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APRIL 14, 2021 | OSCAR NOMINEES

TH E MOST HONOR E D DOCU M E NTARY OF TH E YEAR WINNER

WINNER

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BEST DOCUMENTARY

2 IDA DOCUMENTARY

BEST DOCUMENTARY

GOTHAM AWARDS

BEST DIRECTOR

A W A R D S

INCLUDING

WINNER 2 CINEMA EYE HONORS AWARDS BEST DEBUT FEATURE FILM

NATIONAL BOARD OF REVIEW

WINNER

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BEST NON-FICTION FILM

BEST DOCUMENTARY/ NON-FICTION FILM

NATIONAL SOCIETY OF FILM CRITICS

LA FILM CRITICS ASSN

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WINNER

WINNER

WINNER

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BEST NON-FICTION FILM

BEST DOCUMENTARY

D I R E C T I N G A W A R D: U.S. DOCUMENTARY

DIRECTING AWARD GARRETT BRADLEY

BEST DOCUMENTARY

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NY FILM CRITICS CIRCLE

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GARRETT BRADLEY

BEST EDITING

“A JOYOUS TRIBUTE TO LOVE AND RESILIENCE”


ACADEMY AWARD® NOMINATIONS

BEST ACTOR BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR BEST ORIGINAL BEST FILM BEST EDITING SOUND SCREENPLAY RIZ AHMED PAUL RACI

“‘Sound of Metal’ is profound, innovative, heartbreaking, uplifting and even a little breathtaking ”


APRIL 14, 2021 | OSCAR NOMINEES

How Darius Marder, Riz Ahmed and Paul Raci teamed up for the transformative Sound of Metal, and carried it all the way to Oscar


6

ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS

®

BEST P

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY AARON SORKIN • BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR SACHA BARON COHEN • BEST EDITING

SCREEN ACTORS GUILD AWARD ®

WINNER

OUTSTANDING CAST

TOGETHER WINNER 2 CRITICS’ CHOICE AWARDS

BEST EDITING BEST ENSEMBLE

“AN ESSENTIAL TALE . FOR OUR TIMES AARON SORKIN’S SOARING WORDS AND DEFT DIRECTION ARE SUPER-CHARGED BY AN ALL-STAR ENSEMBLE.”

You’re invited to tune in

CHICAGO 7 TOWN HALL: VOICES FOR CHANGE To watch, scan this QR code on your phone with your camera app.


ICTURE OF THE YEAR ALAN BAUMGARTEN • BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY PHEDON PAPAMICHAEL • BEST ORIGINAL SONG “HEAR MY VOICE”

GOLDEN GLOBE AWARD

®

WINNER

BEST SCREENPLAY AARON SORKIN

WE TRIUMPH

FILM.NETFLIXAWARDS.COM

Join Aaron Sorkin, Sacha Baron Cohen, Baratunde Thurston, Dolores Huerta, Jill Wine-Banks, Lee Weiner & Olivia Munn in a conversation moderated by Katty Kay, BBC World News .


THE MOST NOMINATED MOT

10

ACADEMY AWARD NOM ®

BEST DIRECTOR DAVID FINCHER | BEST ACTOR GARY OLDMAN | BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS AMANDA SEYFRIED | BEST CINEMA


ION PICTURE OF THE YEAR

INATIONS BEST PICTURE TOGRAPHY | BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN | BEST COSTUME DESIGN | BEST ORIGINAL SCORE | BEST SOUND | BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

“A clear-eyed love-letter to Hollywood, alive to both the glamour and messy realities of the film industry and the act of creation itself — all wrapped in

SOME OF THE MOST GORGEOUS FILMMAKING CRAFT IMAGINABLE.” EMPIRE

“DAVID FINCHER’S MASTERWORK.” THE TELEGRAPH

“A MASTERPIECE. A towering performance by Gary Oldman and the best work of Amanda Seyfried’s career as she touchingly paints a portrait of Marion Davies. David Fincher has assembled a murderers’ row of behind-the-scenes talent. Erik Messerschmidt delivers stunning cinematography. Donald Graham Burt’s production design is superb. Luscious costumes by Trish Summerville. The music from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross hits all the right notes.” DEADLINE

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FIRST TAKE Diane Warren reflects on a musical lifetime and the song for The Life Ahead that brought her 12th Oscar nomination Exploring James Newton Howards’ News of the World score and the elgance of Alexandra Byrne’s Emma costumes An underwater documentary became a high-stakes thriller and a commentary on connection in The Octopus Teacher

20

ON THE COVER Darius Marder’s Sound of Metal transformed its key players Riz Ahmed and Paul Raci in ways they never could have expected

34

THE LONG ROAD TO OSCAR Tracing the trail from initial idea to Academy accolades for the Best Picture nominees

58

OSCAR HANDICAPS Deadline’s Pete Hammond picks his odds-on favorites for the big day ON THE COVER Darius Marder, Riz Ahmed and Paul Raci photographed exclusively for Deadline by Josh Telles STYLING BY JULIE RAGOLIA, MERSI KASEMI & ERICA CLOUD, GROOMING BY CHRISTINA REYNA & DILLON PENA

