WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — There was a lot of love in the room Tuesday afternoon for actress Blythe Danner at an intimate luncheon hosted by her daughter, actress Gwyneth Paltrow. The occasion was a toast to Danner’s performance in Brett Haley’s “I’ll See You In My Dreams,” which upstart distributor Bleecker Street turned into a modest hit over the summer while superheroes and action stars were dominating multiplexes across the country.
For Danner, it could be a performance that translates to Oscar attention. These soirees, after all, are specifically meant for that kind of rub, rounding up Academy members for a bit of face time. Sometimes the affection can feel a little forced, but this group seemed particularly eager to raise a glass to an actress who has been in the trenches for decades and is finally getting a real leading lady spotlight for a change.
“The reason I wanted to host this lunch today is my mother has the most extraordinary body of work,” Paltrow said to the gathered. “Her contribution to television, stage and film is really extraordinary and after years of working a lot, and then not, leaving for a while to raise us, and coming back, to go to a film and to see — I’m going to cry — her star in a movie for the first time, it’s the most extraordinary performance.”
Indeed, as much of a mainstay as Danner has been in the industry over the years, she has never had a role and a film to command such as this. It was a gift from Haley, really, this complex role for an actress in her 70s when such parts are few and far between. Interestingly, this is a year marked by a number of them for a change, with films like “Grandma” (Lily Tomlin), “45 Years” (Charlotte Rampling) and “The Lady in the Van” (Maggie Smith), among others, populating the landscape.
A small sampling of those who turned out for the event includes Colleen Camp, Mary Kay Place, Brenda Vaccaro, Mimi Rogers, Tom Arnold, Doris Roberts and Sally Kirkland. Before heading back to her seat, Paltrow delighted them with one anecdote about Danner’s penchant for forgetting her lines.
“My favorite Blythe Danner line story is she was doing a medical show, and I don’t know how many of you have worked with my mom but sometimes anything technical will trip her up,” Paltrow said. “She had to deliver a baby in the scene and she literally taped her lines to the inner thighs of the baby! Nonetheless, when she gets them, nobody delivers them better.”
Of note is the fact that “I’ll See You In My Dreams” was the first Academy screener to hit voters’ doorsteps in August. Previous films that have landed that early and turned the trick for Oscar recognition include “Frozen River” and “A Better Life.” Maybe Bleecker Street can find similar luck for this one.