Frances McDormand’s Oscar may have been temporarily stolen, but it had returned to its rightful owner by the time she arrived at the Vanity Fair Oscar party on Sunday night. Of course, Hollywood royalty like McDormand doesn’t need to carry her own statuette. As she made her way through the star-studded crowd at around midnight, greeting the likes of Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer, she had a babysitter for her new prize. His name was Joel Coen.
Coen, who has his own shelf of Oscars at home for “No Country for Old Men” and “Fargo,” seemed to be the right person for this task. He firmly clutched his wife’s Academy Award for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” occasionally allowing others to glimpse at it or cradle it, but certainly not to run away with it. Two onlookers who were particularly impressed by the glimmering object were “Spider-Man: Homecoming” co-stars Tom Holland and Zendaya, who spent the night in close proximity. (They have denied rumors that they are dating, but they could have fooled us.)
Vanity Fair is always the final — and arguably the best — hoorah of the interminable awards season calendar. Yes, it’s more fun than the Oscars themselves because it’s where the actors, producers, directors, studio executives, and publicists finally get to exhale, and let loose like college students after finals. All those speeches and months of dieting (for some) can finally be done with. At Vanity Fair, the spoils come in the form of caterers who bring around fried chicken, salty caramel gelato, macaroons, macaroni and cheese bites, and (everybody’s favorite) In-N-Out burgers with bottles of whole milk. (I asked for fat-free; it was not an option.)
The magazine’s newly-minted editor-in-chief Radhika Jones held court, welcoming guests. Most of the small talk centered on how blasé this year’s show had been, and how predictable the winners were. The consensus seemed to be that host Jimmy Kimmel should not return for a third tour of duty. But enough about the 2018 awards season.
One of the best parts of the party is seeing which groups congregate in what formations. “Call Me by Your Name’s” Chalamet forged a bromance with Aaron Paul, wrapping his arm around him and bringing him over to meet his mom. “Mudbound’s” Mary J. Blige high-fived Drake. “Lady Bird” star Saoirse Ronan swapped stories with Adrien Brody. James Corden and Billy Eichner are pals? So are Emma Watson and Zendaya, who stood shoulder to shoulder with Holland by the bar. On the outside smoking patio, Ricky Martin chatted with Kelly Ripa’s husband, actor Mark Consuelos. “Scandal” star Tony Goldwyn approached them to introduce himself. (They knew who he was.) Jon Hamm kept aloof, the Jay Gatsby of the crowd.
McDormand seemed to relish her conversations with younger actors, who clearly look up to her as a goddess. At one point, she was teasing Chalamet about something. He made a zipped-mouth gesture and threw away the key. The most eclectic circle of friends was “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Friday Night Lights” star Connie Britton, “X-Men’s” James Marsden, and comedian (and podcaster) Chris Hardwick. “I’ve known you forever,” Hardwick said to Britton.
Even at Vanity Fair, where tickets are limited to the lucky few, there were still fans geeking out over stars. A woman ran over to Willem Dafoe. “Can I have a hug?” she asked. When he obliged, she couldn’t stop beaming and giggling. At the sink in the men’s room, a man named Josh told Brody that he saw him a decade ago in Paris, doing his own wash at a laundromat.
“I’m a man of the people,” Brody said. “I do laundry. I take the train.”
As the hour grew late and the alcohol flowed freely, there were still the determined few who wanted to talk shop. “You can’t sell comedy like it’s a comedy,” director Paul Feig (“Ghostbusters”) was heard explaining to Paramount CEO Jim Gianopulos. Manhattan hostess-to-the-stars Peggy Siegal was huddled in a corner with awards publicist Lisa Taback. “I was the assistant!” scowled a man at the bar, recalling a story from his youth.
At 12:03 a.m., Jordan Peele arrived with his “Get Out” screenwriting Oscar in hand, and he headed straight for a dimly-lit back room that doubled as a disco with a DJ. This is traditionally the best spot for seeing stars out of their natural habitat. It’s where a Hollywood gathering feels more like a Brooklyn warehouse party, circa 2008. Greta Gerwig didn’t make it up on the Oscars stage, but she didn’t seem to care. With a vodka soda in hand, which she sipped through a black straw, the director of “Lady Bird” owned the floor. She turned her head up and bobbed her free arm to the sky. “She’ll win one day,” said an Oscar voter as he looked over at her wistfully. “I wanted her to win this year. I voted for her in every category.”