Deadline chats to some of the key players of the 2020 class of Oscar nominees. 38 Vanessa Kirby 40 Leslie Odom Jr. Maria Bakalova 42 Andra Day Chloe Zhao 44 Carey Mulligan 46 Emerald Fennell Sacha Baron Cohen 48 Viola Davis Steven Yeun Lee Isaac Chung 50 Yuh-Jung Youn 52 David Fincher Gary Oldman Amanda Seyfried 54 Anthony Hopkins Daniel Kaluuya LaKeith Stanfield 56 Thomas Vinterberg


5

A C A D E M Y

A W A R D

N O M I N A T I O N S

®

INCLUDING

BEST PICTURE OF THE YEAR BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY EMERALD FENNELL BEST ACTRESS CAREY MULLIGAN

W I N N E R C R I T I C S

C H O I C E

BEST ACTRESS CAREY MULLIGAN

AWA R D S

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY EMERALD FENNELL

W I N N E R W R I T E R S

G U I L D

A W A R D S

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY EMERALD FENNELL

WINNER BEST HOLLYWOOD CRITICS ASSOCIATION

SAN DIEGO FILM CRITICS SOCIETY

KANSAS CITY FILM CRITICS CIRCLE

COLUMBUS FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATION

PICTURE •

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AUSTRALIAN ACADEMY OF CINEMA AND TELEVISION ARTS

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BRACINGLY ” ORIGINAL

ASSOCIATED PRESS, JOCELYN NOVECK

WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY EMERALD FENNELL

PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN ONE FILM IGNITED A CONVERSATION. ARE YOU LISTENING? exclusive access to early screenings, film premieres and more. s film, go to FocusFeaturesGuilds2020.com.

SOUNDTRACK AVAILABLE ON CAPITOL RECORDS

© 2021 FOCUS FEATURES LLC


Your Song

M AT T SAY LES / CP I SYN D I CAT I O N

In a year that saw so much isolation and marginalization, Diane Warren’s Oscarnominated song is a reminder of what it means to feel seen BY ANTONIA BLYTH

10

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E


®

ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEE BEST COSTUME DESIGN Alexandra Byrne BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING Marese Langan, Laura Allen, Claudia Stolze “Rendered in sugar-almond tones of blush pink, daffodil yellow and ice blue by costume designer Alexandra Byrne, E M M A . is as confident and gorgeous to look at as a tower of exquisitely rendered petits fours.” –TIME, Stephanie Zacharek WINNER

WINNER

WINNER

Best Costume

Best Costume

Best Costume

Design

Design

Design

CHICAGO FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATION

LATINO ENTERTAINMENT JOURNALISTS ASSOCIATION

SAN DIEGO FILM CRITICS SOCIETY

WINNER Technical Achievement Award

ONLINE FILM CRITICS SOCIETY

Directed by Autumn de Wilde Sign up at FocusInsider.com for exclusive access to early screenings, film premieres and more. For more on this film, go to FocusFeaturesGuilds2020.com © 2021 FOCUS FEATURES LLC.


But this teenage horror story is not the reason why Warren won’t perform any of the numerous hit songs she’s written—it’s because she’s only ever wanted to write, not sing. “As a kid I would look to see who wrote songs. I didn’t care to sing them really even then. It’s just nothing I ever wanted to do in my life,” she says, in a Zoom conversation from her LA studio.

12

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

Despite a list of hits as long as a

Gueye), an orphaned refugee who

phonebook, and her latest—incredibly,

robs her in the street. As Rosa offers

her 12th—Oscar nomination for Best

him structure and acceptance, they

Original Song, she’s never craved the

develop a deep bond, truly seeing

limelight for herself. Even in conversa-

each other. And in fact, Ponti, who

tion, she focuses on the brilliance of

is also Loren’s son, was so moved by

others rather than her own—in this

Warren’s song that he incorporated it

case, the filmmaker and the film that

into the narrative, allowing it to replace

inspired her newest nomination.

a planned voiceover.

The Edoardo Ponti-directed The

“Quando essere invisibile/ È peggio

Life Ahead is the setting for Warren’s

che non vivere/ Nessuno ti vede/ Io

song “Io Si (Seen)”, sung by Laura

sì,” Pausini sings in her native Italian.

Pausini, that so elegantly rounds out a

(When to be invisible/ It is worse than

heartrending story of connection.

not living/ Nobody sees you/ I do.)

“A movie like this is easy to be

Originally in English, the song had

inspired by,” Warren says. “It’s such a

once seemed a little jarring with an

beautiful story, and it’s so emotionally

Italian-language film. But Warren had

powerful when you can be a part of

the perfect solution. She had met

something like that, that has some-

Pausini years earlier, and had always

thing to say. It’s about understanding,

wanted to work with her—the song

it’s about love, and so, it’s a powerful

would be sung in Italian.

message in the time we’re living in.” The film follows the story of

It made the Academy’s list, and Warren is far from jaded about this,

Madame Rosa (Sophia Loren), a

despite her many previous nomina-

Holocaust survivor and former sex

tions and lack of wins. “I’ve never

worker who takes in Momo (Ibrahima

been nominated for a song in another

N E T FL IX / COU RT ESY EV E RE T T CO LL ECT I ON

O N E N I G H T, W H E N D I A N E WA R R E N WA S 1 5 Y E A R S O L D, S O M E O N E AC T UA L LY PA I D H E R T O S T O P S I NG I NG AT A R E S TAU R A N T. “ T H E Y H A D SA I D, ‘ B R I NG YOU R GU I TA R A N D P L AY A C OU P L E O F S O NG S . M AY B E YOU ’ L L G E T D I S C OV E R E D.’ I G O T PA I D A F T E R O N E S O NG T O S T O P. $ 1 5. T H E Y SA I D I WA S I N T E R F E R I NG W I T H P E O P L E ’ S D I N N E R S .”


