Oscar Nominee Reactions: Rami Malek, Willem Dafoe, Rachel Weisz, Adam McKay & Many More

By Anthony D'Alessandro, Matt Grobar, Amanda N'Duka


They woke up early, they ordered breakfast in, and they’re very grateful. Here’s a round-up of key Oscar nominee reactions from this morning:

“It’s momentous, it’s something you dream of when you get into this business; it’s the ultimate accolade,” said Rami Malek scoring his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor as Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in Fox/New Regency’s Bohemian Rhapsody, a movie several years in the making. Malek, akin to Robert De Niro in is prep for his Oscar-winning role as Jake La Motta in Raging Bull, completely submerged himself as Mercury, not only absorbing every interview and piece of doc footage he ever did, and talking to the band’s members and executive music producers Brian May and Robert Taylor, worked with a movement teacher Polly Bennett and nailed that Gujarati accent under the singer’s Royal Pronunciation via dialect coach William Conacher. “I told Graham King if he gave me this role, I’d bleed for it, and he showed me a picture of blood on the piano keys after the final day of our Live Aid shoot,” said Malek this morning. King was a consistent champion of Malek’s: If Bohemian Rhapsody was going to get made, it was with the Mr. Robot star. Malek detailed at Deadline’s New York Contenders how he asked King for an extra day of shooting the Live Aid finale of the film in its 20 minute entirety, instead of chopped up, in order to achieve a zenith, adrenaline-fueled performance, and King conceded. “He invited me into the [creative] conversation” said Malek, an opportunity that some fresh face film stars don’t get on a film set. What’s next for Malek? “I received the greatest text from (Mr. Robot) creator Sam Esmail,” says the Emmy-winning star indicating that the final season is prepping to shoot soon. “He’s so gracious, such a class act and I’ve learned so much from him; we’ll be collaborating for the rest of our lives…the fact that I’ve played two roles, which I gave everything I had to; I never thought I’d get the privilege to portray such characters who were so complex and compelling.” Malek counts a Golden Globe drama actor win for his turn in Bohemian Rhapsody, and he’s nominated at the Screen Actors Guild this weekend for the role, along with the entire ensemble cast of the film. — Anthony D’Alessandro

Starring as Vincent Van Gogh in At Eternity’s Gate, Willem Dafoe achieved a first today, breaking into the Lead Actor race after three career Supporting Actor nominations. And while the actor believes awards categories can sometimes be a bit “iffy” — politically positioned, or subjective — he welcomes the recognition, which might offer the film he loves its best shot at eternity. From painter-director Julian Schnabel, the drama offered Dafoe the “role of a lifetime,” and while his nom was the sole recognition the film received, Dafoe sees it as a “nomination for the film” and for Schnabel. He notes that all of his nominations to date have been for “very independent films,” and while he admitted At Eternity’s Gate hasn’t been “as widely seen as [I’d] like,” with “quite modest” budgets for advertising and distribution, he believes today might mark an inflection point. If this film was able to challenge Dafoe’s “way of seeing,” perhaps it can do so for others. “It’s like the little engine that could,” he reflects, “the smaller film that resonates with people.”

Following the critical and commercial success of Jordan Peele’s Get Out, QC Entertainment producers Sean McKittrick and Ray Mansfield struck gold again with the Spike Lee-directed BlacKkKlansman, which nabbed three Oscar nominations today including Best Picture. “I think we’re at a tumultuous time in history,” Mansfield said. “I think when we come to these points, these types of films resonate. The audience wants something that can speak to what being experienced and start a conversation. If we as filmmakers can somehow make that point but entertain at the same time, we’ve done a service. That’s what we’re striving to do,” said Mansfield on why the film was well-received. Added McKittrick: “Our approach is to first and foremost make an entertaining film and then on top of it, spark a discussion amongst the audience. That’s what excites us the most, to be able to start a conversation about — in particular with Blackkklansman  — race, that things haven’t changed for the better. Those who believe that everything is fine now are living in a world of ignorance. Unfortunately, time has proven that. What’s happening today and what’s happening from the Oval Office proves that.” With back-to-back noms, and finding success at the box office, the producers are hoping that this trend will lead to a change in old industry ideologies. “The primary message is that original films made well have an audience worldwide,” McKittrick said. “People have turned a blind eye to this for so many years, but it’s proven. It was proven with Get Out, it was proven with Black Panther, it was proven with BlackKklansman. These films will travel. Make great original films and they will travel worldwide… Audiences crave original films. It can’t be the same thing over and over again. That message is being expected by audiences and heard by distributors.”

