's exciting to have something to come back to."
Leonardo DiCaprio (Best Actor, "The Wolf of Wall Street")
On the controversial reaction to his film:
"Look, there is a lot of disgusting behavior in the movie and it was very much a reflection of this. We as filmmakers wanted to display this part of humanity on screen, this irresponsibility. Scorsese isn't someone who spoon-feeds an audience. I'm not going to judge these characters. I'm going to show them as who they are. And also, you have a protagonist at the end who doesn't get his due and proper. That's why his films are timeless. They are not specific to that period. It's portraying a part of humanity and all its truth. Those are the type of films I want to be part of. All of us were playing a character with no moral compass and were consumed with power and wealth. We looked at it like a gigantic Bosch painting. Pure debauchery. It was entertaining."
On his relationship with director Martin Scorsese:
"It's easy for me. I was inspired by his work. He's one of the first filmmakers who, as a young man, I became transfixed as an audience member. He inspired my whole generation. Everybody I grew up with is influenced by him and is the biggest fan of his work: film history, what cinema means as an art form and to our very culture. His relationship with me has to do with the fact we share similar tastes and I'm willing to do whatever he wants on screen. I think ultimately we gain more and more trust with each other as the years go by."
David O. Russell (Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, "American Hustle")
On the recent, drastic transition of his career with "The Fighter," "Silver Linings Playbook" and his latest:
"I am definitely a late bloomer and I definitely needed to grow up. The first set of movies and the second set of movies. From the ears up is one thing. From the feet up is a different thing. The last three films have been from the feet up. I feel very clear and that can only happen after you've been humbled or gotten your head on straight."
Jared Leto (Best Supporting Actor, "Dallas Buyers Club")
On how his youth and his mother influenced him:
"We were born very poor and into pretty humble surroundings and my mother always wanted to do something better for her life. She was a dreamer, a worker. I think the biggest inspiration she gave me was to dream and the work it takes to make dreams a reality. You get these opportunities to stand up and stay something. The best part is to thank people who have believed in you for so long. She's the best."
On his sports jacket and shiny shoes:
"I don't dress up very much, you know. I just saw them and thought it would be fun. I don't wear a lot of suits and sports jackets. You want to feel like yourself and not your agent."
On the last time he underwent an intense physical transformation for a role:
"I gained 67 pounds for a little film called 'Chapter 27.' My mom and my brother saw it. No, I would never do that again. It's really brutal and it's not a lot of fun and it's really bad for your body. I would never gain wait again for a role."
On being heckled at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival last week:
"I think 'heckler' is a bad term. It was a debater, someone who needed to take a public moment to say what was on their mind. I think it's healthy. I think it's positive. It's not like I can't learn anything. I'm all ears. I think the planet is better for all those interactions."