Wednesday 9th January 2013: Arrived in LA in time to have dinner at a quaint Santa Monica Italian restaurant, Bruno’s, with UKscreen’s owner and LA correspondent, Sam Asi, one of the eighty five members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organisation that votes for and hands out the Golden Globes, the second most significant film award ceremony of a packed awards season.
Thursday 10th January 2013:
The Oscar nominations published, prompting much discussion about how smaller films such as Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild have beaten pre-season favourites such as Argo, Zero Dark Thirty and Les Miserables to the Best Director shortlist.
Shopping – in unseasonably chilly weather. This is the life – at least there’s no snow like back home in London.
Friday 11th January 2013:
A preview screening of an Israeli documentary, The Gatekeepers, that’s just been nominated for an Oscar in the Best Documentary category.
Then on to the Beverly Hills hotel for the first of a string of pre-Globes parties thrown by studios to honour their nominees. Before joining DreamWorks executives to celebrate those involved in Lincoln, it seemed like a good idea to visit the men’s room. This was clearly not an original idea; a handful of HFPA members and other party guests were already there. On spotting Yoshiki – the Japanese composer of the Golden Globes theme – an HFPA member is unclear about public toilet protocol; he’s torn between returning from the urinal to shake Yoshiki’s hand or whether to continue with Plan A. In the end, he runs back, offers his hand, thinks twice and moves in for a hug.
At the party, Sam excitedly tells Steven Spielberg that The Gatekeepers presents Israel’s secret service as brutal. “I’ve been vindicated,” the director exclaimed, excitedly; he’d previously been criticised by some lobby groups for suggesting this in his film Munich. Others at the party included the film’s key cast; Daniel Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field. Some HFPA members, for whom meeting such people is a daily occurrence still flocked around the talent to take photographs. George from Egypt wanted a photograph of himself with Spielberg holding his newspaper. When Day-Lewis went to leave, his publicist shouted “We’re not doing anything” as she ushered him out, past fans trying to take photos. “She’s SO dramatic!” laughed Spielberg’s assistant. Lincoln’s screenwriter Tony Kushner was wearing a badge featuring the eponymous president’s face on his lapel. “Why did you present Steven Spielberg with a 450 page screenplay?” I asked him. “It was 497 pages,” he corrected me proudly.
One slightly embarrasing moment was when I spotted someone I recognised behind Sam. “That’s one of the Fannings,” I whispered. “But I’m not sure which one.” “Dakota,” she shouted over the hubub. Other celebrities popping or a drink included The West Wing’s Allison Janney, Hayden Panettiere from Heroes, who’s nominated at the Globes for her role in Nashville, and former Python Eric Idle. When some of his friends had left, making space on the end of the crescent-shaped bench around his table, I sat down and asked him something I’d wanted to know ever since watching A Liar’s Autobiography at the London Film Festival. “Why was he the only member of Monty Python not to take part?” I’d wondered. “They were going to sell it as a Python film and it’s not. It’s Graham [Chapman]’s film.” I pointed out that the press notes made it quite clear that it was indeed Graham’s film and not a Python one. “You’ve seen it? It’s crap, isn’t it?” Ah. So that’s why he didn’t do it. He didn’t think it would turn out well? “I didn’t think it would be crap. But I’m not upset that it turned out to be crap.” As he spoke, Idle was sliding along the bench. I’d thought he was trying to get closer so that we could have a better conversation above the noise, until he told me, “I just want to go and talk to Tony Kushner.” That told me.
