Tag Archives: Alexander Payne

French F-Bombs! Jolie-ing! Whiskey! Star Talk Backstage at the 84th Academy Awards

Jean Dujardin confessed to dropping the French F-word, Meryl Streep divulged her plans for imbibing, Octavia Spencer admitted her fears and Christopher Plummer copped to being a naughty boy — backstage at last night’s 84th Academy Awards.

The Best Actor winner for “The Artist” answered a lot of questions in rapid fire French.  He said, through his translator, that he has a few ideas he wants to develop for movies he would do here in America.  He also let us know that his canine compatriot, Uggie, had already gone to bed.  But the chatter stopped abruptly when reporter Joal Ryan asked him if he had, in fact, let loose with the French equivalent to the F-bomb during that last outburst of his acceptance speech.  He weighed his translator’s explanation a moment, and then said, with the look of a guilty little boy, “Ah.  Yes.  Sorry.”

Will leg flashing become the next hot pose?  Instantly dubbed “Jolie-ing” (in the spirit of Tebowing and Bradying) backstage at the Oscars, it’s the stance taken by Oscar presenter Angelina Jolie to show off her glorious gam through the slit-up-to-there of her black gown.  (Fierce or fatuous?  You decide.)  It was when the three cowriters of George Clooney’s “The Descendants” — Jim Rash and Nat Faxon (alumni of The Groundlings) and director Alexander Payne — lined up on stage imitating Angelina that the pose burst into the pop culture humor space.  Bur writer/actor Rash (a.k.a. the guy from “Community”) insisted backstage that they had no intention of belittling the movie sex goddess.  “It was a loving tribute:  ‘Oh, she’s standing great.  We’ll stand like that, too.'”  The trio agreed:  “She’s supremely hot.”

Rash was asked whether he thought his winning an Oscar would help “Community” survive.  He hopes so.  “I guess I should take this into their offices,” he noted, holding up his statuette as he talked about the brass at NBC.  “It’s good to let people know where they stand with you.  It’s a good accoutrement to any outfit.”

Best Supporting Actress for “The Help,” Octavia Spencer, was asked about what was going through her mind as she was making her way up the stairs to the stage — while receiving a standing ovation from the Hollywood luminaries in the theater.

“Really and truly, I was just trying not to fall down, because I had an incident where I fell at an awards show,” she admitted.

Asked about what she thinks her win will mean to aspiring young actresses of color, Octavia said, “I hope it’s a hallmark of ‘More’ for young aspiring actresses of color — and by color I don’t just mean African American.  I mean Indian, Native American, Latin American, Asian American.   I hope in some way I can be a sort of beacon of hope.  Especially because I’m not a typical Hollywood beauty,” added the amply-upholstered actress.  She paused a moment, then joked, “You guys are supposed to go, ‘Oh, no — you ARE!’  Crickets, guys.  Work with me here.  Work with me!”

But seriously, “I believe you have to believe in yourself and you have to work very hard — and never think you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread, because I promise you, there would be Viola Davises and Jessica Chastains and Emma Stones who ARE the best thing since sliced bread.  So, take it seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously.”

Spencer hopes to expand beyond acting in her career.  “I want to be a producer.  I want to be an activist.  I want to be proactive in bringing about work for men, women, boys and girls — anyone who is good at what they do and deserves a shot at it,” she said.  “I want to have a presence behind the cameras and in front of them, to be a jack of all trades and be decent at them.”
Spencer was asked about the recent L.A. Times article regarding the movie Academy’s membership — as having an average age of 62 with a heavy majority of white men.  What did she think of that?

She hemmed and hawed a little, saying, “I haven’t really thought about it.”

Did she have any thoughts on the Academy being proactive to geta more diverse membership?

Spencer drew a breath, then said, “I can’t tell the Academy what to do, honey.  They just gave me an Oscar.  They continue to do what they do.  I really don’t know.  I have no wisdom there….I’m sorry to cut you off, ma’am, but I saw where you were going and I didn’t want to get on that bus, no pun intended.”

Asked by a military reporter about her advice to new recruits for overcoming their fears, she said, “I haven’t really overcome my fears.  I’m scared to death right now.”  She added, “I don’t take what men and women in the military do lightly.  I’ve not served in that capacity, so I would not offer advice.”  But she did offer advice from Emerson:  “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Chrisopher Plummer, who thanked his “long-suffering wife Elaine, who deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for coming to my rescue every day of my life” in his acceptance speech as Best Supporting Actor for “Beginnings,”  was asked to elaborate backstage.   “Of course I’m a naughty boy,” he let us know.  “I’ve been bad all my life.   She puts me in line.  It’s extraordinary.  She rescues me every day of my life — what could be clearer?”

