Parties, private screenings, Q&As and the first movie awards show of the season all in the span of 24 hours. It all proves we’re in full swing with just four months to go before the Oscars. The 14th Annual Hollywood Awards Gala drew an impressive star turnout Monday evening at the Beverly Hilton, the same room where the Golden Globes get handed out in about 2 months. I’ve often said that if the Globes are a good place to try out your Oscar speech then The Hollywood Awards are a good place to try out your Globes speech. And a long list of honorees did just that, including Robert Duvall (Actor), Annette Bening (Actress), Helena Bonham Carter (Supporting Actress), Sam Rockwell (Supporting Actor), Danny Boyle and Christian Colson (Producers — 127 Hours), Tom Hooper (Director — The King’s Speech), Aaron Sorkin (Screenwriter — The Social Network), Lee Unkrich (Animated Feature — Toy Story 3), plus plenty of below the line crafts winners, acting breakthrough awards, a career achievement honor to Sly Stallone and a humanitarian award for Sean Penn. These trophies are all negotiated with distributors and publicists who promise to buy a table and a program ad and deliver their honoree in person in return for a lot of free red carpet exposure and a shot at giving an acceptance speech in front of a smattering of industry types and several Academy voters. The event isn’t televised, but there was certainly enough star power to support a broadcast. No one really takes it seriously except as an early opportunity to trot out your contenders in hopes of moving then up a peg in the marathon race to Oscar. This is the place awards watchers get to hear speeches for the first time. There’s even a live band on stage playing corny awards show music. First time attendee Aaron Eckhart, who presented to Bonham Carter, told me he thought it was a lot of fun. It’s a warm-up, the equivalent of spring training.
New Hollywood Award winner Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone) accepted her HFF statuette from presenter Jodie Foster by saying, “there wasn’t a door I wouldn’t knock down or a place I wouldn’t go to be a part of it.” That kind of sincere statement can/and will likely be recycled by Lawrence at numerous critics award banquets in the next few months. Hilary Swank presenting to her Conviction co-star Sam Rockwell predicted “my bet is this is just of the first of many for this role he shines so bright in.” Sorkin told a story about the time he was hoping for an Oscar nomination that didn’t come. His father put it in perspective for him when he tried to comfort him by asking “how many people even woke up this morning with an expectation of something good happening?” Sorkin surmised “It’s an honor to be nominated, but in my family it’s an honor just to be overlooked.”
The undisputed highlight (unless you count Josh Brolin’s curious rant before presenting to Duvall) and standing ovation of the night went to Penn, who received a humanitarian honor for his dedicated work for Haitian relief. In fact, he had just returned from Haiti Sunday night and gave a highly emotional speech detailing his experiences and even asking for money from the well-heeled crowd. “Come the end of the world those who will survive are cockroaches, rats and Haitians,” Penn enthusiastically predicted. Penn wasn’t the only one flying long distances to get to the banquet. Sorkin had just arrived from Japan, Lawrence came in from the London set of the new X-Men movie she is shooting, Noomi Rapace was also in from London and the new Sherlock Holmes while Bonham Carter literally just got off a plane herself to get to the party. Jovovich was in from the German locations of Three Musketeers. It’s clear in Hollywood people will travel if there’s reward at the end of the journey.
Eckhart made a beeline for the exit following his presentation to head over to the Landmark Theatre in West L.A. where he joined Rabbit Hole co-star Nicole Kidman for a Q&A in front of the SAG nominating committee. As one of the film’s producers, Kidman also participated in another Q&A there for the PGA a half hour earlier. The December 17 awards contender played well for both groups who packed the theatres even on a slow Monday. Kidman, a first time producer, revealed that she trimmed the budget by nixing trailers for the cast. Instead everyone lived in the same house where they shot the film. Kidman and Eckhart even shared a bathroom until he decided enough was enough and moved downstairs for the remainder of the New York shoot.
It was certainly a whirlwind weekend for Producer Of The Year winners Danny Boyle and Christian Colson who had been celebrating the night before at a WME hosted screening of their 127 Hours (November 5) followed by a small, exclusive Mr. Chow’s reception thrown by Boyle’s longtime WME agent, Robert Newman, that drew a crowd of heavy hitters singing the praises of the film including DGA head Taylor Hackford, Disney’s Rich Ross, Secretariat director Randall Wallace, past Oscar show producers Laurence Mark and Bill Mechanic, Oscar winning producer Dan Jinks and many others. Former Searchlight president Peter Rice, now Fox network chief, told me he was so proud of what Danny had accomplished with the harrowing movie about extreme sports enthusiast Aron Ralston who cut off his arm after being trapped in a cave. Rice, who grabbed Boyle’s big 2008 Oscar winner, Slumdog Millionaire, away from Warner Bros when they closed Warner Independent was just seeing the new film for the first time since he has his hands full on the TV side of the studio now. He lamented having to cancel Lone Star, which he said was the best reviewed new show of the season but only managed a 1 rating. His Searchlight replacement, co-president Nancy Utley, was there along with Fox co-chair Tom Rothman, screenwriter Simon Beaufoy, Ralston and the man who plays him, James Franco, who told me having access to the real videos Ralston made when he thought he was going to die were just invaluable to his performance. I asked Boyle about all the reports of people fainting during the arm extraction scene and he pointed to Franco, saying he thought the actor made the character so empathetic that some people just couldn’t handle watching him cutting the limb off. Accepting his Hollywood Award Monday Boyle said, “I’m just very grateful no one has yelled for a paramedic tonight.”
Lawrence was also the center of attention earlier Sunday night at a Palihouse Roadside Attractions reception celebrating her Gotham Awards breakthrough nomination and New Hollywood Award. She was suffering from jet lag and a cold which caused her to sneeze on several journalists angling for a quick interview. I asked her if she was happy to be working out of the country during the awards season madness and she did seem grateful, although she said some of it was bearable. When I asked if she was upset her Jodie Foster-directed film The Beaver was being held up due to the Mel Gibson scandal she thought for a minute and finally said, “shit happens.” The 20-year-old Lawrence is refreshingly honest. Let’s hope she doesn’t get corrupted this awards season.