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Inside the 2020 Oscars Parties

The end of the 2020 awards season is upon us! As Hollywood A-listers and executives party all the way up to and through the main event on Sunday night, Variety will be all over town reporting from inside the biggest A-list bashes and the most intimate gatherings. Keep checking back for all the latest updates…

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 09: (L-R) Elton John, David Furnish and Bernie Taupin attend the 28th Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party sponsored by IMDb, Neuro Drinks and Walmart on February 09, 2020 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for EJAF)
CREDIT: Getty Images for EJAF

28th Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party
West Hollywood Park, Feb. 10
Even though the host was tardy for his own party, Elton John’s 28th annual benefit for his AIDS Foundation — which was held inside a one-night-only hotspot built on top of West Hollywood park — was one of the charity’s most star-studded events in years. Not movie stars, per se. “The showbiz misfits that aren’t in film — we’re all here,” Dita Von Teese told Variety on the white carpet. “We’re here watching the Oscars — and judging.”

As if on cue, Emmy-winning choreographer Derek Hough dipped his girlfriend Hayley Erbert nearby. Evidently their form was slightly off, so he dipped her again.

“A lot of people want the Elton John invitation,” noted Vivica A. Fox. “He’s a rock and roll legend.” But this isn’t her first time at the rodeo. “I came close to 20 years ago — Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson and Ellen DeGeneres were all there. The best night ever!”

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Another longtime guest and supporter of EJAF, Donatella Versace, recalled the early days of the epidemic when talking about AIDS was far from fashionable. “Everybody was afraid to mention the word,” Versace said, but she and her late brother, Gianni Versace, made it their mission. “Elton, Gianni and myself were the ones to say: ‘This is a problem and we need to do something.’ But no one did better than Elton — he has raised so much money. Bravo, Elton!” (In addition to the $450 million earned over the past 28 years, last night raised another $6.4 million.)

When John’s name was announced as the winner of Best Original Song during the live Academy Awards telecast, guests took a break from dining and the room erupted in applause. John made sure that his hosting duties were covered by booking all five “Queer Eye” stars to fill in for him. “David [Furnish] and Elton will be here very soon with their little gilded friend, so enjoy the rest of the show,” Tan France announced. “Wait, there’s more?” asked Jonathan Van Ness. “How are they gonna top Best Original Song? It’s the apex category.” At least it was at this Oscar party.

The affair recalled not only past EJAF events but also the glitzy fundraisers for the American Foundation for AIDS Research. Their former Global Campaign Chair, Sharon Stone, resurrected the bawdy auctioneer role that she made famous at amfAR. “We’re not fucking around here,” said the actress, and she wasn’t kidding — she doubled donations by over $100,000 in merely half an hour. “Elton John is a songwriting superstar and our champion and hopefully a prophet — we can end AIDS forever,” said Stone, paraphrasing the host’s end goal.

Thanks to a police escort, John arrived with his husband, Furnish, and Bernie Taupin — his musical collaborator of 53 years — before the ceremony ended. (“Without him I’d probably be working at Ralph’s down the road,” John joked of he and Taupin’s songwriting partnership backstage.) The audience of nearly 1,000 guests offered him a hero’s welcome in the form of a standing ovation as “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” — John’s Oscar-winning song from 1994 — played over the speakers.

“I have two Oscars now — one each for my boys,” said John, who made a beeline for the white baby grand piano onstage. “I’m absolutely exhausted and overwhelmed by winning this tonight,” he added. But then he’s never too tired to belt out the hits in order to spark bidding. (Last night, it was a medley of “Tiny Dancer,” “Bennie and the Jets,” “Daniel” and “I’m still Standing.”) But John hand-picked singer-songwriter Sam Fender — a breakout star in his native Britain — as the official entertainer. Not surprisingly for any first-time guest at this blowout, the young artist seemed completely star struck. “This is icing on the cake of the most fucking surreal year of our life, he said onstage while strumming a guitar. “I’m f—king s—tting myself — I’m not going to lie.” — James Patrick Herman

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 09: (L-R) Bobby Berk, Antoni Porowski, Karamo Brown, Tan France and Jonathan Van Ness of Queer Eye speak on stage at the 28th Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party sponsored by IMDb, Neuro Drinks and Walmart on February 09, 2020 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for EJAF)
CREDIT: Getty Images for EJAF

Byron Allen’s 4th Annual Entertainment Studios Oscar Gala
The Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills, Feb. 10
A little rain couldn’t get in the way of media mogul Byron Allen’s annual Oscars Gala viewing and after party benefiting Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, as stars like Tiffany Haddish and Chris Tucker celebrated the 2020 Oscars.

“Let me tell you what I’m excited about,” Haddish quipped, talking to Variety on the red carpet before the party. “I’m not rooting for anybody, okay? Only people I’m rooting for people [at the Oscars] are people that’s going to eventually work with me in the future. But what I’m excited about is food. Good times. You know, dancing, music, camaraderie, communication. … All I know is I’m going to enjoy myself. I’m here to live my best life tonight.”

Hosting the party for the fourth year, Allen reflected on why he uses the gala to give back.

“My mother had me 17 days after her 17th birthday. She was a single mom and unfortunately I became very ill and children’s hospital took very good care of me and it’s something you’ll never forget,” Allen recalled. “I had a very bad infection and they weren’t sure which direction it was going to turn. It was really touch and go. And when people do amazing work like that and you personally benefit from it and you personally witness it, the very least I can do is to help that amazing organization and to help these children out here who unfortunately are dealing with similar issues that I was dealing with 51 years ago.”

During dinner, party guests were guaranteed not to miss a moment of the show, as at least 10 screens broadcast the Oscar ceremony to the well-heeled room. After the award show ended, it was time to party, but not before raising some money during the live auction. Haddish and Tucker took over hosting duties alongside Allen, emceeing the auction after perennial host Jamie Foxx was unable to attend. Through the live and silent auditions (which included memorial tributes to the late Kobe Bryant), party guests ultimately raised more than $1.5 million for the hospital.

