Awards Tracker

All things Oscars, Emmys, Grammys and Tonys

Category: Actors

Oscars: Behind the scenes at rehearsals

Swank bigelowJeff Bridges gave a lead actress Oscar to Natalie Portman on Saturday afternoon at the Kodak Theatre. "Whoop! Whoop! Whoop!" Bridges shouted, signaling that Portman's acceptance speech was running long. Two minutes later, Bridges gave the same Oscar to Nicole Kidman. "Oh, you're Nicole Kidman? Hi, Nicole," Bridges said.

Neither actress was offended by Bridges' informal manner, since  neither was actually there. Bridges, who is nominated for lead actor this year for his performance in "True Grit," was one of dozens of stars who arrived to rehearse their roles in Sunday's Academy Awards, with the help of a small army of stand-ins. Celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Tom Hanks, Robert Downey Jr., Halle Berry, Javier Bardem, Reese Witherspoon, Hilary Swank, Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand, Helen Mirren and Jennifer Hudson practiced key skills like teleprompter reading, crossing the stage without tripping and pronouncing the foreign language nominees' names.

Some had pieces of their wardrobe along -- Swank brought some steep crystal-encrusted heels to try out, and her co-presenter for best director, Kathryn Bigelow, carried her gold shoes -- while most kept it casual.

"We're movin' around! We're everywhere!" said a hoodie-and-jeans-clad Kunis as she practiced her stage walk and waved at a very enthusiastic seat filler, who turned out to be Hudson's 18-month-old son.

Timberlake moonwalked downstage between takes.

"A pop-up mike?! That's cheeky," said Brand, as he practiced announcing with Mirren. "Don't stand over that, Russell," Mirren cautioned him with a wink.

"Do you want your publicist to have this or do you want it?" Downey was asked about his Oscar credential, which had a photo of the actor. "I want my hairdresser to have it, to duplicate that look," Downey said, before stepping into place to rehearse.

"They changed my words!" Bardem said, while squinting into the teleprompter. Told teasingly to breathe, he said, "I can't breathe in this," smoothing his hands over his blazer.

By day's end, the real Nicole Kidman had turned up. Dressed in a slinky red dress, Kidman, no stranger to the Academy Awards as a previous winner, got some direction on one of Oscar's new wrinkles. "We have substantial envelopes this year, so you can get a feel for them," Kidman was told, as she was handed her rehearsal prop.

Gazing out into the crowd, Kidman looked for her seat and smiled when it was finally pointed out to her. She'll be sitting in the front row.

 -- Rebecca Keegan

Photo: Hilary Swank, left, and Kathryn Bigelow on Saturday practice presenting for the Oscars. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Oscars: James Franco on the fine line between revered and ridiculed

Let there be no misunderstanding. James Franco loves “Freaks and Geeks,” the short-lived, Judd Apatow-produced TV series that jump-started his acting career. He just feels that some of the love directed its way (the series will be feted at next month’s Paley Center for Media’s annual television festival) is a tad too reverential.

“I think it was a really, really good show,” Franco says, “ and unique in a lot of ways. It focused on characters not normally the heroes of these teen shows -– the freak and the geeks. Usually, it’s the beautiful, popular kids.”

“But it’s kind of funny the way a show like that gets legitimized by adults from the literary world,” Franco continues. “It’s weird how some things get consecrated and other things are looked at with either irony or derision.”

As if to prove his point, Franco, a lead actor nominee for "127 Hours," unveiled an art installation devoted to the '70s sitcom “Three’s Company” last month at the Sundance Film Festival, re-creating and projecting episodes on four walls for guests to enjoy while they sat in a reconstruction of the show’s living-room set. Franco also has designs on perhaps turning the sitcom into an off-Broadway play someday.

There’s probably a token measure of facetiousness in Franco’s current (and, let’s face it, likely fleeting) fixation on “Three’s Company.” Much like his recent forays into daytime television, playing a character named Franco on the long-running soap “General Hospital,” Franco seems intent on demonstrating the thin line between the revered and the ridiculed.

“I like making those connections,” Franco says. “I like people to look at something they look down on and realize it’s not that far from what they consider highbrow.”

Something tells us Franco will be making a few of those connections when he co-hosts the Oscars on Sunday. Those with delicate sensibilities should consider themselves warned.