Atsushi Nishijima

“I loved her fearlessness in running a country and being in charge,” said Rachel Weisz on what drew her to play Lady Sarah, Queen Anne’s consigliere in Fox Searchlight’s The Favourite. It’s her second Best Supporting Actress  Oscar nom after 2006’s The Constant Gardener, and she plays the devious Sarah with a nuanced grace that yields a great hilarity. We know that Weisz can feasibly play heavy roles, but watching her pull off a sublime absurdist comedic turn like we’ve never seen from her before is a treat. It’s her second film with Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos (who is also nominated in Best Picture and Director slots for The Favourite) and he gave his former Lobster a great playground in which to play.  “He says very little, and he lets you be very free, but he directs firmly with almost no words. You’re the orchestra, and he’s conducting, creating a great mood and tone,” says Weisz about their shorthand. While Lady Sarah is ultimately kicked out of Anne’s court, in real life, things weren’t so bad. She held unpublished letters (supposedly shameful) over Queen Anne’s head and published a memoir that cleared her from any ill rumors circling during the day. In prepping for the part, yes, Weisz read a couple of biographies on Lady Sarah, but all her inspiration “were in the lines on the page. It was brilliant and we had great writing…It’s a film about women in power, who are using sex to get power.” — Anthony D’Alessandro

Mary Cybulski

Thirty-five years into his career, with remarkable turns in such landmark features as Gosford Park and Withnail & I, Richard E. Grant expected to be on the decline by now. Certainly, he never expected to earn his first Oscar nomination at age 61, with Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?, but that’s exactly what happened today. When Grant heard the news, he “burst into tears.” “As somebody who’s essentially a nominee award virgin at this age, that all this should have happened at this point is not what was written down for me in the scheme of things,” the actor admits about his supporting actor nod. Playing Jack Hock—an aging con artist—opposite Melissa McCarthy’s curmudgeonly author Lee Israel, Grant couldn’t have imagined audiences would resonate with a pair of “failures in life.” For the actor, “the bottom line is, everybody has friendships”—the most meaningful response to the film, being “that it’s made people feel something.” “You can’t buy or bottle that,” he says. “It’s just something that people felt.” — Matt Grobar

Matt Kennedy / Annapurna Pictures

Vice, which counts eight noms including Best picture and Director Adam McKay, was a much harder production for the filmmaker versus that of his Adapted Screenplay Oscar winner The Big Short. “We’re dealing with five-to-six decades of  American history, and trying to portray the rise of a man and his wife, but also the rise of a political party. The two (storylines) go back and forth, and you have to pick which one you’re going to show. The film consisted of 200 locations and 180 speaking parts. It was was a big behemoth. Every actor is playing a role that’s based on a real person, so you have to make sure that they’re not doing a strict impression, but a performance that’s somehow connected to that person.” At one point, McKay had a three-hour plus cut, and there was a back and forth of taking sequences out, only to put them back in. His Sherpa along the way was Vice Oscar-nominated editor Hank Corwin. “There’s an intellectual demand on the script, and Hank made the movie feel impressionistic. We never let it be about academic deeds; it’s about character and family, and Hank’s style is only humanistic. He’s incapable of cutting something in a cold manner and he’s wildly inventive,” adds McKay. — Anthony D’Alessandro

Emily Shur

Oscar-nominated RBG “I’ll Fight” songwriter Diane Warren landed her tenth Oscar nod today and thinks that this year “the nomination is the win.” Today, she celebrates directors Julie Cohen and Betsy West, who “made a great movie,” celebrating the life and career achievements of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Collaborating with Lady Gaga on an original song for 2015 doc The Hunting Ground, as well as a memorable number from A Star Is Born itself (SNL ditty “Why Did You Do That?”), Warren will compete with the pop star in the Original Song category this year, though she wishes Gaga the best. Remarkably, Gaga became a Best Actress contender with her first major film role—which, Warren jokes, is like “A Movie Star Is Born.” Getting into socially active songwriting with her last few efforts, Warren will continue to do so, with the ongoing intention to “write all kinds of songs.” As passionate as ever, the songwriter is equally self-effacing. “My number of Oscar nominations equals my emotional maturity,” she says.  — Matt Grobar

In 2004, The Incredibles won two Oscars — for Sound Editing and Best Animated Feature — and today, some 14 years later, Incredibles 2 made the latter category, proving that Brad Bird’s unique animated universe has lost none of its appeal over this expanse of time. A “strangely personal” film disguised as a “mainstream popcorn feature,” Bird found the sequel to be “kind of a crazy ride,” possessed of “many weird intangibles.” “It picked up literally the second the last film ended, even though there was a 14-year stretch between the movies’ releases,” he explains. Facing the pressures of time and mounting expectations, Bird overcame them, and is on to his next film. He describes it as a musical, pairing him with Michael Giacchino. “It’s a live-action film that has maybe 20 minutes, maybe a little more, of animation in it, of all different kinds,” the director shares. “It scares me, but in a way that excites me.” — Matt Grobar

Of three key collaborators at Disney Animation — producer Clark Spencer and writer-directors Rich Moore and Phil Johnston — one thing can be said for sure: This is a trio with a track record. Winning his first Oscar two years ago for Zootopia (which Moore co-directed and Johnston co-wrote), Spencer is nominated again for Best Animated Feature with Ralph Breaks the Internet, a follow-up to 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph. In the original, the producer saw the opportunity to “bring to life a world that the audience knows but never knew in this certain way” — a world in which video game characters have lives of their own that go on even when consoles are powered down. Venturing to make “only the third sequel in the 95-year history of Disney Animation Studios,” Spencer found in the environment of the Internet the potential to unlock a follow-up worth its salt. Reflecting back on the better part of a decade spent with Moore and Johnston, the producer now can sit back and enjoy the fruits of  a “really great year for animation.”  — Matt Grobar