“It’s important to be here because anything to do with charity that gives me so much joy. Byron’s a great guy, just a great person,” Tucker said. “And I’m just happy to be a part of something that’s gonna change some lives.

Tucker also dropped by the event’s Build-a-Bear lounge, carrying two plush toys back to his table, an adorable memento of the memorable evening.

Capping off the evening were Maroon 5, who performed an impressive (and more than hour-long) show for the 600 guests, playing hits that spanned the band’s 18-year career. Raven-Symoné enjoyed the concert from the front row, dancing along excitedly as frontman Adam Levine worked the stage.

Guests at the bash included Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, Rick and Kathy Hilton, Candy Spelling, Garcelle Beauvais, Corey Feldman, Shaun Robinson, Loni Love, Caroline Rhea, Derek Fisher and Gloria Govan. — Angelique Jackson

Tiffany Haddish, Byron Allen and Chris TuckerByron Allen's Oscar Gala Viewing Party, Inside, Los Angeles, USA - 09 Feb 2020
CREDIT: David Buchan/Variety/Shutterstock

Chanel and Charles Finch Pre-Oscar Dinner
Polo Lounge, Beverly Hills, Feb. 8
With the 92nd Annual Academy Awards ceremony less than 24 hours away, supporting actress nominee Margot Robbie admitted she was a little unprepared to potentially take the stage.

“You know what, and I’m saying this in all honesty, I do not have a speech prepared,” Robbie told Variety. “Not because I’m not incredibly grateful and excited about tomorrow, I just don’t imagine needing it but I’m so excited to be nominated and to be going. I don’t know, I feel really calm about it. I’m just a lucky gal, I guess that’s what I would say.”

The “Bombshell” and “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” actress said she hadn’t yet seen Adam Sandler’s viral acceptance speech at the Film Independent Spirit Awards from earlier in the day. “I’m going to go YouTube that immediately!” she exclaimed. However, she did reveal a few details about her Oscars gown.

“It’s a Chanel dress of course,” Robbie said. “It’s really special and I’m really excited about it. I don’t know if it’s even meant to be a secret. It’s vintage Chanel dress and I’m really excited.”

She continued, “My stylist showed me a picture of it on the runway and I was just like, wow, that’s amazing! I have to get that image out of my head because it’s not going to look like that on me. Then I put it on, and I was like, no, I feel really great in this.”

Robbie, who is the face of Chanel’s Gabrielle Essence fragrance, spoke warmly of her relationship with the famed fashion house. “It’s so nice. It feels like a family, which I think a lot of people say that, but it really does. You get to know everyone and nights like this are things you really genuinely look forward to because you get to catch up with your friends and I’m very grateful to be a part of the Chanel family.”

Slated to present the Oscar for international film, Penelope Cruz told Variety that she spent the day preparing for the ceremony. “I went to the rehearsals today and it’s always very exciting to see all the preparations,” Cruz said. “It’s always fun to see people that I don’t see all the time, only when I’m here.”

Cruz, who plays director Pedro Almodóvar’s mother in his nominated film “Pain and Glory” acknowledged that she was hoping to see him take home the Oscar. “I think every movie nominated in that category is great but of course I have a thing for Pedro.”

Coming off a breakthrough year for her career, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and “Fosse/Verdon” actress Margaret Qualley said she was reveling in the excitement of awards season. “I’m having a blast,” Qualley told Variety. “I’m really lucky because the movie and the show I was in, I was working with a bunch of people that I really love so I’m just having the opportunity to hang with them and it’s really exciting for me. I have never done this. I’m meeting a lot of people that I look up to and having a lot of pinch myself moments.”

Her biggest pinch-me moment to date?

“Today, Adam Sandler kissed me on the cheek on the red carpet and I almost fainted,” Qualley said. “I’m not kidding you. He’s my big crush and that happened, and I’ll never forget it.”

Held at the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills hotel, the exclusive dinner celebrated Chanel’s longstanding patronage of the cinematic arts and is one of awards season’s most coveted invites. Other notable guests included Robert De Niro, Diane Kruger, Sofia Coppola, Lucy Boynton, Michael Keaton, Tracee Ellis Ross, Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann, Caitriona Balfe, Camila Morrone, Adrien Brody, Sir Patrick Stewart, Minnie Driver and Chris Pine. — Ashley Hume

Margot Robbie, Margaret Qualley, Phoebe Tonkin and Elizabeth ChambersCharles Finch and Chanel Pre-Oscars Dinner, Inside, Polo Lounge, Los Angeles, USA - 08 Feb 2020
CREDIT: Chelsea Lauren/WWD/Shutterstock

Tom Ford Fashion Show
Milk Studios, Hollywood, Feb. 7
Tom Ford kicked off Oscar weekend with a star-packed fashion show in Hollywood.

The designer debuted his autumn/winter 2020 collection on Friday night at Milk Studios on La Cahuenga.

The starry front row included Jennifer Lopez, Alex Rodriguez, Renee Zellweger, Jeff Bezos with girlfriend Lauren Sanchez, Anna Wintour, James Corden, Miley CyrusLil Nas X, Kate Hudson, Jon Hamm, Matt Bomer, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Ciara, Russell Wilson, Tracy Ellis Ross, Rumer Willis, “Euphoria” star Hunter Schafer, Jason Momoa, Lisa Bonet, Joe Alwyn, E.J. Johnson and mom Cookie Johnson, Andy Cohen and Andrea Riseborough.