-- Glenn Whipp

Photo: James Franco. Credit: Getty Images


Oscars: James Franco croons 'Burlesque's' snubbed Oscar song

Oscars: How Seth Rogen got James Franco to be true to himself

James Franco and Anne Hathaway in Oscar boot camp


Melissa Leo and those odd Oscar ads

Melissa Leo If Melissa Leo doesn't win best supporting actress on Sunday night, her loss will be blamed squarely on the ads she took out asking voters to "Consider Melissa." Leo donned fur in the two print ads that appeared on the back pages of Variety and were considered rather tacky by many in the industry.

The 50-year old actress was initially very vocal about why the ads were made and said that she paid for them herself as a way to fight back against the ageism in Hollywood that keeps 50-year-old women off magazine covers.

Now, it seems Leo, who has been nominated for her role as an aggressive mother-manager in David O. Russell's "The Fighter," is rather confused by the response to the ads. In an interview with the Daily Beast, one that occurred after the reporter ran into Leo at a New York restaurant, she says that she has been a good soldier for the entire campaign and thought that the ads were standard procedure. She says she's surprised by the reaction.  "I'm a little confused. This is what we're doing. This is what all the girls are doing," she says.

She adds that she conceived the ads before she was nominated and she might have done things differently had she known she was going to be nominated. But the ads actually published after the nominations were announced, which seemed very oddly timed. "It didn't seem so nomination-oriented," says Leo regarding the original concept for the ads. "It was fun." 

We called Paramount directly and they said they support their actresses 1,000% and would be shocked if people who had been planning to vote for Leo now didn't because of her ads.

We'll see what happens on Sunday night.

-- Nicole Sperling

Photo: Melissa Leo at the Oscar nominees luncheon. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

Oscars: Colin Firth's keys to discipline

Firth rush 
During a recent interview together, Colin Firth was telling his “King’s Speech” co-star Geoffrey Rush about the time when he was 5 and a teacher slapped him “very hard across the face” for innocently using the word “bugger.”

The story reminded Rush of seeing English actor Stephen Fry perform a one-man show recently in Australia.

“At one point, he asked, ‘Who’s under 40?’ And two-thirds of the audience raised their hands,” Rush remembers. “And he said, ‘You’re the first generation in the history of the planet who has not been beaten.’ And I went, ‘Wow. That’s absolutely true.’ Because anyone older than that has probably been on the receiving end of someone waving a cane.”

“Oh, I was beaten with all sorts of objects,” Firth relates. “I went to school for a year in St. Louis. Missouri is an absolutely heavenly state to visit, but it was also the only state to allow corporal punishment in schools in 1972. In England, we had the cane and the ruler. In Missouri, they had the paddle, a fiberglass model with holes. It hurt.”

Firth also remembers one teacher who had his own creative ideas when it came to discipline.

“If he didn’t like what you were doing, he’d hurl his car keys straight at you,” Firth says. “Expert aim. We actually thought he was cool because he aimed so well. He’d be standing with his back to you and he’d hear you whisper and he’d be around in a second, whizzing them straight at the side of your head.”

“What’s funny,” Firth adds, “is that, at the time, you would never think that’s abusive. Now, you still can’t say ‘bugger’ in England, but I seriously doubt anyone is throwing their car keys in Missouri at the present time.”


Oscars: Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush and Rupert Everett's crush

-- Glenn Whipp

Photo: Geoffrey Rush and Colin Firth. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times 

Oscars: Javier Bardem's clean bill of health--other than that hypochondria thing

Bardem We’ve already written at some length about the ways in which Javier Bardem mired himself in an emotional tar pit for the bleak drama “Biutiful.” Bardem likened it to “going into the pool and almost drowning because you can’t find the exit.”

But Bardem did give himself at least one escape hatch. You see, Bardem used to be a hypochondriac. These days, not so much. But you don’t just leave that mindset entirely. So, going into a movie in which he’s to play a man slowly dying of cancer, Bardem knew he’d better take care of one bit of business beforehand to save himself some heavy anxiety.

“Because I knew myself and I knew I was going to stay facing this thing for so long, I checked out my medical things before shooting the movie, just to know I was fine,” Bardem says. “I wanted to be able to play with the idea [of dying]. And you can’t play if it gets in your brain that you’re dying too.”