Mary Poppins Returns

While Marc Shaiman earned his sixth and seventh Oscar nominations with Mary Poppins Returns — again putting him to the verge of EGOT — the composer was more focused today on the achievement of his co-lyricist, Scott Wittman, who received his first. This morning, the pair were in their writers room, hatching a Broadway version of Some Like It Hot. So, on one hand, the results the day brought were simply a “great relief.” “Because we had to write today, and the idea of getting in the room together if we hadn’t [been nominated] was going to be daunting,” Shaiman joked. Meditating on his first Oscar nom, Wittman paid tribute to star Emily Blunt, who stepped bravely into the role of Mary Poppins for the sequel, only to be snubbed by the Academy. “I mean, we were just attached to her kite strings,” he said. As for that EGOT, Shaiman finds the idea titillating, finding real substance in the pursuits that would bring him there. “It’s a contest, and it’s all fun, but to get to work with the people we got to work with, and to get to write our love letter to the first film, and the Sherman Brothers, and Irwin Kostal, the great scorer of the first film, those are truly enriching things to happen,” Shaiman says.  — Matt Grobar

Another first-time nominee, this one for Best Score, composer Ludwig Göransson couldn’t anticipate the “global phenomenon” that Black Panther has become. But as a longtime friend and collaborator of director Ryan Coogler, he had come to recognize that anything Coogler crafted would “blow [his] mind.” Traveling to Africa to “study music and learn a new language,” Göransson’s task was to blend “three different sound worlds” — those of African music, orchestral music and “hip hop modern production” — into a cohesive score. This he achieved, with the help of “incredible musicians in West Africa and Senegal,” submitting an utterly distinctive score “for the whole world to hear.” Now tarting work on The Mandalorian — Jon Favreau’s anticipated Star Wars TV series — the composer now has “the biggest shoes to fill,” given the iconic music brought forth by John Williams “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.” — Matt Grobar

Patrick Lewis/Starpix/Shutterstock

After more than a dozen collaborations with Spike Lee, composer Terence Blanchard has earned his first Oscar nomination for BlacKkKlansman. “Still numb” to the news, Blanchard has found a “great brotherhood” in his creative partnership with Lee during the past 30-plus years, calling his nomination, and the film’s total of six, “the culmination of all of our efforts.” Beginning work on Harriet Tubman drama Harriet — with a handful of operas in various stages of development — Blanchard has felt the degree to which BlacKkKlansmanhas resonated and is grateful for it. “I think it has pushed a button in a lot of peoples’ lives,” the composer says. “I think we tend to think that as a society, we’ve moved past a lot of the ills of this country, And when you see BlacKkKlansman, and get to the end of the film, you start to realize that we haven’t moved far away from that at all.” — Matt Grobar

The Cinema Guild

Hale County This Morning, This Evening director RaMell Ross was still in disbelief while speaking to Deadline about his first Oscar nomination for his debut Feature Documentary. “You could’ve been like ‘the nomination was taken away’ and I would’ve believed you because of how unlikely this is,” Ross quipped about the docu that follows two young African-American men from rural Alabama over the course of five years. “The film is very much about the act of looking,” he continued. “It’s a film that is fundamentally, in dialogue, a different way than most documentaries. So to make it this far, in a more traditional space, is really unlikely and speaks a lot to the way in which the culture is changing.” Talking about how Hale County has found favor with critics.,” Ross said, “I think the film gives people space. A lot of films — not all of them by any means — they manage an audience’s relationship to the character or they’re sentimental in certain ways. … What Hale County was trying to do was make it more complex in which you don’t tell everyone everything but you give them as much meaning as they’re willing and able to decipher.” — Amanda N’Duka

“We didn’t go about it saying we’re going to make the first or we’re going to be groundbreaking, we went about this saying that we wanted to do something positive that shows Africa in a positive light,” Ruth E. Carter said of Black Panther‘s history-making Oscar Best Picture nomination. “We want to make a connection between African Americans and Africa. The fact that I learned after everything was said and done and the movie came out that this would be the first time a Marvel film was nominated for Best Picture, it was the gift that keeps on giving.” The billion-dollar-grossing Disney/Marvel film picked up a whopping seven noms today, including a Best Costume Design nom for Carter. “It opened the door for people to realize these are valuable stories and that they will make money at the box office,” Carter told Deadline after the nominations were read. “Studios can actually put a few more million dollars behind some of these ideas and stories… that is groundbreaking. … “The fact that it changed people’s lives was monumental. It deserves to take its place in this top tier space as the first for Marvel because of what it meant for people around the world.” — Amanda N’Duka

This article was printed from https://deadline.com/2019/01/oscar-nominees-2019-reactions-rami-malek-rachel-weisz-adam-mckay-1202539564/