There was an “About Last Night” reunion with Demi Moore and Rob Lowe. Hotelier Jeffrey Klein and producer John Goldwyn chatted with Universal Pictures’ Donna Langley during pre-cocktails. Lil Nas made a beeline for Cyrus before the show started and complimented on her new mullet-like hairstyle. CAA bosses Kevin Huvane and Bryan Lourd were also there as was Lourd’s husband Bruce Bozzi.

“I loved the color palate and I thought the music inspired me as much as the clothes,” Cyrus told Variety. “I just loved all the electric colors.”

Lopez was also very impressed. “I thought it was chic—super chic!” she told Variety.

J.Lo’s favorite look? “The sweat suit with the leopard coat,” she said.

Ford held his last show in Los Angeles five years ago, also at Milk Studios and on the Friday before the Oscars.

Chelsea Cohen, Cathy Schulman and Diane Warren13th Annual Women in Film Oscar Party Celebration, Arrivals, Sunset Room, Los Angeles, USA - 07 Feb 2020
CREDIT: Stewart Cook/Shutterstock

13th Annual Women in Film Oscar Nominees Party
Sunset Room Hollywood, Feb. 7
It’s been a whirlwind award-season for “Jojo Rabbit” producer Chelsea Winstanley, but like many nominees I’ll who work behind the scenes, her nominations represents an historic first.

“The cool thing is Taika [Waititi] and I are the first indigenous producers to ever be nominated for Best Picture, which is crazy in and of itself,” Winstanley told Variety. “We are standing on the shoulders of giants, if I think of the people who mentored me and who got me here, they are incredible Māori indigenous people from New Zealand.”

Though far from home, Winstanley’s friends and family will be cheering her on in real time from New Zealand. “It’ll actually be early Monday morning cause they’re a day ahead, which is crazy. I could almost say, ‘What’s happening in the future? Tell me, did we win? Give me the scoop man, do I need to change my speech or what?”

But the most important supporter will be alongside Winstanley for the big day. “My mom, she’s coming. So’s Taika’s mom, she’s coming,” she added. “It’s really cool cause there’s also other Kiwis that are nominated

In fact this years’ Oscars class boasts a record 64 female nominees and more than 35 of them gathered at Women in Film’s annual celebration, held this year at the Sunset Room in Hollywood. And Winstanley says its quite obvious why the women are doing such an excellent job of supporting each other this award season.

“I think as women  we naturally work in a community environment and we naturally want to support each other cause we’re all kind of going through the same s—t, you know, and we can literally understand about how that feels. So I think that’s really important to stick together, support one another, be honest about how hard it is, share the expertise,” she explained. “We don’t have to act like the men, we don’t have to climb all over each other and push each other down. When the client, the letter, we can actually bring each other out and that’s what we should be doing because that’s the only way we’re gonna change things if we come up together as a community.”

11-time nominee Diane Warren is hoping to finally take home her first golden statue (Warren is nominated in the Best Original Song category for the “Breakthrough” track “I’m Standing with You”), she’s also pulling for another Hollywood legend.

“I’m really happy for Renée Zellweger. She’s a friend of mine,” Warren said. “She’s probably the nicest person I’ve ever met. Not even just as business. … she literally became Judy. If I [win the Oscar] too, I think I’m going to have our, both of our Oscars be playmates.”

Inside the bash, presented by Max Mara, Stella Artois, Cadillac and Tequila Don Julio with additional support from Vero Water, co-hosts Idina Menzel and Women In Film’s president emeritus Cathy Schulman brought the female nominees onstage one-by-one to be acknowledged by the room. Schulman also highlighted ReFrame Project and Shiffon Co.’s #PinkyPledgeforParity, an initiative to promote gender party for women working in entertainment, noting recent research that proved once and for all that the majority of audiences for all content are women and girls.

“That’s important because if women and girls are buying the content, doesn’t it make sense that women & girls should be creating the content, starring in the content and making the art around the content,” Schulman told the crowd. “Once we’re in a position to control the marketplace, we can put our dollars and out hearts in same place.”   — Angelique Jackson

Greta Gerwig, Mamie Gummer and Allison JanneyCadillac's 5th Annual Oscar Week Party, Inside, Chateau Marmont, Los Angeles, USA - 06 Feb 2020
CREDIT: Shutterstock

Cadillac Oscar Celebration
Chateau Marmont, West Hollywood, Feb. 6
As a mom of three, it’s not always easy for Zoe Saldana to hit the town and enjoy an awards season party, but the Avatar franchise star, was on hand to do just that at the Cadillac pre-Oscar bash.

“It really is different now,” Saldana, who is mom to Zen, 5, and 3-year-old twins Cy and Bowie, said. “I’m always grateful and I enjoy every moment. I live in a very present sort of state, but yeah, just the three kids, they’re under five. It’s a lot of work. So, just the simple act of like, Oh my God, two hours of my time out of 12 waking hours in a day to sit down and go through hair and makeup, it better be worth it. And for this [event], it is.”

“It’s more about the team behind Cadillac that I’ve known for years and I’ve always championed for and have always championed for me that has made me a client and a fan,” she continued, celebrating the mom’s night out with her sisters, Cicely and Marielle Saldana.

Alison Janney also was enjoying the start of Oscar weekend in a more low-key way than the whirlwind of 2018’s award season [where she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress], telling reporters, “it’s so much more relaxing. I mean, I love being nominated and being in the conversation, but it’s also really nice to still be here and celebrate [the nominees] and be excited for everyone who’s on the verge of possibly making their dreams come true.”

As for whom Janney will be rooting for Sunday night, “I’m rooting for Leo and Brad,” she said. “I love those two so much, and Margot [Robbie, her “Bomsbshell” and “I, Tonya” co-star], Saoirse [Ronan] and Laura Dern too. There’s so many people I hope will win.”

Soon, more stars arrived in their chauffeured Cadillac cars into the indoor-outdoor soiree. Guests grabbed glasses of champagne poolside, strolling by the brand’s new 2021 Escalade on display on their way into the star-studded fete.

