This year’s Oscar show “will be the most diverse ever,” producer David Hill told Variety on Monday at the Oscar nominees luncheon. Despite the lack of acting nominees of color, Hill and fellow Academy Awards producer Reginald Hudlin have been working since September to make sure the Oscars “will have true diversity and will represent what the world looks like.”
The remarks were made at the 35th annual event at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Hudlin said that an Oscar nomination is “an amazing moment in the life of any nominee,” and that the lunch is intended to celebrate their accomplishments.
They agreed that it’s crucial for the entire film industry to attain inclusion, but there is also room to celebrate the great film work of 2015, which been somewhat overshadowed in the past month. Or, as Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ president Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in addressing the luncheon crowd: “This year, there’s an elephant in the room. I have asked the elephant to leave.”
On Monday, a few contenders addressed the elephant — diversity and #Oscarssowhite.
Sylvester Stallone said he asked “Creed” director Ryan Coogler if he should boycott the Oscars, emphasizing that Coogler is the reason he received a nomination. “I said, ‘If you want me to go I’ll go, if you don’t, I won’t.’ And he goes, ‘No we want you to go.’ That’s the kind of guy he is,” Stallone said.
“I do believe that things will change — it’s just a matter of time,” Stallone said. “Eventually all talent will rise to the top. It’s just a matter of getting, I guess, a new paradigm, a new way of thinking.”
Tom McCarthy of “Spotlight” said: “I think Cheryl has done an amazing job of navigating change. I think it’s a great example of how quickly change can come about when people are serious. I have a lot of faith in our community, filmmakers, storytellers, to sort of lead the way. I think we always have in some way.”
George Miller, who directed best picture nominee “Mad Max: Fury Road,” noted that he thinks casting and films are story-driven. “If the story warrants it, of course there should be diversity of all kinds,” Miller said.
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While many nominees spoke about diversity in terms of racial inequality, others addressed different forms of injustice.
Eddie Redmayne said he hopes “The Danish Girl” continues the conversation about transgender issues. “And yet, what is dumbfounding is that it’s almost 100 years since Lili and Gerda’s story. What’s staggering to me is how long it’s taken and how much of a distance there is to go,” Redmayne said.
“Spotlight’s” Rachel McAdams discussed starring in a male-heavy cast. “I took Sacha’s lead because she was the only woman on a team of men on the real Spotlight team. She always felt she was an equal, integral part of the team and that she was treated that way.”
“Room” director Lenny Abrahamson emphasized that he and screenwriter Emma Donoghue really thought about how society should treat people who have gone through terrible things. “We should treat them not as a resource for entertainment but as people who need care and compassion,” Abrahamson said.
When a reporter asked Brie Larson about her dress for the Oscars, the actress responded, “Oh. That’s what you wanna ask me?”
Larson did answer the question, but saying she wants her clothes to express “what’s happening on the inside. So, my goal with each dress that I’ve worn is just to try and reflect what my soul looks like, which is far more complicated than any dress could ever be.”
Inside the nominees luncheon, the emphasis was on work. The Academy has a democratic seating method, in which a best-pic producer sits at the same table as makeup people, and a star like Matt Damon sits with short-subject and foreign-language contenders. The goal is to make every table equally important and give film workers a chance to speak with people whose work they admired.
After Boone Isaacs’ speech, Hudlin and Hill spoke to the 100-plus nominees in attendance about Oscarcast logistics, such as keeping their speeches brief. A new crawl was demoed that will show names of people being thanked by winners onscreen during their speeches. Oscar host Chris Rock did not attend.
Among those who showed up for the schmoozing and celebration were 15 acting nominees, including Jennifer Lawrence, Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon. Also there: all five directing contenders, including George Miller and Saturday night’s DGA winner Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Best-song contender Lady Gaga got a shout-out from Hill, who said he’d produced many Super Bowls, but her rendition of the national anthem was the best.
Aside from Lawrence, DiCaprio and Damon, actors in attendance at the luncheon were Bryan Cranston, Eddie Redmayne, Brie Larson, Charlotte Rampling, Saoirse Ronan, Christian Bale, Mark Ruffalo, Sylvester Stallone, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rooney Mara, Rachel McAdams and Alicia Vikander.
The acting no-shows were Cate Blanchett, Michael Fassbender, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance and Kate Winslet, all of whom have been low-profile during the campaign season.
Also at the high-energy luncheon were AMPAS CEO Dawn Hudson, Academy branch governors and former presidents, and execs from ABC and Walt Disney Co. including Bob Iger.