Here, Bardem affects a look of worry and rattles off what he’d be thinking once he began focusing on the character without having had that check-up.

“ ‘Hold on. Am I really sick? I’m thinking sick. I’m acting sick. Am I really sick? Maybe. I don’t feel so good …”

Needless to say, the tests came back OK.

“Yeah,” Bardem laughs. “Otherwise we would not be having this conversation, would we?”

-- Glenn Whipp

Photo: Javier Bardem  Credit: Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times

Oscars: Josh Brolin behind the scenes with the Coen brothers

Josh brolin 

Josh Brolin wants to direct. In fact, he has just signed on to helm and star in an adaptation of Dominique Cieri’s play “Pitz and Joe,” a gritty sibling drama about the relationship between a young woman and her brain-damaged brother.

So, eager to learn the craft and fascinated by the process, Brolin often visits the Oscar-winning (and currently nominated) Coen brothers when they’re in the throes of editing one of their movies. He has done this on films he’s worked on with them (“True Grit,” “No Country for Old Men”) and others to which he has no connection (“Burn After Reading”), and always the process remains the same.

We’ll let Brolin describe it.

“They have perpendicular desks, Joel at one, Ethan at the other and in between them there’s a bellman’s bell,” Brolin says. “Ethan has his headphones on and he’s getting his best take and he drags it over the screen, never looking at Joel, and, ding, rings the bell. Then Joel, who has the final cut on his screen, drags it down in the timeline. And that’s what they do, every day, eight, 10, 12 hours a day.”

“And I’d sit on a couch and watch,” Brolin continues. “But they don’t like it if I say anything. Even a sound. Like if I see some choice they make and say, ‘Hmmm,’ Joel will get mad. ‘What? Do you not think that’s good?’ ‘I didn’t say anything. I’m just watching.’ ”

“Then one time, Joel looks back because, again, I’ve made some kind of muffled noise. ‘So this is observing. This is what you’re doing, right? Observing.’ ‘Sorry, dude.’ ”

“I mean, it’s a great workshop, but that’s not why I do it. I just love hanging with those guys -- even if it means taking a vow of silence for a couple of weeks.”

-- Glenn Whipp

Photo: Josh Brolin in "True Grit." Credit: Paramount Pictures

Oscars: How Seth Rogen got James Franco to be true to himself

Franco Rogen 
James Franco says he probably wouldn’t be doing things like co-hosting this year’s Oscar telecast had he not made the 2008 stoner buddy-comedy “Pineapple Express” with Seth Rogen.

The two projects seem wildly unrelated to be sure. But hear him out.

After working together on the short-lived, Judd Apatow-produced ensemble TV comedy “Freaks and Geeks,” Franco and Rogen went off in different directions, seeing each other at the occasional party, but that’s about it. Rogen kept working with Apatow and became an unlikely leading man in “Knocked Up.” Franco wandered through pretty-boy roles, trying to find a niche in which he could be true to his real interests.

When they met again for “Pineapple,” Franco, who is also Oscar-nominated for his work in "127 Hours," was struck by Rogen’s frankness and I-am-what-I-am attitude. In interviews, Rogen would expound on the joys and occasional pitfalls of smoking weed. No subject was off limits. Nothing was held back.

“I’d look at Seth, and he just really showed me that I didn’t need to hide who I was,” Franco says. “So I’ve tried to follow his lead. I don’t need to be embarrassed about the many things I do.”

“So he’s got his pot …” Franco pauses here for half a minute, trying to stop himself from laughing. “… and I’ve got ‘General Hospital’ and whatever else I have going on. And if you want to know something about me? Just ask. I’m less guarded, thanks to Seth.”

-- Glenn Whipp

Photo: James Franco, left, and Seth Rogen in "Pineapple Express." Credit: Columbia Pictures

Oscars: Anne Hathaway owes thanks to Penelope Cruz


Penelope Cruz might not be accompanying Oscar-nominated husband Javier Bardem to the Kodak Theatre on Feb. 27. She just gave birth to their baby boy last month and might not be ready to leave the little guy, much less go through the daylong preparation necessary for the red-carpet wringer.

But if Cruz does attend, she should expect some kind words from Oscar co-host Anne Hathaway, who credits the Spanish actress for freeing her up mentally to do the sex scenes in her last movie, "Love and Other Drugs."