Inside, DJ Michelle Pesce kept guests dancing the night away and stars like Rachel Brosnahan and Minnie Driver mixed and mingled with industry insiders at the jam-packed bash. Greta Gerwig, Janney, and Mamie Gummer made it a girls’ night out, chatting with drinks in hand, while Margaret Qualley shared a laugh with friends.

Meanwhile, guests noshed on chicken and beef sliders, crab cakes, and more passed appetizer, and were still on their feet dancing as the clock struck midnight and the party came to a close. — Brandi Fowler

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 06: (L-R) Laura Dern, Patricia Clarkson, Dr. Anita Hill, and Radhika Jones attend Vanity Fair and Lancôme Toast Women in Hollywood on February 06, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)
CREDIT: Getty Images for Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair and Lancôme Women in Hollywood Party
Soho House, West Hollywood, Feb. 6
Hosted by Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Radhika Jones and Best Supporting Actress nominee Laura Dern, the garden of the member-only club was transformed into to a glittering and power pink-hued celebration of the women of award season.

Jones, Dern and Patricia Clarkson were spotted chatting with special guest, Dr. Anita Hill, whose presence at a number of women’s celebrations speaks to what awards season looks like in a post #MeToo Hollywood.

Minnie Driver, Harley Quinn Smith, Gigi Gorgeous and Nats Getty dropped by the Lancôme GIF photo booth, striking a pose with various configurations of friends. “How to Get Away with Murder” stars Aja Naomi King & Amirah Vann celebrated their final week of shooting the ABC show by hanging out off camera. As Alfre Woodard floated about the party, up and coming stars like Laura Harrier, Taylor Russell, Taylour Paige, Shahadi Wright Joseph and Navia Robinson flocked to her, garnering wisdom from (and paying their respects to) black Hollywood’s fairy godmother.

Guests like “The Irishman” costume design nominee (and three-time Oscar winner) Sandy Powell sipped drinks from crystal goblets and had their choice of specialty cocktails from Tequila Don Julio and Johnnie Walker named “The Whisky Woman” and the “City of Stars Highball.” The snack menu included passed appetizers like crab cakes, but the true centerpiece was a massive charcuterie display located at the outer edge of the party so guests had an excellent backdrop for all their social media shots of the impressive spread. — Angelique Jackson

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 06: (L-R) Mena Suvari, Director James Cameron and Tiffany Haddish attend Red Carpet Green Dress at the Private Residence of Jonas Tahlin, CEO of Absolut Elyx on February 06, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images for Absolut Elyx)
CREDIT: Getty Images for Absolut Elyx

Red Carpet Green Dress Pre-Oscars Gala
The Private Residence of Jonas Tahlin, CEO of Absolut Elyx, Los Angeles, Feb. 6
Suzy Amis Cameron’s sustainable fashion campaign “Red Carpet Green Dress” celebrated its annual pre-Oscars gathering, but this year, her husband three-time Oscar winning director James Cameron was flying solo at the event after Suzy came down with pneumonia.

“She’s devastated that she can’t be here for the eleventh year of the event that she created. I will pass onto her that you guys are all supporting her in her misery,” Cameron told the guests assembled for the intimate sit-down gathering. “So anyways, I got elected to give the opening remarks which is the most ridiculous thing in the world because I am the least fashionable human in Hollywood.”

“I have ten pairs of the same exact cargo pants and that’s all I wear and a drawer full of the same exact black t-shirt. … Like this one,” he quipped, pointing to his blazer. “And I’ve worn this I think three times to this event. Sustainable, right?”

In fact, Cameron’s message couldn’t have been more on brand. Suzy Amis Cameron began RCGD in 2009 she and James were on the awards circuit for “Avatar.” Each year, the organization has designers compete to create pieces to be debuted on the red carpet on Oscar night using ecologically conscious materials and processes.

This year’s RCGD ambassadors are Kaitlyn Dever (“Booksmart”), Léa Seydoux (“No Time to Die”) and Oscar-nominated filmmaker Elena Andreicheva, who is competing for best documentary short for “Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl).” Each woman will attend the ceremony wearing a dress designed through RCGD.

“The opportunity to wear something like this to the Oscars is amazing,” Andreicheva told Variety. “An industry that’s as visible as we are has [an] extra responsibility [for sustainability] … It’s about resources and willingness. And the industry has the resources certainly.

Danielle Macdonald (“Dumplin’”), one of last year’s RCGD ambassadors echoed Andreicheva’s sentiments. “The film industry has a big voice,” Macdonald said. “I think it can make a huge impact if we’re willing to. That’s why it’s amazing that people like Suzy and James are making their voices heard.”

The gala also celebrated RCGD’s new partnership with textile manufacturer Tencel, a brand under Lenzing AG, through which they’ve developed dresses using an innovative process that draws from natural resources and assures biodegradability.

“We have Tencel Luxe, which is this new type of yarn material which is actually engineered for sustainability and designed for sensuality,” Lenzing global marketing VP Harold Weghorst told Variety. “It’s the perfect material to go into high-end fashion.”

RCGD and Lenzing formally introduced Tencel Luxe during the event, an intimate sit-down dinner (featuring a plant-based menu) for supporters of the organization — including Tiffany Haddish, Tyrese Gibson, Zelda Williams and Mena Suvari.

“It’s a fantastic new way to make textiles,” Cameron said of Tencel Luxe. “I geeked out with Harold for a half-hour learning every step of the process.”

Cameron also introduced RCGD’s new CEO Samata, who has been a major figure in the organization since its early years and discussed her vision for how the organization will continue to expand in the coming years.