Saturday 12th January 2013:
The next to honour their nominees were the Weinstein brothers, Harvey and Bob. At the Mr C hotel in Beverly Hills, they were promoting six fims; Django Unchained, Silver Linings Playbook, The Master, Quartet and the foreign language nominees Untouchable (or as it’s inexplicably called in the US, The Intouchables) and Kon-Tiki. The Weinstein Company honoured five of them with their names sparkling on the side of champagne bottles – I can imagine only that “Silver Linings Playbook” didn’t fit on a bottle. The film featured strongly at the party though, with stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence and director David O Russell working the room. I told O Russell how I loved the fact that whenever I’d seen him out and about, however smartly he was dressed – and today was no exception to this – he wore trainers. He paused for a moment. “Sneakers?” I clarified. “That’s right,” he continued, thoughtfully. “Sneakers. But you say trainers, because you’re from London.” How great would it be if he puts that line in a film? He said he’d be wearing proper shoes for the Golden Globes tomorrow though. Cooper was particularly gracious as he stopped, smiled and put his arm around everyone who approached him to have their photo taken with him. Personally, there’d come a time where I’d feel like invoking the tactics of Daniel Day-Lewis’s publicist. Christoph Waltz from Django Unchained also seemed to spend more time posing for photos with fans than talking to his friends. Sam had a laugh with The Master’s Joaquin Phoenix, while his co-star turned to me, hand out-stretched, and said “Hi, I’m Amy.” “I know who you are!” I laughed. I told her I preferred her in Trouble with the Curve and asked about her upcoming role as Lois Lane. She’s met Margot Kidder. There were some people speaking in a foreign language that I didn’t understand, which ruled out them being from French film Untouchable, but they could have been from Norway’s Kon-Tiki. Or they might just have been friends of Hollywood Foreign Press Association members.
The talent had to leave the party quite early, to get to the LA Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards, but that was no problem for us – we had to leave anyway – there was another party to get to.
At the party Universal hosted at the exclusive Spago in Beverly Hills, in honour of the Les Miserables nominees, Sam and I were joined by Tess Hofmann, UKscreen’s newest LA-based writer. The aforementioned awards ceremony meant that it was a while before many of the film’s stars turned up, although Eddie Redmayne could be seen enjoying dinner. As with most of these parties, in addition to being presented with a drink on arrival and being offered an almost constant stream of hors d’oeuvres on trays by highly attentive staff, there was also a generous buffet, but as with most of these parties, if you’re not quick enough to get a table, you have to eat standing up. Eddie had not arrived early just to get a table; tables are reserved for the celebrities. At the next table to him was Catherine Zeta Jones. I was very excited when Amanda Seyfried walked up to me, of her own volition. “Where are the bathrooms?” she asked. Later, Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway turned up; he received the same treatment as Bradley Cooper yesterday but she managed to shake off some of the attention by retreating to the back of the party. I was disappointed that being a guest at such an event, rather than being there in my capacity as a member of the press, I couldn’t have a good enough camera with me to try to join in. I had a go on my phone, but it’s frustrating to have such fantastic photo opportunities and for them to go to waste. Sam was, meanwhile, chatting to Universal’s most senior executives, including the chairman Ron Meyer, his deputy and his chief executive.
Later, I noticed the British actor Jason Isaacs sitting at the next table to us. I felt the urge to approach him and, in line with a running feature on Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode’s BBC Radio 5live film show, say “Hello Jason Isaacs.” When most of his friends sloped off, leaving him looking somewhat lonely, I approached him. He watched me with a degree of apprehension. When I offered him my hand and uttered the phrase, it took just a beat for the penny to drop and he burst out laughing. We chatted about how although his show Awake wasn’t recommissioned for a second season, he has decided to stay in Los Angeles, as his children are settled in school. He said he’s now looking for more TV work in LA, as it’s better than flying around the world doing films, having to leave his family behind. I hope my next question didn’t sound too judgmental – I asked what he was doing at the Les Miserables party. It turns out he was good friends with one of the film’s producers, Debra Hayward, who was still sitting at the table, waiting for him to stop talking to me. I returned to my table.
It got to a point when our group looked around this cavernous restaurant and noticed that not only were there no more guests around but the floors had already been swept. We headed outside, where the valets had already brought our cars back. That seemed like such good service that even though I’m not usually too enthused about tipping – it’s their job after all – I was fumbling around in my pocket for what Americans call “a single.” By the time I turned back to the valets, they’d already run off home.
