STARS IN GOOD CHEER AT ACADEMY AWARDS NOMINEES LUNCHEON

Oscar nominees class of 2014Leonardo Di Caprio was peppered with questions about the salty stuff in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Cate Blanchett pretended not to know that she’s been nominated for Oscars six times, and Jonah Hill declared that he’d paint Martin Scorsese’s house if it meant the chance to work for his favorite filmmaker again.  Those were among the stand-out moments from interviews given as guests congregated at today’s 86th Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon.

Always a favorite event on the awards season calendar — where nominees can chum around with each other sans pressure, join for a “class photo” on risers set up in the grand ballroom of the Beverly Hilton Hotel, and go home with a certificate and a commemmorative sweatshirt — the luncheon saw stars and filmmakers in great spirits.

Matthew McConaughey happily noted that he’s been enjoying this Oscar season, his first as a nominee, as much as possible, aware that even if he’s nominated again in the future “There’s only one first time.”  The “Dallas Buyers Club” Best Actor nominee pointed out that he had chosen to get out there and support the film as much as he possibly could, so the fact it was recognized with six Oscar nominations was particularly rewarding.

(Can one draw a correlation between the star working hard to support a film and its being recognized?  Most certainly yes.)

McConaughey’s cast mate, Best Supporting Actor nominee Jared Leto was asked about the fact his mom has been seen accompanying him to several events this season — and warmed to the question immediately.  “We were born very poor, you know, in very humble surroundings. And my mother always wanted to do something better with her life. She wanted something better for her children, and she was a dreamer. She was a worker…So I think the biggest inspiration she taught me was to dream, and then do the work that it takes to make dreams a reality.  So it’s been fun to bring her around, and you get these opportunities to stand up in places like this and say something…Of course, I could spend every opportunity at every event thanking my mother.  She’s the best.”

Di Caprio was quizzed about the immorality of his “The Wolf of Wall Street” character, a ruthless stock scammer who becomes an addict, uses prostitutes and seems to, as Di Caprio himself put it, have “no moral compass.”

Nominated for Best Actor in the film (which is up for Best Picture as well), Di Caprio admitted, “There’s a lot of disgusting behavior in this movie [but] it was very much a function of this culture we wanted to accurately portray.”

According to him, Best Director nominee Martin Scorsese, “just goes in and says,  ‘I’m not going to judge these characters.  I’m going to portray them for what they are.’  And he purposely didn’t cut away from the victims of this kind of behavior…We kind of looked at it like a giant Hieronymous Bosch painting — pure debauchery,” he added, referring to the Dutch artist who dealt in themes of immorality with fantastical images.  “Put in the context of the kind of movie we wanted to make, and that was very much a cautionary tale, makes it okay.”

Did he really watch with his parents, as had been said, he was asked.  “That was very much just a joke,” answered Di Caprio.

Jonah Hill was not joking when it came to his feelings about being paid scale for his role in “The Wolf of Wall Street” and whether he’d negotiate a better deal if he did another film with Martin Scorsese.  “I wouldn’t care, honestly,” replied the Best Supporting Actor nominee with a laugh.  “Martin Scorsese is my favorite filmmaker of all time.  ‘Goodfellas’ was the reason I want to make movies, spend my life making movies, dedicate my life to that.  The money is never really a concern to work with someone like Martin Scorsese.  I would paint his house if I needed to.”

Bradley Cooper, a Best Supporting Actor nominee for “American Hustle,” was asked if he planned to bring a lucky trinket to the Oscars.  “Hm.  I’ll have to think about that,” he said.  “Any suggestions?”  The room broke into laughter when the female reporter came back with, “Yes, some women would like to.”

Cate Blanchett may well have been relieved not to be asked about Woody Allen and his current personal traumas for a change.  She obviously enjoyed talking about the fashionable clothes she wore in “Blue Jasmine” with E! Online.  “They all had to go back immediately at midnight.”  Even the Chanel jacket?  “Everything, yeah.  I think the entire costume budget was less than the Hermes bag” — which, of course, was borrowed.

Of her Best Actress nomination, the six-time nominee and 1-time winner (“The Aviator”) confessed, “This one certainly took me by surprise.”

“American Hustle’s” Amy Adams, looking ravishing in red, talked about her style approach and how sometimes in the past, her gowns had been more a reflection of a character than of Amy herself.  “This year when I’m on the red carpet, I guarantee I will be wearing a dress that I would wear — not a character.”   We’ll see!

“12 Years a Slave” nominee Lupita Nyong’o looked exquisite and acted poised today, not at all like an actress brand new to the awards season circus.  She told press “I couldn’t have dreamed this up.  It’s been an adventure, a very exciting one — a very rewarding one, and a very revealing one as well.”

Winners will be decided when the 86th annual Academy Awards are doled out March 2nd.<\