“Every year we’ve tried to show a different way that you can approach sustainability… This feels like the first year where we’re saying this is how you can do it and this is what we’re doing,” Samata said. “We need to be putting into the world what we want to be seeing in the world at the rate we want it to happen. I feel like if we just keep telling people, (then) it won’t be happening at a quick enough rate. We want to be part of the change and we need to accelerate things.” — Jackson Murphy

J.J. Abrams, Lyn Lear and Norman LearOscar Wilde Awards, Inside, Los Angeles, USA - 06 Feb 2020
CREDIT: Michael Buckner/Variety/Shutterstock

Oscar Wilde Awards
Bad Robot Studios, Santa Monica, Feb. 6
Award-winning producer Norman Lear, comedian Tig Notaro and actress Jenn Murray were honored at the 15th Annual Oscar Wilde Awards, held at JJ Abrams’ Bad Robot Studios. Hosted by the non-profit organization, The U.S.-Ireland Alliance, the casual outdoor fete recognizes the creative contributions by American and Irish artists working in the entertainment industry.

Abrams — the event’s perennial emcee — spoke of the resounding impact of Lear’s work, which includes iconic television shows “All in the Family”, “Sanford and Son”, “One Day at a Time”, “The Jeffersons”, “Good Times”, and “Maude”.

“He’s an icon for good reason,” Abrams told Variety. “He’s someone who was such a pillar of my upbringing. Watching his shows was just hours a week of required viewing. It was funny, wonderful characters, but it was weirdly — especially as a kid — it was an educational experience. People talk about things that you would normally not hear at home. It was eye-opening, it was provocative. Our communal senses of humor, our awareness of others, all came from things that he pointed to, which we might not have seen otherwise.”

Abrams also expounded on the importance of diverse and inclusive storytelling in his own work, most recently reflected in the concluding film of the latest Star Wars trilogy, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” “I think the responsibility we have is to tell stories that allow people to see themselves represented on screen,” Abrams explained. “Because I think a lot of people, mostly white people, mostly white males, are used to seeing themselves represented.”

He continued, “And not to say they shouldn’t, they should. But what we are talking about is also, in addition, allowing people who might not normally see a black face in a Star Wars universe for example or a female in a role. That is for a lot of people, very meaningful. It’s never meant to take away from anyone else, it’s just meant to be inclusive. Anything can be inclusive in Star Wars.”

The filmmaker also quashed any conspiracy theories of an additional version of the film, referred to on fan forums and social media as the “J.J. Cut.” “ We were under such a crazy time crunch from the beginning, that there was barely time to make the cut that was released in theaters,” Abrams told Variety. “The idea that there was time to make another cut is very amusing.”

While accepting his award on stage, the 97-year-old Lear joked that he was proud to be acknowledged as a “honorary Irishman.” “My father’s birthday was the 15th of March,” Lear told the crowd. “He always said his birthday was the 17th because that was St. Patrick’s Day. He had the most exquisite Irish brogue on his birthday. And he didn’t say a word, not a syllable, all day long that wasn’t in that Irish brogue on March 17th.”

During her speech, the Belfast-born Murray revealed that the Oscar Wilde Awards were actually the first red carpet event she was planning to attend four years ago, as the plus-one of friend. But she ended up leaving without making an appearance when her friend was a no-show. “I tell this embarrassing story because this is the beauty of this industry. One minute, it’s a bit lonely and embarrassing and the next minute it’s spectacular like this minute or the idea of this minute.”

Upon meeting U.S-Ireland Alliance president Trina Vargo a year later, Murray said she told Vargo, “I think Irish artists in America are vital, necessary, unique, spontaneous, wicked story tellers. I am so proud to be an Irish woman here.”

Notaro — born Mathilde O’Callaghan Notaro — had the audience roaring in laughter during much of her acceptance speech, which poked fun at the Irish and Oscar Wilde. Ahead of the event, Notaro shared that her upcoming Netflix movie, “First Ladies” starring herself and Jennifer Aniston as the first same-sex Presidential couple, is set to begin production later this year.

“I’m excited to tell that story at any moment in time,” Notaro told reporters of making the project in today’s political climate. “But right now, it’s obviously, it’s wishful thinking, hopeful thinking. I mean that in a positive way.”

With Democratic presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg surging in the polls, Notaro said she is excited about the future. “He’s really been on fire all the way through, just hitting different and bigger levels. It’s really incredible. I’m female, believe it or not, and I’m also gay, believe it or not, so those two, it would be a dream come true.”

However, as a fan of Buttigieg rival Senator Elizabeth Warren as well, Notaro noted that she would like to see the two on the same ticket.  “I love Pete. I do love Pete. I love Elizabeth. I think they both could bring some incredible stuff as a team. “

Sponsored by Samsung and Screen Ireland, the event was also attended by industry notables and celebrities including Martin Short, Caitriona Balfe, Roma Downey, Sarah Bolger, Chris O’Dowd, Jason Murray and Nicola Coughlin with British/Irish band The Rua performing. — Ashley Hume

Loretta Devine, Alfre Woodard, S. Epatha Merkerson and Yolanda RossAlfre Woodard's 11th Annual Sistahs' Soiree, Arrivals, Absolut Elyx House, Los Angeles, USA - 05 Feb 2020
CREDIT: Michael Buckner/Variety/Shutterstock

Alfre Woodard’s 11th Annual Sistahs Soiree
The Private Residence of Jonas Tahlin, CEO of Absolut Elyx, Los Angeles, Feb. 5
More than a decade after throwing her first gathering of actresses of color, Alfre Woodard’s annual bash has become part of her living legacy.

“I didn’t get to come last year, I was about four hours into the wilderness of Vancouver Island and four hours, two planes, a ferry and a jet away,” Woodard told Variety, lounging on a velvet couch inside the lavish private estate where she hosted this year’s event. “But what was exciting is that I sent them a video and they all sent back videos and pictures and I realized that it didn’t need me. I knew that, but they didn’t know that. it’s the sister’s soiree, it’s not Alfre’s Soiree.”

