Oscars 2012: The lobby bar, the show's 'Star Wars' cantina
On Sunday night, while some bold-faced names inside the Academy Awards ceremony waited to hear their names called, other bold-faced names decided they needed a drink.
And so it was that, as Billy Crystal presided over the best in this year’s (and many other years’) films, an assortment of stars and Hollywood power players found themselves standing at two plush bars in the carpeted lobby outside the main theater. It was a place to be approached by someone random, to act silly, to take a breath before re-entering the pressure cooker inside.
On one side stood Michelle Williams, flanked by galpal Busy Phillips and Jonah Hill, the three of them kidding around, throwing arms around each other and taking photos, prom-style.
On the other end of the room was Paramount chief Brad Grey, standing by himself. A Chinese publicist soon walked over to him. “This is Li Bing Bing,” said the woman, introducing the studio executive to the Chinese A-lister, who has been trying to gain traction in Hollywood. “She’s a big movie star in China.”
“I know who you are,” Grey said. The publicist told the actress that Grey ran Paramount. “I have a job at Paramount,” Grey said.
At the smaller of the two bars, through a partially enclosed archway, the Oscars played on a television, the sound pumped up over the din of the drinkers. Jason Segel watched a good chunk of the show at that bar, his gangly frame perched on a marble shelf, munching on popcorn handed out by women who were outfitted to look like flight attendants in the ABC series “Pan Am.”
Earlier, Emma Stone had taken a seat on the same shelf, pulling herself up to give her feet a break. Jonah Hill walked up to her and performed, with apparent success, some kind of comedy routine for her. (Hill spent a lot of time in the lobby.)
The side bar got fuller and more animated as the final awards were being handed out. The announcement of Meryl Streep as best actress got some of the biggest gasps, and best-picture winner “The Artist” the loudest cheers, perhaps none louder than Segel's. It was like the Oscar-viewing party you’d have with your friends, if you were friends with some really famous actors.
A little bit earlier, Anna Faris and husband Chris Pratt, who stars as a misfit baseball player in "Moneyball," were sipping their cocktails when the nominees for sound mixing were called out on the television above them. When the nominees from "Moneyball" were read off, Faris let out a loud shout and clapped, startling a few of the hobnobbers nearby.
As the envelope was opened, Faris and Pratt kept their eyes fixed on the screen, their hands clenched together as though watching an extra-inning baseball game. (If that seemed like an intense reaction for a below-the-line award, they're apparently an enthusiastic couple. Plus "Moneyball" wasn't favored in too many categories.)
When "Hugo" was called for the win, Faris' face fell, and she exhaled disappointedly. Pratt made a small gesture with his hand as if to say "that's OK, they were the better team today." Their shoulders sagging, the couple put down their glasses and shuffled out of the bar.
Photo: Jonah Hill arriving at the Oscars. Credit: Joel Ryan/Associated Press