language before,” she says excitedly, “so, this is a whole new thing for me.” A self-effacing stance seems

word ‘seen’. I just kept seeing that

as a child lists her as having had nine

word, because it’s about people that

work, facilitating other artists’ fame, as

number-one songs and 32 top 10

are on the edges of society, whether

they perform her work. But she relishes

songs in their Hot 100 chart. She was

it’s Madame Rosa or Momo, or other

that process. “It’s, ‘Here, take it. It’s

also the first songwriter in the history

characters in the movie too. Society

yours. Have fun. I’ll go write another

of the magazine to have seven hits

and the world don’t really see them.

song.’ How cool that the song I write

simultaneously in the charts, all by

They’re almost invisible.”

can reach people and help someone’s

different performers. Inducted into

career too? And maybe make some-

the Songwriters Hall of Fame, she has

song, she says, is to create a universal

one feel better, maybe make someone

written for everyone from Whitney

connection, to make the song speak

happy, and make someone feel like this

Houston to Meat Loaf, Justin Bieber

to as many people as possible. “I

song made them feel seen. Music is

to Beyoncé. Among her many hits are

wrote ‘Til It Happens to You’ that

so powerful because it will not only go

such juggernauts as Cher’s “If I Could

Lady Gaga sang, and the movie it was

into your brain, it goes to your heart.”

Turn Back Time”, and Aerosmith’s “I

from, The Hunting Ground was about

Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”. And she

sexual assault on college campuses.

shows no sign of slowing.

But I never said what ‘it’ was. And my

matter what. “I was 14 and I made my

Warren describes her unstoppable

One key to writing an effective

intention was to have the song go

dad get me a subscription to Billboard.

drive thus: “It’s like a good way of

beyond that movie. So that song really

I’ve always listened to music my whole

being possessed. And it’s not a choice

resonates a lot with a lot of people, for

life and I always wanted to write songs

because I have to do this. I have to

a lot of reasons.”

since I was a little kid, even before I did

write. I have to breathe into it. I have

it. It’s kind of weird, almost psychic or

to create, I have to keep doing it. And

of her childhood dreams—to work

something. I got really lucky. I put in the

then when I’m done with a song, I have

with The Beatles. Having attended a

work though. I work really hard.”

to do another song.”

concert of theirs when she was about

That hard work included teaching

Her life, she says, has been

Recently, Warren realized another

eight years old, she’s always been

herself both guitar and piano from

thoroughly shaped by this feeling of

smitten. And she’s just written a song,

scratch (“I’m not very good at either,”

possession. “It’s like the 10,000 hours

“Here’s to the Nights”, for Ringo Starr’s

she says), long before the days of You-

thing,” she says, referring to the theory

upcoming EP, featuring his and Paul

Tube tutorials. She then spent most

that it takes 10,000 hours of practice

McCartney’s vocals. “Chris Stapleton’s

of her teen years playing and writing in

to be proficient at anything. “But it’s

on it too,” she says. “And Sheryl Crow,

the bathroom for its good acoustics.

more like a million. I’m saying 10,000 is

and Dave Grohl, and Joe Walsh and

Some years later though, a trifecta

—DIANE WARREN

the script, and I just kept seeing the

almost essential in Warren’s line of

knew this was what she would do, no

IT’S ABOUT UNDERSTANDING, IT’S ABOUT LOVE, AND SO, IT’S A POWERFUL MESSAGE IN THE TIME WE’RE LIVING IN.”

These days, that Billboard

for something. With this, I was reading

magazine Warren thumbed so well

From a very young age, Warren

TWO HEARTS Sophia Loren as Madame Rosa with Ibrahima Gueye as Momo in The Life Ahead.

this other stupid shit that goes on.”

just the starting point. So, it’s a lifetime

Lenny Kravitz. A lot of people are on

of talent, hard work and drive finally

of being almost isolated. People ask

there. But it’s Paul McCartney and

got Warren in front of music mogul

me, ‘So, during the pandemic, has it

Ringo singing my song. And that’s like,

Clive Davis—a man she’d dreamed of

been really hard?’ I go, ‘Yeah, really

what the fuck?”

meeting since reading her first copy

hard to sit in a room by myself.’” She

of Billboard. By 1985, she’d had her

laughs. “I do the same thing as I did

original songs coming out, featuring

first big hit, “Rhythm of the Night”

pre-pandemic. It’s always been that

collaborations with artists like Mary

performed by DeBarge, and she was

way. It made me more antisocial than I

J. Blige, Jason Derulo, Céline Dion and

ready. And yet, that opportunity with

already was.”