An invite to the intimate gathering is a coveted one, with the event growing in size over the years — Woodard has a running guest list of 40 black actresses and says that around 25-30 are able to join the party each year, factoring in travel and work commitments. “If all 40-something ever come, I’ve got to find a bigger budget and a bigger house,” she laughed.

And though the venue has changed over that time, the primary mission of the event has stayed the same. “Because family is important and sisterhood is the nexus of any family,” she explained. “Especially in cultures that they have used division to separate us, to subdue us, to keep us down. It is very important to claim our kinship and let other people know, ‘You don’t get to do that. That my sister; I’m not in competition with my sister.’”

“There’s so many legends here that I feel really honored to sit at a table within to get, to learn from. So, I really just want to like soak up knowledge. I’m going to be, I’m a sponge tonight, that’s my job,” “Waves” star Taylor Russell told Variety as she entered the soiree for the first time. Luckily for the 25-year-old up-and-comer, she had Woodard to literally grab her hand and lead her around the room, introducing her to those women.

In addition to Russell, this year’s honorees included “No Time to Die’s” Lashana Lynch and Best Actress Oscar nominee Cynthia Erivo. The “Harriet” star – who is just an Oscar short of becoming the youngest performer to earn the coveted EGOT — is working away to prepare for her live performance on Sunday night’s telecast.

“We’ve been talking about what we want it to look like. We want to feel like we’re trying to, we’re getting a treatment for it and we have rehearsal I think tomorrow night or the next day. Um, we’re working to make it a special moment. I really wanted to feel special; win or lose, I want people to be lifted when they hear it and to feel good when they hear this song.”

Erivo was also thrilled with the announcement that her “Harriet” co-star Monáe would be performing at the big show too. “It means that like, my sister’s going to be there, it’s so cool. I don’t know what she’s performing. I’m gonna sneak and try and find out, but it’s going to be really to cool.”

Lynch joined the group for the first time last year, just before her role in “Captain Marvel” launched her onto a path toward superstardom.  “It felt like the first day of school with like all black women, which is a privilege,” she recalled. “And I just had a really great time listening and absorbing. This year, I think it’s the same thing, honored or not, I’m still listening and I’m absorbing and um, paying attention to all the lessons that are being passed down to me from generations above, which is highly special.”

Only the cocktail hour is open to press, where the actors mix and mingle before settling into a no-holds barred conversation about the intimate details of their experiences as working black actors in Hollywood. Janelle Monáe circled up with Kiki Layne and Laura Harrier next to the fireplace, while Amandla Stenberg and Tracee Ellis Ross huddled for a private conversation across the room, and Yolanda Ross and Aisha Tyler chatted in chairs to the side.

Rounding out the class of 2020 were LaTanya Richardson, Edwina Findley Dickerson, S. Epatha Merkerson, Danielle Brooks, Lynn Whitfield, Tina Lifford, Tiffany Haddish, CCH Pounder, Loretta Devine, Margaret Avery, Lorraine Toussaint, Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Vanessa Bell-Calloway ­— who all cheered “Alfre!” while posing for the annual group photo. — Angelique Jackson

Teen Vogue Young Hollywood Dinner
San Vicente Bungalows, West Hollywood, Feb. 5
It seems now, more than ever, actors are banding together to hold Hollywood responsible for its lack of representation in film. Even though it’s early in their careers, Kaitlyn Dever, Millicent Simmons, Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Sofia Carson have all been a driving force for changing the industry landscape when it comes to inclusion and diversity, making them the obvious choice to be named Teen Vogue’s Young Hollywood cover stars.

The magazine hosted an intimate dinner celebrating their Young Hollywood class of 2020, an honor bestowed to young actors who are not only breaking down barriers in film, but who’s success has stretched far beyond the walls of the industry, creating real change among the youth.

While fighting for education for young girls around the world with UNICEF, Carson — a Colombian-American actress and singer, best known for her role as Evie in the “Descendants’ ‘ franchise — remains vigilant about the impact a role can have from the moment she reads a script.

“Every story I want to tell has to be a story that is in some shape or form empowering or sheds light on the multi-dimensionality of women,” Carson explained. “For years, I said no to songs and roles that to me were demeaning towards women and depicted women to be one thing.”

The evening, presented in partnership with Revlon and AGL, was filled with conversation surrounding the young actors who are represent the future of film and television. “Booksmart” and “Unbelievable” actress, Kaitlyn Dever commented on her hopes to work with more female directors in the her career and witnessing Joaquin Phoenix’s viral speech at the BAFTAs where he spoke out about inclusivity and diversity in Hollywood.

“I really admire people taking the opportunity when you’re in a room with hundreds of people to say something very important about our society,” Dever said. “Change takes time and it takes a lot of effort. I just want to continue to do work that involves a lot of representation across the board and work with as many female directors as I can.” 

Teen Vogue’s Young Hollywood class of 2020 also includes Jacob Batalon, Ncuti Gatwa, Theo Germaine, Dafne Keen and Liza Koshy, a group very carefully selected and made up of actors who the magazine believes go above and beyond their roles on the screen and who will undoubtedly continue to have success in the years to come.  

“I’ve been very critical about who’s going to be in [the issue],” Teen Vogue editor-in-chief Lindsay Peoples Wagner said. “I really do want to use this platform for good and make sure we are uplifting people who I really believe in, people who I know who have thoughtful intentions on what kind of work they’re making and what kind of effect they’re having on young people.” — Klaritza Rico

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 05: (L-R) Kaitlyn Dever, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Lindsay Peoples Wagner, Millicent Simmonds, and Sofia Carson attend Teen Vogue Celebrates Young Hollywood 2020 at San Vicente Bungalows on February 05, 2020 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Teen Vogue)
CREDIT: Getty Images for Teen Vogue

Diane von Furstenberg and the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures’ Oscars Luncheon
Private Residence, Beverly Hills, Feb. 5
For the sixth year, Diane von Furstenberg hosted the intimate gathering of female Oscar nominees at her picturesque estate in Los Angeles. And though headlines during this year’s award season have focused on the fact that women and people of color have been noticeably absent from some of the marquee categories (including the Best Director category at this year’s Academy Awards), the iconic fashion designer wants to reframe that narrative.

