Tom Cruise stole the show at the 95th Oscars luncheon, the annual gathering celebrating the nominees for the year’s Academy Awards. At the Beverly Hilton Hotel, the in-person event had opening remarks from Academy president Janet Yang. The roll call of this year’s 182 attendees was read by Devon Franklin, a member of the Board of Governors, who began with Jamie Lee Curtis and ended with Guillermo del Toro.
Aside from Yang addressing the Will Smith controversy at the top of the event to the attendees (without saying his name), more than 200 guests gathered to celebrate the cinema’s achievements from 2022. Of them, 182 were official nominees for this year’s ceremony, the largest turnout in history. Some of the notable names missing were best actress nominees Ana de Armas (“Blonde”) and Andrea Riseborough (“To Leslie”), supporting actor Barry Keoghan (“The Banshees of Inisherin”), producer James Cameron (“Avatar: The Way of Water”) and original song contenders Rihanna (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”), Lady Gaga (“Top Gun: Maverick”) and David Byrne (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”).
Here are some of the key takeaways from the event.
Tom Cruise owns the room.
Nominated as a producer for “Top Gun: Maverick,” along with Jerry Bruckheimer, Christopher McQuarrie and David Ellison, Cruise walked the red carpet, greeted his fellow colleagues and spoke briefly with journalists, doing his first significant awards campaign event of the season.
Cruise could hardly take a few steps without being approached by an industry person, including Steven Spielberg, Brendan Gleeson, Paul Mescal, Baz Luhrmann and Bonnie Arnold. He even scored a seat at one of the stellar tables with nominated talent like cinematographer Roger Deakins (“Empire of Light”), Daniel Kwan (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”) and Michelle Williams (“The Fabelmans”).
The film, nominated for six Oscars including best picture, is a viable threat to take home the gold. I spoke with Cruise in the room, praising his work in the film and his previous nominated performances for “Born on the Fourth of July” (1989) and “Magnolia” (1998).
“I really appreciate it,” he said. I followed by asking if he was enjoying himself. He responded, “I’m having a great time.”
He’s a man of few words.
The Academy has all 23 categories back on the telecast, so keep the speeches short.
Yang addressed the room of attendees, asking them to abide by the rules of keeping their speeches to 45 seconds in total. “You’ve got to work with us,” she said. “This is live television after all. Translation: keep it short, sweet and to the point, please.”
We’ll see how many of them listen on March 12.
3. No one knows what’s going to win best picture.
Having conversations with multiple Academy members, publicists and nominees, there’s a sense of an unknown heading into the final stretch of the awards season.
One voter was undecided on their decision on whether they would be casting their ballot for Angela Bassett (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”) or Jamie Lee Curtis (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”). Another thinks Todd Field (“Tár”) is the real threat for best director, while another shares hesitation on how far “Everything Everywhere” can go in the top category.
No press sat with nominees. Why?
Traditionally, attending press from various outlets would pull a random number that would assign them to a table where nominees would be sitting. A fair (and fun) process would place a journalist at one of the tables. However, multiple sources tell Variety some nominated attendees didn’t feel comfortable with a press member at their table.
Be as happy about life as Ke Huy Quan is happy to be in the room.
As DeVon Franklin read the names of all 182 nominated attendees, Ke Huy Quan’s name brought the room to erupt in joy. Quan’s arms were waving as he nearly skipped all the way to the platform for the annual class photo. Unofficially, as I can’t declare myself a reliable “applause-o-meter,” the nominee that received the loudest reaction in the room might have been Quan’s co-star, Stephanie Hsu. Could that mean anything?
Other huge noisemakers included Austin Butler (“Elvis”), Brendan Fraser (“The Whale”), Guillermo del Toro (“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio”), Rick Carter (“The Fabelmans”) and Dede Gardner (“Women Talking”).