Darius Rucker. She’s called the album

Davis went horribly wrong. “Finally, he’d meet with me,” she

And yet, despite this lifelong

She also has a new album of her

“The Cave Sessions”, after her cave-

hunkering down, her songs feel like

like studio, which she compares to

says. “And I remember going to see

truly lived experiences. She seemingly

her teenage bedroom. It’s “a cramped

him and he didn’t like any of my songs.”

has an uncanny ability to tune in to

room, kind of uncomfortable and dirty,

She was crushed. “I went and stopped

others, and to get to the heart of a

but I like it in there,” she says.

at a store and did retail therapy and

thing. “It’s hard to explain,” she says.

bought a really expensive sweater I

“If I read a script or see a movie, I feel

It seems Warren doesn’t need to be

couldn’t afford.”

like it’s almost a subconscious thing

out in the world, or to be standing on

about getting to its emotional truth

a stage to feel seen. This is who she is:

But Warren could not be thwarted

But then, her cave makes sense.

by a mere blow to her ego, and she

and the emotional core of what it’s

an insular, self-sufficient writer, work-

simply kept trying. “The way I am is

saying. I’ll read the script and I’ll walk

ing away, telling stories with music.

I came right out with more songs.”

away and then there will be something.

Fortunately, this time, she says, “He

I’ll write down a word. I remember

are,” she says. Her song for The Life

loved them. And we’ve done a lot of

when I did ‘Stand Up For Something’

Ahead was, “a simple statement of, ‘I

hits together. I love Clive because he

for [the film] Marshall. I wrote, ‘It all

want you to know that you’re seen.’ It’s

legitimately loves songs. It’s not like

means nothing if you don’t stand up

so simple, but it’s so powerful. I want

he’s making someone do it because

for something,’ after reading the script.

you to know that you’re seen, espe-

he has a piece of the publishing and all

So that became a song about standing

cially now.” ★

“We all want to be seen as we really

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

13


CHARTED TERRITORY At press time, here is how Gold Derby’s experts ranked the Oscar chances in the Best Picture and Best Director races. Get up-to-date rankings and make your own predictions at GoldDerby.com

Composer James Newton Howard on penning a western score to track a healing journey

JAMES NEWTON HOWARD IS NO STRANGER TO THE WESTERN. He composed the score for Wyatt Earp and Hidalgo, but the music for News of the World required a different touch. “This may be a big Western, with big characters and landscapes,” Newton Howard says, “but it’s a much more introspective movie.” The story follows Captain Kidd (Tom Hanks), who agrees to deliver a girl, Johanna (Helena Zengel), to her only living relatives, after she was taken by the Kiowa people. Newton Howard, along with director Paul Greengrass and editor Billy Goldenberg, decided to start the score with the idea of a “broken consort” of musicians to represent the broken nature of the world and main characters. “I took a group of musicians who specialized in playing what we call ancient instruments,” Newton Howard explains, “that would include the cello d’amores, viola da gambas, and gut-string fiddles. They really have this wonderful droning, kind of journeying sound.” Backing them with a traditional large orchestra, they ended up with a “fragile core with a very self-assured surrounding”. The score mirrors the story, becoming less fragile and more self-assured as the characters develop. “Paul wanted to tell a story of redemption and restitution and healing as these two characters try to fit into a world that is completely destroyed,” Newton Howard says. “I felt the music did a good job of telling that same story.” —Ryan Fleming

TIMELY FASHION Alexandra Byrne on designing personality-focused period costumes for Emma

ODDS

1

Nomadland

9/2

2

The Trial of the Chicago 7

11/2

3

Minari

6/1

4

Promising Young Woman

7/1

5

Mank

17/2

6

Judas and the Black Messiah

9/1

7

Sound of Metal

19/2

8

The Father

19/2

BESTDIRECTOR

ODDS

1

Chloe Zhao Nomadland

16/5

2

Lee Isaac Chung Minari

4/1

3

Emerald Fennell Promising Young Woman

4/1

4

David Fincher Mank

9/2

5

Thomas Vinterberg Another Round

9/2

romantic lives of those around her. Byrne designed the costumes, “so you begin to understand the individuality and the spontaneity and the character of the person.” She also factored in a

In preparation for Autumn de Wilde’s

combination of the fashion plate and

character’s personal choices. “If you

Emma, costume designer Alexandra

looking at the original garments lets you

showed a fashion plate to ten different

Byrne spent her time researching her

understand them as clothes rather than

households, you’d get 10 very different

favorite time period for clothing. “The

costumes.” Based on the Jane Austen

looks,” Byrne says, “from a combination

reason I like this period is that it’s

novel of the same name, Emma follows

of the sewing skills, or somebody’s taste

the beginning of fashion plates being

Emma Woodhouse, a young woman

and their finances. It was an inspired

published for women,” Byrne says. “The

who spends her time meddling in the

period for clothes.” —Ryan Fleming

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OLD STYLE Anya Taylor-Joy in the Autumn de Wilde-directed adaptation of Emma.

U N I VE RSAL P I CT U RES /FO CUS F EAT U RES / E V ER E TT COL LECTI O N

A Broken Consort

BEST PICTURE


Going Deep

documentaries, the film went through multiple iterations before taking its

we tried, that the story was so power-

HOW MY OCTOPUS TEACHER BECAME BOTH A HIGH-STAKES

final form as a two-hander about an

ful and so personal, it needed to be

eight-limbed creature and her human

told in his words from the heart.”

BY MATTHEW CAREY

companion. The movie begins with Foster describing his fascinating and deep attachment to the mysterious underwater environment.