Asked about Hollywood’s propensity for awarding straight actors for playing gay roles, and whether there’s a double standard involved,  Plummer opined that no,  “I think actors are universally the same, gay or straight.  A gay actor can play a straight guy, a straight actor can play a gay guy.  We’re actors.  It cancels out all sexual differences and misunderstandings of sexual differences.”

Meryl Streep, in an expansive mood, let the press know that she doesn’t take her Oscar attention for granted by any means (even after three wins out of 17 nominations).  When a reporter asked her if she was going to give Katharine Hepburn a run for her money, Meryl asked, “Did she have more?”

“Four” said the reporter.

“Oh, well,” she answered with a dismissive flick of the wrist.  (She’s such a good actress, one could almost believe she didn’t know Hepburn’s Oscar total.)

The Best Actress Oscar winner for “The Iron Lady” responded  more seriously when was asked about juggling her career and family life.  She said, “You can ask every working woman that question and get a million different answers, because it’s the juggle and the challenge that we all have.  But honestly, in my life, in the arts, I don’t go to work every day, so my day has been more flexible than other working women.  Even when I was young and broke, I was only working, ever, for four months at a time, and then I was unemployed.  My children never knew when I was going to be home, which was very valuable.”
After the laughter died down, she went on, “It’s an ongoing struggle — women have to do it all.  The more flexible work becomes, the more engaged dads become, the better.”

Meryl was asked whether she’d have a couple whiskeys in the tradition of real-life “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher, to celebrate winning her third Oscar.
“I’m going to start with a couple,” she said.

Movies For Grownups Awards Achieving Higher Prominence

Sharon Stone plants one on Kathy Griffin

This week’s 2012 AARP Movies for Grownups Awards brought out many of Hollywood’s brightest luminaries — including Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Martin Scorsese, Kenneth Branagh, Janet McTeer, Alexander Payne and still hot Sharon Stone — adding to the elegant event’s distinction as an Awards Season Must.  As the New York Times put it, it seems that “the Movies for Grownups had finally, well, grown up.”

We applaud AARP’s persistent efforts toward breaking through the wall of ageism.  Making those efforts in the ageism capital of the world — Hollywood — is particularly noteworthy.  Here, ageism is not only accepted, it’s not only embraced, it is clung to with a ferocity that speaks of barely-hidden terror.  (Think Demi Moore.)  However, with the graying of the Baby Boom generation and other factors making moviegoers of age 50 and up increasingly important to box office revenue, more filmmakers and stars will be reaching out to the mature crowd.  Next, we’d like to see Movies for Grownups on television.

Speaking of the TV side, the standard ratings classifications are archaic statistically — like using a mortar and pestle when you have a Cuisinart, with today’s technology offering far more sophisticated and meaningful data crunching capabilities.  (David Poltrack, Chief Research Officer of CBS Corp. has long been trying to educate people about this.)  And yet, we continue to see the phrase “the coveted 18-49 demographic” over and over and over again.  (Lazy TV writers really should come up with at least one or two different adjectives besides “coveted.”)  Networks and media continue to quote only the ratings for viewers under age 50.  Yet the 55-plus audience reportedly reached 33 per cent of the adult population last year.  In 2015, it’s expected to reach 36 per cent.  That’s a heck of a lot of ignoring.

Funny Lady Mary Birdsong Has the Right Stuff for ‘Descendants’ Drama, Too

Mary Birdsong

Funny lady Mary Birdsong just finished her first guesting on “Raising Hope,” playing the mayor of the town inhabited by the hapless Chance family – a city official who might have a future on the show.

“On the outside, she is very Sarah Palin-esque adorable.  She could have been a runner up in a beauty contest.  She’s all smiles, knows what to say, wears great little suits from Talbots.  But she really likes to party.  A weekend warrior.  She’s kept it in control, she is a good mayor, trying to do a good job.  But she’s of course a drunk and a loose woman…I feel like I’ve monopolized the market on slutty drunks,” Birdsong says.

But that’s not a bad thing.  She explains, “The women who play bitches will give you the shirt off their backs; it’s the ingénues have to watch out for.”
Birdsong is also being widely seen now in George Clooney’s “The Descendants,” for which she gives director Alexander Payne credit.  “To cast a comedic actress, someone like me who is known for sketch comedy?  It’s a real testament to Alexander Payne’s conviction of his own vision.  That goes for Rob Huebel, too,” she notes of the “Descendants” actor and Upright Citizens Brigade alumnus.

A veteran of the audition process and knowledgeable about the prevailing wisdom in actor circles, she tells us, “It toughens you up, gives you a sense of gallows humor.”  For instance, when she was asked to meet Payne, she thought, “‘Okay, you guys are having fun with this crazy joke?’”  One gets so jaded, according to her, “When they say something complimentary, you know you’re never going to hear from them again — that’s the kiss of death!  It’s like, ‘You are so talented.’  ‘Oh, yeah?  You know what?  $#@! you!’”

But cast her, Payne did — and to the film’s benefit.