Sunday 13th January 2013:
The big day has arrived. Having not worn my tuxedo since last year’s Globes, I was horrified to find that I couldn’t get into the trousers. But I had no choice. I just wouldn’t be able to eat anything. It was difficult enough just sitting down in the car. Then there was the bow-tie issue – I’d forgotten how the Velcro fastening came unstuck last year, so I had to reach for a stapler.
As we approached the Beverly Hilton hotel, we were met first by the religious zealots, urging us to flee to our salvation in the opposite direction from the hotel. Next, we were caught in a queue for the FBI checkpoint. I’d chosen the smartest hire car I could from the depot, but the brand new white Chevrolet Cruze just looked out of place alongside lines of black stretched Lincoln Towncars and the like. Once the bottom of the car and the boot had been checked, we drove past lines of screaming fans who could not possibly have hoped to see who was inside any car worth seeing inside, before driving onto the red carpet, where the valets took the car away.
After airport-style security checks, it was onto the red carpet proper, where marshals did their best to speed up the passage of guests towards the entrance – no mean feat when everyone wants to savour the moment, taking photos of themselves, each other, the celebrities and – in my case – the journalists with whom I’d normally be squashed in. At the entrance, we were presented with our own personal mini-Moet champagne bottles before one last security check.
Sitting on the second tier of tables with Sam, I had a dinner made up primarily of words I’d never heard of, the remnants of which were whisked away by the waiting staff just in time for the awards to begin. The hostesses, comic actresses Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, began by remarking that this was one of those few occasions when the beautiful people of film rubbed shoulders with the rat-faced people of television. Then, in a nod to the controversial tenure of their predecessor Ricky Gervais, they noted that they weren’t going to get on the wrong side of the HFPA…as that would mean they’d have to come back and host twice more.
In amongst the awards – some of which were met with a satisfied nod by Sam, others by frustrated shock – each of the films nominated for the Best Motion Picture categories was introduced by either a cast member someone with relevance to the film. Django Unchained was introduced by its star Jamie Foxx, who pointedly observed that it was nominated for Best Drama, Best Director, Best Screenplay and had two cast members up for Best Supporting Actor – the subtext, possibly, being that he was just about the only person involved in the film not to have been nominated for anything.
The man to introduce Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln was introduced as “The former President of the United States, Bill Clinton.” “I wonder which comedian will be playing him,” I thought to myself. It couldn’t have been Will Ferrell, as he’d already introduced another film. I looked up to see that it was indeed the former President of the United States, Bill Clinton, himself. This was completely unexpected – even HFPA members had not known about his booking. His surprise arrival solicited the first of three standing ovations of the night. In his introduction, he commented that Spielberg’s film should be a guide to future presidents. As he left the stage, Poehler returned. “What an exciting special guest,” she exclaimed. “That was Hillary Clinton’s husband!”
Another special guest, introducing Argo alongside co-star John Goodman, was Tony Mendez – the former CIA agent, played by director Ben Affleck, who concocted the audacious plan to save American hostages from Iran, as portrayed in the film.
As is often the case with such ceremonies, the awards themselves, and of course the acceptance speeches, gave us many of the highlights of the show. The hostesses had previously remarked that in Les Miserables, Anne Hathaway was better than she’d been since she hosted the Oscars with James Franco – and indeed this improvement was recognised by the HFPA as, in one of the most predicted categories, she won the Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture trophy. As she clasped it close to her chest, she thanked the voters for what she described as a “blunt object to use as a weapon against self doubt.” Something tells me she’d had time to prepare that one.
Damian Lewis described his Golden Globe for the Best Actor in a TV Drama Series for Homeland as “a great perk after a wonderful journey.”
The Best Actress in a Motion Picture Comedy or Musical, Jennifer Lawrence from Silver Linings Playbook, was one of the few awards to go to films from The Weinstein Company stable. “Harvey, thanks for killing whoever you had to kill to get me up here,” she joked. At least I think it was a joke. Another victory for the Weinsteins was Quentin Tarantino’s win for writing Django Unchained. As he thanked the cast who brought his screenplay to life, he insisted, “This is a surprise. And I’m happy to be surprised.” Many HFPA members were also surprised, having expected this category to be be won by Lincoln’s writer, Tony Kushner.The Austrian director Michael Haneke, overlooked in most categories at the Globes, collected only the prize for the Best Foreign Language Film, for his French drama Amour. He noted that he was gratified to receive the trophy from his fellow Austrian, the former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Having lost out to Haneke for a directing nomination at the Oscars, Ben Affleck was gracious in his acceptance of the Golden Globe for directing, making the Oscar category all the more interesting to watch.
