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Frolic meet politics

Backstage notes at the Golden Globes

“Brokeback Mountain” screenwriters Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana found themselves standing up for their film in the face of controversy. However, the fact the film is being embraced by larger-than-expected audiences in the heartland suggests, McMurtry said, that “it’s an embraceable film.”

Ossana said, “Not everyone will like this film. Not everyone will like any film.” But McMurtry jumped in to say, “Most people will like this film.”

Ossana said she never liked the label “gay cowboy movie,” calling it “a very reductive term.” She said, “It’s a very subtle but also very severe.”

McMurtry, a longtime writer of acclaimed Westerns, said it’s an important story about the West with a simple message: “Life isn’t for sissies, whether you’re gay or straight. It’s a difficult road.”

* * *

“Capote” star Phillip Seymour Hoffman rejected the idea that it’s brave to play a gay man. “What’s scary is the story they’re living in, not the sexual preference.” For Truman Capote, what was scary was “there was a part of his personality that was incredibly outgoing and incredibly sharp, and that’s what I had to get into in order to play him.”

Asked about the wins for gay-themed films “Capote,” “Transamerica” and “Brokeback Mountain,” Hoffman said, “Films that maybe in the past wouldn’t have been embraced, are. And that’s a good thing.”

He said he imagined Capote would be very critical of his performance if he were alive to see it, “because it was his life, but he’d also be grateful for all the attention showered on him.”

Hoffman called Capote “the role of my life to this point.” But he won’t try to carry that role over into his after-party celebrations, he said. “I’m not nearly as good a partygoer as Truman Capote was, so I’ll probably be myself. Which isn’t nearly as entertaining.”

* * *

He might have won for the politically charged pic “Syriana,” but supporting actor George Clooney wanted to steer clear of any government-related questions.

“This is not the spot to talk about those issues,” the actor responded when asked about impeaching President Bush, adding that the movie “wasn’t an attack on Bush, it was more about our foreign policy.”

What he would comment on backstage, however, is the whole concept of the kudos circuit. “I like nominations, they make sense to me,” he said. “(Awards) aren’t bad, they are nice. Anything that can help a film is nice. It’s a long process to get to these awards shows, and then they are over and it’s about the work…

“But you have to have a sense of humor about this, especially if you are going to say something political.” Or not.

* * *

Anthony Hopkins, who collected the Cecil B. DeMille Award for his work over more than five decades onscreen, was quick to shoot down rumors that he’s stepping back from his Hollywood career.

“I am not retiring,” he said. “Those rumors are false. Every time I do think of taking a rest, work comes up. Acting I enjoy now more than I have ever done. As you get older, it doesn’t become as important, so it becomes more enjoyable.”

It may be fun for him now, but Hopkins — or Tony, as he said he prefers to be called (not Sir or Anthony) — said it still requires plenty of discipline, especially for the younger set. “Know your lines and be professional. It’s a big, powerful industry and it costs a lot of money to make a movie.”

* * *

Rachel Weisz had a pregnant pause in the women’s bathroom before the start of the telecast. “I bumped into Gwynie (Paltrow) in the ladies room and she looked gorgeous,” Weisz said. “She’s a bit further along than I am.”

Either way, Weisz said her baby got a shot of adrenaline when her name was called for supporting actress for her perf in another politically themed pic, “The Constant Gardener.”

“It’s my first nomination, so its extraordinary to be holding this right now,” she said. “I’m so grateful to (the Hollywood Foreign Press) for having supported this movie — it’s a small movie.”

* * *

Sandra Oh didn’t hide her excitement at winning for supporting actress. But her “Grey’s Anatomy” character would have acted differently.

“She probably wouldn’t show up,” Oh laughed about the cynical doctor-in-training she plays on the hit ABC hour. “She would just gloat about it later.”

Not the gloating type, Oh was all smiles after her win. “I can’t relax my cheek muscles right now. I don’t even remember what I said onstage.”