“We don’t have [the nominations] for the big categories, but we have more nominations this year than ever,” von Furstenberg told Variety. And as for the best way to continue the upward trend, her suggestion was simple: “Just talent and push the men out.”

That kind of candor and determination is exactly what makes von Furstenberg such an attractive host for the annual event, presented in partnership with the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in anticipation of the opening of the Academy Museum. “People had this idea before, [but] we wouldn’t entrust the Academy female nominees with anyone else except you,” Academy CEO Dawn Hudson said of the designer.

As one of this year’s 64 female nominees — though Hudson suggests the number is actually 67 thanks to Scarlett Johansson, Cynthia Erivo and producer Emma Tillinger Koskoff’s double nominations — Laura Dern was on hand to celebrate and has attended the luncheon in year’s past.

“The first year I was here, we all sat on that couch. We can’t fit on that couch anymore. And that makes me really happy and I look forward to four years from now where we can’t fit in this house,” she recalled.

Dern also serves as a governor of the Academy’s actors branch and, like von Furstenberg, is hopeful that the industry can find a way forward toward increased inclusion for women and people of color.

“There’s not enough talk around [how] a woman gets to have her shot at directing a movie and then she doesn’t get a second shot, even though she’s made a great and successful first film,” Dern told Variety. “So, we have lots to do. We need to make sure that that support is there and that people are thinking inventively and creatively from casting to crewing.”

After the group of 30 nominees and guests (including a special appearance by Anita Hill) enjoyed the luncheon, the honorees passed a microphone around the room reflecting on their journey to become Academy Award nominees in a system that doesn’t widely promote that possibility to them. Lasting for about half an hour, some personal statements were emotional, while others were humorous — i.e. 11-time nominee Diane Warren, who introduced herself as “Susan Lucci,” making light of the fact she’s yet to win an Oscar for songwriting. But overall the message of the afternoon was one of solidarity. “The Irishman” producer Jane Rosenthal was one of the last nominees to speak, reminding the attendees to continue to help one another advance in the business. “It’s up to all of us to make sure that when the doors are open we have the flood gate, the tsunami to step through,” Rosenthal said.

Event co-host Tessa Thompson delivered the closing remarks, thanking von Furstenberg for her hospitality, saying that when she arrived at the event, the fashion designer “hugged me and immediately re-tied my [DvF] jumper, which is like being knighted.” Thompson went on to highlight some of the female filmmakers who were not nominated for their 2019 films and therefore not present at the event, including Lulu Wang, Chinonye Chukwu, Mati Diop and Melina Matsoukas.

Thompson also issued a challenge to the attendees, the Academy and the entertainment industry as a whole. “I want us to remember that the Oscars themselves are a story that we tell to the world. … When the winners ascend the stairs, we tell new stories about the ideas that matter, about people who matter. And every year I think we have the opportunity to rewrite the story,” she said.

“I feel incredible faith … especially after hearing all of you speak that the people in this room will to continue to fight for this systemic change that I think we are beginning to see, to fight for continued commitment to equity in film finance, distribution and marketing, so the stories and people that the Academy honors begin to really reflect the world in which we find ourselves.” — Angelique Jackson

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 05: Dawn Hudson, Diane von Furstenberg, Tessa Thompson and Bill Kramer attend Diane von Furstenberg and Academy Museum of Motion Pictures Host 6th Annual Oscars Luncheon to Celebrate Female Nominees at Private Residence on February 05, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Academy Museum of Motion Pictures)
CREDIT: Getty Images for Academy Museum

Vanity Fair Hollywood Calling Exhibit Opening
The Annenberg Space for Photography, Century City, Feb. 4
Ahead of Sunday night’s Vanity Fair Oscar party, the magazine celebrated its former cover stars — and their major pop culture moments — at the opening of the Vanity Fair Hollywood Calling exhibit in Los Angeles.

Two of Vanity Fair’s biggest cover stars, Demi Moore — who famously graced the cover in August 1991 while flaunting her baby bump — and Caitlyn Jenner — who announced her transition in the July 2015 issue — joined the celebration at the exhibit. At one point, Jenner lounged on the floor, posing next to her cover and musing that five years later “it’s been an interesting ride.” Moore was joined at the event by daughter Rumer Willis, wearing complimentary black and white dresses as they admired Moore’s maternity moment (while pregnant with daughter Scout) on display at the venue.

CENTURY CITY, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 04: (L-R) Rumer Willis and Demi Moore as the Vanity Fair And Annenberg Space For Photography Celebrate The Opening Of Vanity Fair: Hollywood Calling, Sponsored By The Ritz-Carlton at Annenberg Space For Photography on February 04, 2020 in Century City, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Annenberg Foundation)
CREDIT: Getty Images for Annenberg Found

Vanity Fair editor in chief Radhika Jones spoke to Variety about the opening of the exhibit and the celebs (including “Bombshell” nominee Charlize Theron) who showed up to reflect on their photo shoots and spreads of years’ past.

“It’s incredibly inspiring and it does speak to the iconic legacy of the magazine and these moments in photography that I think do carry on in the culture,” Jones said. “So, it’s exciting to be here and to witness it and I hope a lot of people come and see these pictures and draw their own inspiration.”