Perhaps the most entertaining acceptance speech of the night was Adele, who – treasuring her Golden Globe for the title song from Skyfall – screamed in her best north London accent “Oh my God! Oh my God, it’s amazing.” She told the guests that she and her friend had only gone for a night out after having babies. “We’ve been pissing ourselves laughing all night.”
During the commercial breaks in the TV broadcast of the ceremony, the nominees rise from their seats, to chat, to visit the rest rooms or go to the bar. And for the guests on the second tier, the star-spotting potential is second to none. It was fun to note some of the seating arrangements, with the most unlikely of names sharing the same tables. American comic actor Jonah Hill, part of the cast of Django Unchained, was sitting across from Britain’s Eddie Redmayne, from Les Miserables, for example.
For every winner, there are four losers, and at certain points in the proceedings, it was interesting seeing the not-so-lucky nominees dragging themselves up the stairs, heads hung low, some heading for the bar, others heading home.
Before the biggest awards of the night came the Cecil B De Mille, life achievement award. It was previously announced that it would go to Jodie Foster, who raised a few eyebrows with her speech. She started off in an upbeat mood, remarking that this was the best party of the year, before getting serious, sarcastically teasing the audience – and her agent – by suggesting that she was about to disclose a long-held secret, before revealing that what she wanted to share was that “I’m single.” But what was to follow was in all but a blatant admission of her much discussed homosexuality. She remarked that she came out years ago – to her family and friends, but not to the public, as it’s no-one else’s business. Her speech became a rant, demanding privacy for celebrities – something that was, of course, met with a warm response from her fellow celebrities – not so warmly by the gathered journalists who have written so much copy about her personal life over the years. This simply didn’t sound like the kind of speech one might accept from someone being honoured for her body of work as an actress, producer and director. Not a mention of a single one of her films – or the colleagues who’d helped her produce them. What followed was even more peculiar – it sounded like she was announcing her retirement – this could be her last time on the stage, she suggested – she’d continue telling stories, but “holding a different talking stick,” apparently.
Whatever she meant, however gracious her speech, it solicited the second standing ovation of the night, the third of which went to Ben Affleck and his team when Argo was announced as the big winner of the night – Best Motion Picture, Drama. However deserving, I always wonder about standing ovations – are they truly out of respect for those who prompt them, or are they simply because people at the front stand up so everyone behind them has to do likewise, or they won’t be able to see anything?
With the awards handed out, a night of partying awaited all those still up for it, most of them hosted by a studio, TV network or production house that had some celebrating or commiserating to do – often both.
Our first stop was The Weinstein Company’s party – we found ourselves marching down the corridor alongside Bob Weinstein himself. “Congratulations on your wins,” remarked Sam. “It was only a couple,” he harrumphed, clearly disappointed that Django Unchained and Silver Linings Playbook missed out in most of their categories. It’ll be interesting to see whether HFPA members get invites to next year’s parties; after the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Drama went to The Social Network over The King’s Speech two years ago, the Association was largely shunned by the Weinsteins for a year.
The party didn’t feel like a loser’s party though. Spirits seemed high as Sam congratulated Rachel Weisz or her nomination for Best Actress in a Drama for the small British film The Deep Blue Sea, remarking that he’d urged his colleagues to check out the movie. I pointed out that I’d urged Sam to watch it when I first saw the film at the London Film Festival back in 2011. As she was thanking us both, Daniel Craig came to take her away – perhaps he was getting jealous, seeing her chatting to two such dashing specimens. Before moving on, I took a call from former colleagues at BBC Radio 5live’s Up All Night programme while Sam chatted to Django Unchained cast members, including Jamie Foxx and Jonah Hill. I tried to snap Christoph Waltz with her trophy, but again my phone let me down as a camera. It was also interesting to note that over in the corner, Leonardo DiCaprio was smoking – a cigarette that glowed green at the end. I guess he’s giving up.
