The road to Oscar is famously paved with a jam-packed itinerary of press conferences, buzzy soirees and kudos fests galore, but none of this fazes first-time supporting actress nominee June Squibb, for whom this seasonal carousel of champagne cocktails and clicking cameras feels like “a natural thing.”
“I tend to be pretty relaxed,” says the plucky octogenarian star of Alexander Payne’s best picture candidate “Nebraska.” “At this phase of my life I’ve gone through so many changes and ways of doing things that I just sort of roll with the punches; I don’t really plan anything.
“With my career in acting, I never knew where I was going to be practically from day to day. I could get a phone call and be off thousands of miles away the next day and my family got used to it. I truly never know what the future holds. I stopped even trying to think or guess what it might be. I sort of trained myself to accept these things and go with them.”
Which is not to say that Squibb’s “exciting” and “wonderful” inaugural awards romp has not been without its own scheduling snafus.
“I didn’t realize that the SAG (Awards) nominations would be announced on the same day that I was going to film a Comcast commercial,” says the in-demand guest star on such series as HBO’s “Getting On” and “Girls” (episodes set to air in March). “I was in the car when I found out — all the other Paramount people were at the Four Seasons. So here I was trying to get ready for this commercial while I’m outside on the sidewalk talking on the phone to everybody.”
The media blitz can prove especially tricky for the Hollywood scribe attempting to juggle campaign commitments with scripting duties, for which solitude and focus (and not black-tie attire and red carpet interviews) are oft integral to the process.
“I prefer the writing to the talking,” says “Nebraska” scripter Bob Nelson, fielding his first Oscar nomination. “But it’s part of our job and we owe it to those who have backed us to promote the project as much as possible. I’m more used to it at this point, but it will always seem a bit unnatural.”
“It’s difficult,” agrees “Philomena” co-writer Steve Coogan, who also produced and starred in the film adaptation of journalist Martin Sixsmith’s bestseller. “I love writing more than acting, but I have to earn a living too, you know? I’ve got to pay the rent.”
Currently penning a fictional period piece set in the 1970s with “Philomena” co-writer Jeff Pope, and also pecking away at his forthcoming autobiography, Coogan, who said he is dispatching assistants to interview his parents for the book — “Well, I can’t remember everything about my life!” — admits to having fallen a bit behind deadline.
“If it weren’t for this campaign, we would have gotten it all done by now,” he notes with a wry laugh.
But what really stings about the Stateside Oscar race, Coogan says, is the time apart from his daughter, who lives in England.
“I know lots of people that would love to swap places, but it’s tough,” he says. “I keep wanting to go back home and I have to say to my daughter, ‘I have to stay a little longer, I have to talk to people.’”
For “Dallas Buyers Club” producer Robbie Brenner, the awards season “whirlwind” has meant balancing violin lessons and birthday party sleepovers for her kids with research screenings and Q&As.
Snatching quiet moments first thing in the morning before the daily onslaught of emails and phone calls provides a welcome, if brief, dose of serenity.
“It’s the only time when I ever have a moment that’s thoroughly my own,” says Brenner, who plugged away for 20 years trying to get the heart-wrenching AIDS drama made. “It’s quiet and dark outside and there’s nobody up or on email and I can take my deep breaths. I like to hike and do yoga, something definitely solitary because everything else is so in your face for the rest of the day.”
Fellow “Dallas Buyers Club” producer Rachel Winter recently had a moment when she literally didn’t know if she was coming or going.
“We were getting into yet another car to get to yet another airport and I started to say to my kids, ‘OK guys, when we get back to L.A. … and they were like, ‘Mommy we are in L.A.,’” says Winter. “And I said, ‘Good thing you guys are here.’ It feels sometimes like I’m the star of my own circus. But this is what we do. We juggle for the people we love and we also juggle for our passions.”
Husband-cum-“The Wolf of Wall Street” adapted screenplay contender Terrence Winter says while the constantly shuttling around from one event to the next can seem like a “long haul,” it’s also “a privilege and an extremely high-rent problem.”
The key to successfully bouncing from producing to writing to movie promoting is “about shifting gears,” says the accomplished multi-hyphenate.
“It’s about being able to compartmentalize what I’ve been working on,” says Winter, currently crafting season five of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” and a remake of “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” for Paramount, as a well as a joint project with Rachel Winter and helmer Tim Van Patten.
“It’s about making a concerted effort to try and stay focused on what’s in front of me in the moment.”
For nominated “American Hustle” production designer Judy Becker, on location in Ohio for the new Todd Haynes film, this isn’t always an easy feat.
“That day that I found out I was nominated, I was so overwhelmed by the fact that I got lost in Cincinnati,” Becker says. “I had to call my line producer for directions.’”
This past Christmas, getting lost provided the ideal distraction for Coogan, who left the maelstrom and madness of Hollywood behind for a storm of quite a different sort.
“There was already Oscar heat on ‘Philomena’ and I went to stay in my little cottage up in the Lake District, and I went hill walking and got stuck in a storm at the top of a mountain,” he says.
“It was a blizzard. You couldn’t see anything in front of you. There was hail hitting me in the face. I was stuck up there for eight hours. But I had my flask and sandwiches, and I really enjoyed the solitude of it.”