Inside the party, Elizabeth Chambers posed with friends inside an interactive photo booth designed by VF photographer Marc Seliger, replicating one of his sets from the exclusive post-Oscars bash. Guests also enjoyed cocktails and passed appetizers while walking through the exhibit of some of the magazine’s most iconic (and some never-before-seen shots), as well as a behind the scenes video of how the Vanity Fair photo shoots are executed. The exhibit runs at the venue from Feb. 8 – July 26. Also present at the event were Rachel Zoe, Taylor Russell, Ian Harding, Ashley Greene, Bobby Berk, and Sharon Stone, who was most recently profiled for the magazine just before her 60th birthday in March 2018.

After the bash, Berk is turning his attention to hosting Elton John’s Oscar viewing party benefiting John’s AIDS foundation alongside his “Queer Eye” co-stars Jonathan Van Ness, Karamo Brown and Tan France. But what does that job entail?  “I think it’s just like stand there in a cute outfit,” he joked.

“I still I can’t wrap my head around the fact that Elton John asked us to host his party with him. It’s insane. So I’m very excited. I’ve got the outfit,” Berk continued, teasing that he’ll be wearing “shiny silver, with a lot of bling, maybe a corset.” — Angelique Jackson

CENTURY CITY, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 04: Caitlyn Jenner as Vanity Fair And Annenberg Space For Photography Celebrate The Opening Of Vanity Fair: Hollywood Calling, Sponsored By The Ritz-Carlton at Annenberg Space For Photography on February 04, 2020 in Century City, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Annenberg Foundation)
CREDIT: Getty Images for Annenberg Found

EMILY’S List’s 3rd Annual Pre-Oscars Brunch and Panel Discussion
The Four Seasons Hotel, Beverly Hills, Feb. 4

“After the election of 2016, which I now refer to as “that night,” partnering with EMILY’s List allowed me to do something concrete to ensure that women would make their mark in 2018 and guess what? We did,” EMILY’s List Creative Co-Chair Chelsea Handler said during her opening remarks at the organization’s 3rd Annual Pre-Oscars brunch and panel discussion Tuesday morning. “We elected the first Native Americans, the first Muslim American, the first transgender American, we had many, many firsts in 2018.”

The panel, entitled ““Defining Women: The Power of Lifting-Up Women’s Voices from Hollywood to Washington DC,” featured a lively discussion between actresses Amber Tamblyn, Eva Longoria and Uzo Aduba, former Texas U.S. state senator and candidate for U.S. House (TX-21) Wendy Davis and musician Amanda Shires, as well as words from EMILY’S list executive director Emily Cain and president Stephanie Schriock.

The event celebrated the achievements made in the 2018 elections by the political action committee, which aims to elect pro-choice, progressive Democratic female candidates to office, and emphasized the importance of the organization’s mission ahead of the 2020 elections. It also marked the beginning of Oscars week, during an award season that has been controversial for its lack of female representation in major nomination categories.

Tamblyn moderated the panel and told Variety that as an Academy voter, she had been very disappointed by the nominations but was encouraged by the scrutiny they had received.

“The simple fact that the nominations themselves were practically overshadowed by the larger conversation of who had been left out,” Tamblyn said. “The women of color, people of color, actors, directors, women in general, that almost overshadowed the nominations themselves and that’s not nothing. It wasn’t really until the #OscarsSoWhite campaign, which was started by a black woman, before that, this was not an important conversation. So, I think even the fact that we are being forced to have the conversation, openly and presently, means a lot. We can’t discount that, and we have to keep having it.”

The actress also explained why she would be supporting Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren for the Democratic nomination. “I think Elizabeth Warren is the intersection of everything that I would love about a presidential candidate,” Tamblyn said. “She is warm, she’s fiery, she’s incredibly intelligent, her experience is unparalleled, especially in business and finance. She’s a former Republican, most of her family are Republicans, with deep ties in progressiveness and progressive platforms. She’s approachable, but she’s still terrifying. I don’t know if it gets any better than that.”

Longoria told the audience that she was motivated to help get out the Latina vote. “I’m a ninth generation Texan,” Longoria said. “I’m more American than Donald Trump. So, knowing that there is a large group of us, we never crossed the border, the border crossed us and so giving a voice to that community, my community, is really what birthed the Eva Longoria Foundation. And specifically, with Latinas, with women. What we are going to do this year for the elections is really focus on Latinas because they are really going to make the difference in some key districts.”

Drawing a comparison between her past experience as a track and field athlete and the importance of solidarity among women, Aduba told the audience, “My coach my entire life always used to talk about, the 4X100 meter race. You can be that anchor leg all you want. That baton is not getting around the track without those three other ladies. Doesn’t matter how fast you are going that 100. Ok, so you have to step out of that comfort zone and reach out and cling heavily, loop, link arms, cling with that lady standing beside you, that friend.”

The panel also followed the debacle at the Iowa Democratic caucuses, which still hadn’t produced a clear victor at the time of the event. Panel host committee member — and Elizabeth Warren supporter — Yvette Nicole Brown shared her reaction to the caucuses and her advice for changes moving forward.

“Because of what happened last night — which was a shitshow, excuse me — I hope that now we’ll make sure that Iowa is no longer the first,” Brown said. “I hope it will also ensure that there is no more caucusing. Let’s just have a primary. Let’s have a countrywide primary. Let’s knock it out all at once. Let’s spend that year campaigning in all the states and then on one day, let’s all get together and everybody vote and then we will know who our nominee is and then we can get busy trying to get rid of whatever horrible person is in office.” — Ashley Hume

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 04: (L-R) Amber Tamblyn, Eva Longoria, Wendy Davis, Uzo Aduba, and Amanda Shires speak onstage during EMILY's List Brunch and Panel Discussion "Defining Women" at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on February 04, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Presley Ann/Getty Images for EMILY's List)
CREDIT: Getty Images for EMILY's List

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