There’s a chase scene in My

octopus—a tribute to the storytelling

“Most of my childhood was spent

Adds Ehrlich, “That gave it a much more authentic and spontaneous feel.” But the approach involved Foster disclosing sensitive details about himself and his psychology, a challenge for

Octopus Teacher as suspenseful as

skill of directors Pippa Ehrlich and

diving in the kelp forest,” he explains.

anything in a Hollywood thriller. The

James Reed, and of Foster, a South

“That’s what I most love to do. But as

film’s heroine, a tentacled cephalopod,

African naturalist and producer of

an adult I’d gotten away from that.”

is being pursued by a pajama shark

the film. Last month the Netflix film

through a kelp forest off the tip of

earned an Oscar nomination for Best

crisis, caused in part by a growing

was very hard as I felt self-conscious

South Africa.

Documentary Feature, a development

sense of disconnection from nature.

in exposing my inner feelings, and I felt

She jets, weaves, inks the waters

Ehrlich says she wasn’t expecting

Foster reveals he faced a personal

a person who appears to be very shy. “I’ve been making films for 30 years, but I’ve never been in one of them until now,” Foster says. “On the one hand, it

“I went through two years of

my personal story was insignificant in

like Bond expelling smoke from his

when she tuned in for the announce-

absolute hell,” he relates. “My family

the light of the wonder of nature. On

Astin Martin, dives for shelter, then

ment from her native South Africa.

was suffering.”

the other hand, I felt so much love and

encrusts herself in a makeshift armor

“I was surprised enough to jump

As a sort of therapy, he committed

excitement for my cephalopod teacher

of discarded shells. The aggressive

about a meter and-a-half into the air,”

to undertake daily dives in the frigid

and for her kelp forest environment

predator latches onto the balled-up

Ehrlich recalls. “This has been a life

waters of the Great African Seaforest,

that I felt deeply compelled to tell the

octopus, spinning in a frenzied death

experience I’d never imagine I’d have.”

where, one day, he encountered the

story in the most powerful way that

octopus. Ehrlich and Reed cut one

people could relate to.”

roll, but can’t penetrate the shells.

Like the stealthy octopus of the

Then something even more remark-

film, the documentary slid under the

version of the film where Foster related

able happens—the octopus seeks

radar for much of Oscar season, some-

events in a scripted voiceover. But a

octopus slowly began to trust him the

protection in the most ingenious way,

how eluding broad attention despite

creative breakthrough came when

more he dove in and around her watery

by attaching herself to the back of the

winning awards at a variety of film

they decided it would be better if he

lair. He filmed their interactions and

shark so the marauder can’t attack her.

festivals, two prizes at the IDA Awards,

told it more informally—almost like a

became increasingly dazzled by her

“She’s got the upper hand,” says

and recognition for its cinematography

story shared around a fireside. They set

displays of intelligence—how she could

Craig Foster, the human subject of the

and editing. But in March it began to

up a time for the U.K.-based Reed to

fashion tools from shells, furl herself

film—the male lead, so to speak. “The

gain steam, earning a DGA nomina-

interview Foster on camera, although

in ribbons of kelp to avoid detection,

shark’s been completely outwitted.”

tion, then the Oscar nod. And late last

at that stage the two men scarcely

adjust her hunting techniques to

month it was named top documentary

knew each other.

envelop crabs, lobsters, and fish.

The scene is so compelling because by that point the audience is emotionally wrapped up in the destiny of the

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D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

at the PGA Awards. As is frequently the case with

In the film, Foster recounts how the

“He felt more comfortable telling it

“The boundaries between her

to a stranger in a way,” Reed observes.

and I seemed to dissolve,” Foster

N E T FL IX / E VE R E TT COL LECTI O N

THRILLER AND A PROFOUND COMMENTARY ON CONNECTION

“We thought it had to be something


LITTLE FRIEND Craig Foster finds a unique and special connection in My Octopus Teacher.

individuals, and individuals who are

when making this film was the hope

to become sensitized to the other,

tifically definitive,” adds Reed. “That

able to get completely obsessed with

that it might ignite emotion in people

especially wild creatures.”

wasn’t the point. The point was that

one thing and then dedicate their time

to act towards protection and regen-

The lifespan of a female octopus

“We didn’t present it as scien-

Craig was observing and documenting

with a laser focus, that not all human

eration of the ocean. We purposely did

of the kind Foster met extends to

things, some of which were very clear

beings can do… Craig is actually an

not include hard conservation issues,

only about 18 months. But that was

for everybody to see, others of which

incredibly sensitive and emotional

hoping that this would arise naturally

enough time for him to be profoundly

were his interpretations... I mean, it’s a

person. And I think that, if he has any

out of the deep-felt emotion that

impacted by her.

completely unique study he did, even

difficulties in his personal life, that’s

many humans share for nature.”

though it was informal.”

the reason for them,” she says.