At the Universal party, the studio’s chairman Ron Meyer expressed his delight to Sam that Les Miserables had won the Best Picture Musical or Comedy. “I can’t tell you how much this means to us.” Unable to reach the cast through the throng of fans, Sam joined some of the studio’s publicists in dancing to a live performance of the British girl-band The Saturdays.
The next party was hosted by Warner Brothers and In Style magazine. There, Sam’s goal was to congratulate Ben Affleck, who was well protected by security who were “trying to move people on.” But the studio’s head of marketing pulled Sam in, where he was greeted by an ecstatic Affleck with a hug, prompting the studio’s photographer to jump in and snap them together.
After another quick visit to the Weinstein party, where The Good Wife’s Archie Panjabi told us her nomination for Best Supporting Actress on TV had changed her life and Damian Lewis managed to escape my camera-phone when I approached him just as he was leaving, we headed to the Fox party on the roof of the neighbouring department store car-park. Outside, Sam chatted to Freida Pinto, while her former co-star and current squeeze turned to me. “Hi, I’m Dev.” “I know who you are!” I joked, telling him that my meeting with Amy Adams had started similarly. Last year, Kelly Macdonald also introduced herself to me. I like humility in a star.
The final stop of the night was the HBO party, where many TV shows were being celebrated. I managed to catch up with the versatile British actor Toby Jones, who’d missed out on the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a made-for-TV movie, The Girl, in which he was a less than sympathetic Hitchcock. “It was great just to be nominated,” he insisted, and for the first time in my life, I actually believed the person telling me this.
As the time approached 1am, things were starting to wind down. Long before, couples with invites to parties could be heard outside looking in and shrugging their shoulders. “It’s just another bunch of people and another bunch of food.” Sam fell into this category. This is his life. For me, it’s a once a year experience – with no guarantee that I’ll ever get it again – so I was a little less keen to rush off than him. But once they start clearly the desserts away, you know it’s time to dig out the valet ticket.
Waiting for the car, it struck me how notable it was how much closer Sam had become to the world’s biggest stars since I first saw him interacting with them two years ago. Back then, it was as if they were being polite as they wanted to win awards. This time, they genuinely seem to regard him as a friend. That said, it does all seem just a little disingenuously political, when you’re congratulating one team and commiserating with another, when it’s your own vote that they’re celebrating or commiserating. Welcome to Hollywood.
Back at the apartment, the biggest relief of the night was finally to undo my trousers. It was only once I got back that I realised how little I’d eaten all night. Party after party of free food, free drink – and in the case of the Warners party, free chocolate and cigarettes – and for the first time, almost certainly because of my expanding waistline, I hadn’t had the appetite to make the most of it.
Monday 14th January 2013:
Now, you might think that with the Golden Globes out of the way for another year, there’d be a bit of a lull in the social calendar of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, but not at all. The first stop of the day was a screening of the new Jennifer Lopez film, Parker – well, it’s a Jason Statham film really, but J Lo seems to be getting the top billing. As we left the screening room, we were surprised to see Eddie Redmayne sitting on a couch in the lobby. I congratulated him on Les Miserables (like he cares what I think!) and asked if I could take his photo for my cousin back home. He obliged, which was very good of him, out of the context of a public engagement.
Next it was off to the world premiere of The Last Stand, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first film back in a lead role since taking time off to govern the USA’s biggest and most populous state. Even though it was a world premiere, this had none of the glamour of yesterday’s big event. The journalists didn’t get to walk down the red carpet and the organisers didn’t even provide free parking – this was painful for me – I don’t pay for parking. In fact, were it not for the line of black limousines outside the front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (yes, it is spelt that way), you would never have even known it was a premiere. OK, so Neal McDonough from Desperate Housewives, Justified and nine projects listed as up-and-coming on IMDB was sitting right in front of us, but celebrities of this level are seen around and about fairly regularly anyway.