"I was watching a lot of her work while I was working on the movie," Hathaway said. "Because doing nudity is a little nerve-wracking ,and I had to remind myself that plenty of actresses have done it before me and kept their dignity intact. She has done a ton of love scenes, and no one ever talks to her about it. It's always in the service of the work."

Asked if she found herself replaying one of Cruz's movies in particular, Hathaway, without hesitation, mentioned "Abre Los Ojos," Alejandro Amenabar’s 1997 thriller that Cameron Crowe remade four years later as "Vanilla Sky."

"That was an example of sensuality and trust between actors and an openness and a lack of self-consciousness that raised the stakes for the performers and got me more invested as an audience member," Hathaway said. "It's an incredible movie, one of my favorites, and I can't tell you how much it helped me with my movie."

-- Glenn Whipp

Photo: Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal in "Love and Other Drugs." Credit: 20th Century Fox

Oscars: Michelle Williams on themed hotel room -- at least there was hot water

Williams Gosling 
It’s too late to take advantage of the Radisson Valley Forge Hotel’s “Blue Valentine Package,” which allowed guests to stay in the Star Gazer Suite, the same chrome-filled, space-themed room where Oscar nominee Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling filmed their nightmare of a weekend getaway in “Blue Valentine.”

And, despite the offer of complimentary Champagne, popcorn and chocolate strawberries, we’re thinking that’s just as well. Even if business or family brought us to eastern Pennsylvania, staying in a hotel room that Gosling likens to the “inside of a robot’s vagina” doesn’t really hold much appeal to us.

But the unfortunate décor of that one particular room shouldn’t put you off the Radisson Valley Forge entirely, Williams says.

“There were a lot of other rooms at that Radisson,” Williams says in an interview with Gosling earlier this season. “Atlantis. The Athens room. We asked about the Leather and Lace room, but it was booked solid.”

“Those rooms are more loved,” Gosling says. “The Star Gazer room is more …”

Williams finishes his sentence, “Trashy.”

“No need to judge it,” Gosling tells her, smiling. “No need to paint it with that brush.”

But despite the room’s Liberace-meets-Stanley Kubrick trimmings, Williams gives it its due when it came to filming the movie’s lengthy shower scene.

“The hot water never ran out,” she says. “And we were in there an awfully long time.”

-- Glenn Whipp

Photo of Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling by Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Oscars: Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush and Rupert Everett's crush

Colin and Geoffrey 
Before getting together for the multiple Oscar-nominated “The King’s Speech,” Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush hadn’t seen each other since they worked together on past best picture winner “Shakespeare in Love” in 1998. Rush played theater manager Philip Henslowe; Firth, the debt-choked lord betrothed to Gwyneth Paltrow’s Viola. The two actors shared all of one scene in the film and spent more time together promoting the movie than they did shooting it.

“And I’ve completely blotted out that press junket with the exception of the evenings I spent with Colin and Rupert Everett, drinking and laughing like fools,” Rush says.

“Yes, Rupert walked away with a lot of that film,” Firth says. The two spoke to The Envelope earlier this year for a story about "The King's Speech."

Firth and Everett have apparently ended the on-again, off-again feud that dates back to the 1984 film “Another Country,” a movie that marked the big-screen debut for both actors. Everett wrote in his 2006 memoir that he fancied Firth until he “produced a guitar and began to sing protest songs between scenes.”

From the book: “‘There are limits,’ said my friend Piers Flint-Shipman, ‘when “Lemon Tree, Very Pretty” began,” Everett wrote. “Colin was visibly pained by our superficiality.”

Says Rush to Firth: “Having done stints with Rupert on red carpets and other banana skins, I laughed at every line. It was like being back at that bar.”

“It’s also wildly off the truth,” Firth interjects. “Everything he says is wrong.”

Rush: “Really?”

Firth: “Oh, yeah. I have to say that because I’m in the bloody book. I deny everything. I would never have brought a guitar to the set in Rupert Everett’s presence or any other person.”

Rush: “Well then, you really need to write your own book, don’t you? You have a vivid imagination. I’m sure you could pay him back … with interest.”

Firth quickly changed the subject, so don’t expect that particular tell-all anytime soon.

-- Glenn Whipp

Photo: Geoffrey Rush, left, and Colin Firth. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times


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