One of those humans with a deep

Towards the end of the film,

respect for nature is Ehrlich, who also

“I felt in my life I was getting past the difficulties I had,” he says, during

Foster is enough of an authority on

the film. “My relationship with people,

ocean environments to have a species

emotion pours out of Foster as he

dives regularly off the South African

with humans, was changing.”

of shrimp named after him (Hetero-

reflects upon the year he spent with

coast. Prior to being interviewed for

mysis fosteri). His capacity to absorb

his octopus teacher.

this piece, she had just returned from a

In the documentary, the octopus goes unnamed. “We never called the octopus

himself in a task—sometimes to the exclusion of humans around him—may

“Of course, I miss her,” he says,

day exploring the mysterious under-

holding back tears. Later, he notes,

water kelp forest. Like Foster, she free

‘Sally’ or anything like that,” Ehrlich

remind some of the central character

“She made me realize just how pre-

dives, using no oxygen tank. She, too,

says. “There’s always such a danger

in another Oscar-winning documen-

cious wild places are.”

sees the environmental import of My

of anthropomorphism with this film,

tary, Free Solo’s Alex Honnold. The

and we felt like, wherever we could,

climber Honnold mapped out every

we wanted to position her as a wild

centimeter of his intended route up

“I have deep concerns for the

and profound opportunity to warm

creature and let her be herself in her

the 3,000-foot face of Yosemite’s

future of the Great African Seaforest

people’s hearts to the ocean, and to

octopus body. So that’s why it was

El Capitan before he ascended it.

and the ocean ecosystem,” Foster

the incredible creatures that live in the

actually very important for us not to

Similarly, Foster meticulously mapped

says. “I’m currently seeing effects of

ocean,” Ehrlich says. “And because it’s

name her.”

the octopus’s seascape and became

an ocean heatwave that has damaged

such a powerful, emotional, architec-

expert at tracking the species.

some of the Seaforest and the animals

tural story, I think people really have

in the places I dive. The African Seafor-

opened their hearts now in a way that

The directors sought the input of marine biologists as they edited the

“The psychology of it is as fasci-

Implicit in the film is a plea to preserve the magical habitat.

Octopus Teacher. “I really felt that it was a very unique

documentary, but, Ehrlich notes, the

nating as the natural history,” Ehrlich

est has always felt so strong to me,

we actually never expected. We’ve

film is not meant to serve as an objec-

observes of both Foster and Honnold.

and now I see her vulnerability. One of

been blown away by the response

tive account of octopus behavior.

“You’re dealing with very unusual

the big motivating forces we all had

we’ve received.” ★

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N E T FL IX / E VE R E TT COL LECTI O N

relates. “She was really teaching me


Darius Marder’s Sound of Metal went into 2019’s

distributor. Now, a year and-a-half on, it’s a six-time of all of this year’s crop of Best Picture candidates. Paul Raci to take stock of a film that transformed 20

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E


Toronto International Film Festival without a

e Oscar nominee and perhaps the most hard-fought Joe Utichi meets Marder and stars Riz Ahmed and its key players in ways they hadn’t expected. D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

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They say Oscar loves a narrative, and they don’t come much more inspiring than Sound of Metal’s. Even before he got his debut feature to set, Darius Marder spent more than a decade honing his tale about a heavy metal drummer and recovering addict who loses his hearing, butting up against the many hard realities of filmmaking that told him a movie like this could not work. As he did it, he learned more and more about deaf culture, and heard moving stories about people pursuing recovery in dedicated deaf sober houses. In Riz Ahmed, he found an actor willing to immerse so fully into his lead role that he would learn to play the drums and become fluent in American Sign Language. And in Paul Raci, he found a man whose own life story reflected almost directly on the character he and his brother Abraham had written into this script. And so, as he kept facing reasons why it shouldn’t work, it became increasingly clear to him that it had to work. With the help of producers who saw the fire burning in Marder’s belly—Sacha Ben Harroche and Bert Hamelinck of Caviar, who had made a name producing ‘shouldn’t work’ films like Chloe Zhao’s The Rider—he got the film to set and presided over a production that would have a profound effect on everyone taking part. That might have been the end of the story. Even with the film in the can, it went into its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2019 without a distributor. But the spirit and impact of Sound of Metal’s tale led to a bidding war that resulted in Amazon Studios taking US distribution rights. After the ‘odyssey’—Marder’s word—that got the film there, even the global pandemic that subsequently disrupted the film’s release plans might have felt like a trifling concern. After all, it hasn’t stopped the power of Sound of Metal working on audiences and awards voters the world over. Now, as Marder and his cast and crew make plans for an Oscar night that will reunite them for the first time since TIFF in 2019, he sits down for a moment of reflection with Ahmed and Raci, and a deep dive into the transformative experience of making Sound of Metal. This film premiered in a whole other

Hollywood model is that some producers

reality, at the Toronto Film Festival in

back-pocket projects. And as a director,

2019. It has been on quite the journey

you don’t really know that’s happening, or

since, but how long did it take even to

I didn’t realize it was happening because I

get it to that point?

hadn’t been through it before.