* * *

S. Epatha Merkerson, a lead actress winner for HBO telefilm “Lackawanna Blues,” was moved to tears backstage. But it wasn’t about her award, it was about the day on which she won, honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

“It’s a celebration, and we should celebrate in many ways. There are black people here who are being honored for their work. We have come far enough that that can happen,” said Merkerson, also known for her long tenure on “Law & Order.”

“The importance of it is tantamount in my life,” she said. “When I went to high school, I was maybe one of 10 black people. What Dr. Martin Luther King did and what the movement did has allowed me to stand in front of you today. This day is very important.”

* * *

Helmer winner Ang Lee said more credit should be given to the parts of the country that critics doubted would open their wallets — or their theaters — to his “Brokeback Mountain.”

“It’s proven that you can never categorize a region or place stereotypes on certain places,” Lee said. “That’s the mystery of love.”

Another mystery Lee said has fallen around his film is the label “small movie.” “I feel honored, and it’s a pleasure to be (in the company of) those so-called small movies. But I think it’s the opposite. The thoughts are very big and these films are very special to me.”

After directing “Hulk” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” back-to-back, he said, “I was exhausted from doing two big movies, and I had read the (“Brokeback”) script and short story before I did ‘Hulk,’ and it was haunting me for a long time. Physically, I feel quite healed, it was like a salvation for me.”

* * *

Hugh Laurie, the son of a physician, admitted it felt odd to take home honors for playing the misanthropic Dr. House after his dad “worked as a doctor for 35 years and never stood up in front of millions of people and got a gold shiny thing for it.”

But Laurie liked the irascible “House” doc from the get-go. “I admit he’s problematic, he’s not a nice man in a conventional sense. But we don’t only like nice people, we like people for a million reasons. Sometimes it’s a ride just to know them, and I thought from the start it would be a ride to know this character.”

* * *

“I’m so excited I can barely see straight,” blurted Reese Witherspoon, winner for playing June Carter in “Walk the Line.”

The actress grew up a dedicated kudocast viewer and admitted that part of her wished she could be watching on TV. “It’s so much fun to be at home with popcorn, in your slippers, saying, ‘Why did she wear that?’ So part of me wants to be at home.”

She said the biopic “was a really important for me to do because it was about the place that I’m from and the music I grew up listening to. That music is so significant and telling of our heritage. I just felt so lucky to be there.”

* * *

Steve Carell arrived backstage prepared for the when-did-you-lose-your-virginity question. “I’m telling people I lost it when I was 17, only because it sounds like a good age. But I’m not telling. I made a deal with my wife that I wouldn’t actually say. My wife has something to do with everything I do, every step I make, every breath I take.”

Carell, who took actor kudos for NBC’s “The Office,” called the last year “surreal.” He said he’s hoping his win will keep nudging ratings up for the laffer. “The more people see it, the more they like it. It’s a tell-your-friends kind of show. At least that’s what we hope.”

* * *

James Keach and Cathy Konrad, producers of “Walk the Line,” said it took 10 years to get the film made because “we didn’t have the right director on board.”

“Development can take a long time,” Konrad said. When the studios passed, they decided to put the film down for a year and do it like an independent, with a $25 million budget and Joaquin Phoenix, James Mangold and T-Bone Burnett attached. Still they had trouble getting financing. “Then Elizabeth Gabler, God love her, got behind it.”

But the lack of studio support early on gave them a certain freedom, said Konrad, especially when it came to casting Phoenix. “It sounds crazy, but that was the only person we talked to.”

“There was one other element, too. When these two names were mentioned to John and June, they were home runs.”

* * *

“Elvis” star Jonathan Rhys-Meyers said his award “hasn’t sunk in yet. I know I have something heavier in my right hand, but I’m afraid to look at it.”

He was too terrified to speak to anyone on the red carpet. “I saw Terence Howard and he’s wearing that fantastic suit and tie and I thought, ‘God, I’d like to be like that.’ He’s so confident.”

The honor, he said, “means I can actually act a bit.” He said he loves playing music, “but I’m not as talented a musician as the ones that I’ve played. I’m playing a musician in my next film and I’m going to have to sing. That means bring your earplugs.”

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