LOS ANGELES (AP) — The race for the Oscars may be heating up, but you wouldn’t know it to take a look at Monday’s nominees luncheon in Los Angeles.
Attendees packed into a ballroom at the Fairmont Century City for the annual luncheon, where nominees can mingle and celebrate. It was a long-awaited homecoming for many after a year-long absence due to the pandemic.
Before lunch, the nominees greeted each other enthusiastically. Will Smith and Denzel Washington, both nominated for Best Actor this year, smiled and held hands. “CODA” star Emilia Jones signed co-star Daniel Durant, who plays her brother in the film.
Kristen Stewart arrived with her fiancé Dylan Meyer, circling the room in her Chanel outfit, while Netflix exec Ted Sarandos shook hands with Questlove, whose documentary ‘Summer of Soul’ is nominated. Benedict Cumberbatch walked around holding the hand of his wife Sophie Hunter.
The nominees continued to mingle, ignoring calls to be seated.
“Just being back together without a hazmat suit is cause for celebration,” said Will Packer, who is producing the show this year. “It’s a year like no other, it’s THE year.”
During lunch, most chose to skip their quinoa salad. Bradley Cooper made sure to say hello to Questlove. Steven Spielberg was deep in conversation with Paul Thomas Anderson. Both are nominated for Best Director.
The lunch was a first for many, including Andrew Garfield, a Best Actor nominee for “tick, tick…Boom.” He said it was a “special moment” to be among other nominees like “PTA and Ariana,” referencing Anderson and “West Side Story” best supporting actress Ariana DeBose who stood at proximity.
“Nightmare Alley” screenwriter Kim Morgan was a bit overwhelmed by the experience, which was also her first time. “I am a writer,” she says.
Osnat Shurer, animation nominee for “Raya and the Last Dragon,” said it was a joy to be at lunch. She was thrilled to tell Jessica Chastain that she loved her performance in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” What she didn’t expect was that Chastain was also a frequent “Raya” fan and watcher, thanks to her children.
Towards the end of the festivities, Washington gave big hugs to Garfield and ‘Belfast’ director Kenneth Branagh, while named supporting actor Troy Kotsur made his way to kiss Bradley Cooper, who is a top nominee as as producer of “Nightmare Alley”. ”
For many, the broadcast changes were front and center, in which eight categories will be featured off-air ahead of the show. While many have spoken out against the decision, some are also supportive.
At Spielberg’s table was Penelope Cruz, nominated for her work in the film “Parallel Mothers” which is entirely in Spanish.
The experience, she said, was “very moving” and she is also happy “to see how the Academy opens up a little more each year”. Her husband Javier Bardem is also nominated for his work in ‘Being the Ricardos’.
Cruz said she was unhappy with the decision to present some of the awards before the broadcast.
“Every category is important,” Cruz said.
“I believe that when people watch the ceremony, they know that we depend on them. All of these departments are equally important.”
‘Dune’ director Denis Villeneuve said he feared the nominees in the categories “would feel humiliated”.
“It’s very sad too, when it’s supposed to be a party,” he said. “We will see how it goes this year. I will be there at 4 p.m. to applaud… for all my collaborators, for everyone.
Bill Corso, an Oscar-winning hairstylist and makeup artist, is part of the committee that made the decision. In 2004, he got his Oscar down the aisle, another attempt to streamline broadcasting and, he said, he felt like he hadn’t had his moment.
He hopes this change will allow the winners to have that moment on stage at the podium, which will be edited into the show in a way that won’t be obvious to the audience.