So then the fun started – the after party. Had I known the food at the Roosevelt Hotel across the road was going to be so good, I would not have filled myself up with the free popcorn. Salmon, tortellini, potatoes and more – all labelled in the kind of posh way fancy restaurants do to alienate anyone who can’t afford their food. The last time I was in this vast entertaining space was for a party to celebrate the 500th anniversary of The Simpsons, when it was turned into a casino, with guests losing hundreds of fake dollars at roulette, blackjack and poker tables – with giant Simpsons characters wandering around between tables, dancing and having their photos taken with revellers. While the treatment was A-list, celebrities were few and far between, although I did spot Neal McDonough again.
Tuesday 15th January 2013:
I gave Sam some time off from me to get back to the real work of interviewing film-makers. He took Tess to speak to the director of The Gatekeepers, where despite much heated discussion about the film over the past few days, to his credit, he put some of my questions to him. Next on his list were the cast of Parker: Jennifer Lopez and Jason Statham.
During this time, I was meeting for lunch a friend, Jeff, who has been so close to making it big in TV for years, but each time he nearly makes it, he seems to get messed about by executives, minor celebrities who think too much of themselves and even supposed colleagues. Welcome to the other end of Hollywood.
After going for the all important walk around Runyon Canyon – a must for every visit to Los Angeles – I managed to get shots for all three of my current photographic projects on the way back to Sam’s before we headed back to Hollywood, where at the Jar club, DreamWorks were throwing a drinks party to honour some of their upcoming animations, not that you’d have known it. There were no posters, no leaflets, no models of characters, no executives working the room – just more people standing around drinking interesting fruity cocktails and the like, while munching on whatever food was brought round; mushroom croissants and grilled cheese sandwiches among other things – the parties go on, but the glamour fades. There didn’t appear to be any celebrities there – but with animated films, I suppose it’s more difficult to tell – I could have been standing right next to the person who voiced a character or drew its legs? We ended up having a lengthy chat about Oscar prospects with someone I recognised but couldn’t place. When he moved on, Sam told me it was Steve Gaydos, the executive editor of Variety Magazine, the industry bible. Suddenly, I was all the more gratified that he was interested to hear my Oscar picks. “If not Lincoln, what will win best picture?” he’d asked me. “Les Miserables,” I suggested, confidently, fingers crossed behind my back.
Then it was off to the Fox studio lot to see what turns out to be the only press screening of Mark Wahlberg’s political crime thriller Broken City. Sam and I happened to be sitting in front of the eminent critic and historian Leonard Maltin. I wanted to tug excitedly on Sam’s arm to ask “Have you seen who’s behind us?” but having seem him chatting and joking with the likes of Spielberg, Tarantino, the Weinsteins and so on, I didn’t think he’d be that excited. “Do you know when this film comes out?” I asked Sam. “Friday!” came a response from behind us, inviting us into a conversation. “I’m Leonard,” he said, offering his hand. “I know who you are,” I replied for the umpteenth time of the trip. There followed an interesting industry conversation about studios who make it hard for critics to see the poor films that they release early in the year – that is to say those that have no hope for awards – popularly known here as “January releases.” It was somehow more satisfying talking to a fellow critic than talking to many of the celebrities over the past few days. We spoke Oscars, of course, and most specifically the controversial Best Director nominations. He wasn’t upset that Tom Hooper wasn’t nominated for Les Miserables – he was not a fan. But he was more concerned, like many other commentators, that Ben Affleck had missed out. “Who shouldn’t have been nominated, so that Ben Affleck could have been?” I asked. He tried to dodge the question, but failed, telling us how he hadn’t been moved by Beasts of the Southern Wild and had been depressed by Amour. He and his wife Alice had recently nursed her mother through dementia. “Why would you want to relive that?” he asked. The lights went down and Leonard and his wife mentioned how nice it had been to meet us and talk to us.
The film was indeed a “January release.”