Darius Marder: It was a real odyssey

What I didn’t fully grasp before I began

trying to get this made [laughs]. It’s been

is how impossible it is to make a first movie.

a lot of years, but I think if I went back

Not a lot of people realize that it’s easier to

six or seven years, to the point where I

finance a $100 million blockbuster, because

was actually taking a script and thinking

with a film like this, there are three actors in

about getting it financed and made, what

the world who can finance your movie. So,

I had to realize the hard way is that the

before you’ve even started, you’ve narrowed D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

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the conversation down to something that isn’t a very creative conversation. You hav e producers that are used to saying, “That’s an interesting project, I’ll put it in my back pocket,” and if you happen to get one of those three actors, they’re all in. In the meantime, though, they’ll just let the director fly all over the world meeting actors and pay for their meals and hope he lands something. Riz Ahmed: Hey, that’s bullshit. I offered to pay for the meal. Marder: Wait, you’re getting ahead. Because by the time I got to you, I actually had producers that would help me out by paying for the meals. That’s true. Ahmed: By the time you got to me you were broke and I had to pay for the meal. Marder: I also talked to the restaurant ahead of time about getting you the limited menu. Ahmed: The kid’s menu. It was just chicken nuggets and broccoli. Marder: It was a move I honed over the years [laughs]. But there was a meal. This one meal where I had been trying to get this actor in the room, and we had a shoot date coming up. He wanted me to get

“WHAT DARIUS WAS OFFERING WAS A UNIQUE EXPERIENCE. YOU HAVE TO LEARN TO PLAY THE DRUMS IN SEVEN MONTHS, YOU HAVE TO LEARN AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE, YOU HAVE TO DO SOMETHING THAT’S EMOTIONALLY GOING TO ASK YOU TO DIG DEEPER THAN ANYTHING YOU’VE DONE BEFORE. IT WAS LIKE, ‘WHERE DO I SIGN?’”

—Riz Ahmed

a reservation at a restaurant that was impossible to get a reservation at. I couldn’t get a reservation— nobody could—so I drove over there and decided I’d meet him outside the restaurant and then take him to some shithole. I’d trap him, basically. So, I’m driving over there and my agent calls and says, “Are you all good for tonight?” I said, “Well, yeah, but I couldn’t get a reservation.” He’s like, “Hang on a sec.” And he

process of elimination, they’d been weeded out.

gets me a reservation, because somehow, apparently, CAA can make anything happen. So, I get this actor in the restaurant, but I hadn’t really thought it through because it turns out it’s

It’s all I can do not to ask you who that actor was. Marder: And it’s all I can do not to tell you.

really expensive. I’m looking at the wine list—he’s like, “What kind of bottle would you like?”—and the

You ended up with Riz, who must have been

cheapest bottle is $400. I didn’t even know if I could

a cheap date.

cover it on my credit card. The meal ends up being

Marder: Oh, Riz was costly in every way.

close to $900, and I barely made it out of there; my

Ahmed: I was more emotionally costly. I just

credit card happened to go through.

looked him in the eye and said, “I don’t drink

But that was right when Burt and Sacha from

rants. But I’m going to make you pay for this.”

for that meal. It was when I knew I had the right

And he said, “No, I’m insane, and that’s the kind

producers, when they stepped up and said, “Hey,

of thing I’m up for.” So, we found each other.

give us the receipt.” It was the first time, after years of

joyous way. And we hit it off straight away, to be

No one had ever, ever stepped up and said, “You’re

honest. I think we recognized that we both had this

not alone in this.”

appetite to jump in at the deep end. We nicknamed

It was years just to get there, and years more financiers because they just weren’t true to their

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

We tortured each other through this in the most

trying to make this movie, that anybody helped me.

of many false starts. I had to fire three different

24

wine, and I don’t care about expensive restau-

Caviar came on board, and they wound up paying

each other ‘gobblers’ because we want to throw life in our mouths and taste and experience everything. What Darius was offering was a unique experi-

word, and actually I had to do it 12 days before shoot-

ence. You have to learn to play the drums in seven

ing. The whole thing, it’s a long, long story, but the

months, you have to learn American Sign Language,

thing I’ve come away with most is how it’s really all

you have to do something that’s emotionally going

about the people you’re working with. You can’t think

to ask you to dig deeper than anything you’ve done

you’re going to get away with working with assholes.

before. It was like, “Where do I sign?” That’s what

It doesn’t really work. And luckily I didn’t have any

I was looking for. I was looking for that intensity. I

on this project, at the end of the day, because by

thrive on that intensity, but it’s not often that you


ST Y LI N G BY J U LI E RAGO LI A

photograph by josh telles

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

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D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

photograph by josh telles

ST Y LI N G BY M E RS I K AS E M I , G RO OM I NG BY D I L LON P E N A


“THE CRAFT OF ACTING IS LEARNING THE LINES AND EVERYTHING, HOWEVER, IF YOU JUMP INTO THE RIVER AND YOU DROWN, WHOSE FAULT IS THAT? IT’S NOT THE RIVER’S FAULT. YOU’VE GOT TO LEARN YOUR CRAFT BEFORE YOU JUMP IN THAT RIVER.”

—Paul Raci

work with people who allow you to bring all of

Paul Raci: It just seemed so sincere, so authen-

Raci: Oh, that’s true. Thank you for that, but it

yourself to something. That invitation was incredibly

tic, and of course so real. When I read it originally,

was true, right? No acting allowed here.

appealing to me.

Joe was an Iraq war veteran. My experience was

Marder: It’s funny we call it acting, because I

Vietnam, so that changed. But everything else,

think it’s access, right?

It’s funny how much this industry relies

from all the experiences through the deaf sober

Raci: Yeah, I like what you said once: access

on something it can green light based on

house, which I have been so immersed in for

to the garden that I’ve lived in. I’m so blessed

precedent. ‘It must be like this film that’s

most of my life as a sign language interpreter,

that the garden I’m able to pull from, the actor’s

come before so we know how to market it.’

through to the ending as it was written, which

garden, is as rich as it is. I’m so grateful for the life

‘It must star this actor because they open in

was just how we filmed it, it was moving. Deaf

that I’ve had so far.

Europe or China.’ None of the most beloved

people have never seen themselves portrayed

Marder: What’s interesting is some people have

films in cinema history feel like carbon

as deaf addicts, but actually there’s a deaf sober

a vast garden, but they’re unwilling to pull from

copies of movies that came before.

house here in Los Angeles called Awakenings,

it. They’re unwilling even to look at it. They won’t

Marder: It’s funny, because I always try to tell

and it’s deaf-owned and deaf-run. There were

even stand in it. And that’s the difference. It’s the

people that. People would try to qualify, “Oh, but

just so many things about the script that seemed

ability to be vulnerable, to pull from those places

this is your first film…” I was like, “Yeah, first films

so true to me.

you’ve been in your life that have hurt you the most. And you do, Paul, you have a direct channel

are always the best! Are you kidding me? Don’t

That included Joe’s spiritual philosophy about the

wait for my second film, it’s going to suck.” Like,

Kingdom of God. That’s another shift that I had made

to that, which I don’t even know if you fully grasp

why is that a reason not to invest?

in my own life from being a Roman Catholic altar boy

because you’re in it. That’s who you are. But both

in Chicago and realizing all these years later, that is

of you guys have it: this direct channel to a well

business in America, which means it’s predicated on

exactly what my philosophy was. That it comes from

of riches, and it’s a dream, as a director, to work

security. There is no good work in a land of security,

the within to the without. Not from the without to the

with people like that.

period, end of sentence. We all know that. You guys

within. That’s what struck me most of all.

But yeah, that’s the way Hollywood works, it’s a

know that as actors. I mean, if you live in a place of

And then of course the ending, it made me think

Riz, you talked earlier about this project ask-

security and not impulse as an actor, nothing good is

about my father. He’s no longer here, but I thought

ing you to dig deeper. Did you feel the same

going to come of that. It’s the same in all aspects of

he was probably stand and cheer at the ending,

intensity of connection as Paul did, even if

art, but it’s a particular paradox of this business.

because that was his philosophy: don’t try to fix me.

your character Ruben is further removed

Marder: I imagined Paul, that’s how it felt. It

from your own life experience?

After all that struggle, I wonder if being on

wasn’t quite Paul, because you don’t really work

Ahmed: For sure. I once heard someone say

set with this cast and this crew felt like fate?

like that, but as soon as I saw him, it was like

that, in any relationship you can either have

Marder: Oh, I agree. Strangely, the process was

seeing the thing that was there all along. There’s

intimacy or you can have control; you can’t have

right. As much as it was wrong, it did lead me in a

only one Paul Raci in the world, and Joe was so

both. And I think it’s true. You can either have

very difficult, but important way to the absolute

specific. That relationship Paul’s talking about, to

vulnerability or control, you can’t have both.

purest version of the movie. And I couldn’t have

the Kingdom of God being inside, when I saw the

I think I’d started to work in more controlled

gotten there any other way, so it is important.

tape of Paul, you could feel that relationship, and

environments at the point at which I met Darius. I

And I think it’s really helpful to say that to other

that’s no small thing.

was doing bigger productions, which taught me a lot

people trying to make films: trust the process.

I think it was to do, Paul, with the way you’ve

in their own way. I genuinely mean that. The longer

That’s the only thing you can do. It’s just so

lived your life. You know the difference; that maybe

period you have to shoot, and the stamina you have

infuriating. It’s crazy-making when you’re in it.

because you’ve been an addict and you fought in

to sustain, the technicality of the action, all of those

But it’s important.

the war, and because of your experience growing

different kinds of things really grew me as an actor.

up inside deaf culture, you’ve just lived a very full life,

But what I was really seeking was a total loss

One of those aspects that feel like fate is the

and not an easy life. I think you know what it is to

of control. You were talking there, Paul, about the

casting of Paul Raci as Joe. You’d essentially

have that understanding of trusting what’s within.

Kingdom of God, and that spiritual journey within my

written a character that was Paul. He grew

I saw it in your eyes on that tape. In a way, it wasn’t

own spiritual tradition of Islam and Sufism, there’s

up as a Child of Deaf Adults, knew the world

even about any of the other coincidences as much

this idea of Fana and transcendence. You see the

intimately, and had struggled with addic-

as it was about that really deep, deep truth that you

whirling dervishes that a lot of people can relate to.

tion. Paul, for you, what was the experience

understood. It shows itself in the film in that final

They’re off-balance, off-kilter. That’s when you can

of seeing this all written down by a guy you

scene between you and Riz. You really couldn’t fake

be seized by something bigger than, and other than

didn’t know yet?

that moment.

yourself. I was seeking that. D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

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That’s why I knew, going in, that part of this process would be designed to break me down, really. To have my ass kicked every day. By the drums, feeling like I’m at the bottom of the mountain trying to learn to play. By the American Sign Language, feeling every day like I can’t fully articulate myself. By the end, you can look back and be like, “Wow, OK, I’ve come this distance. We got to where we needed to go.” But it really was a process, every day, of feeling like, I’m not in control and I don’t know what I’m doing. And that’s actually what this character feels. For me, the film coincided with a profound shift, and it catalyzed a profound shift in terms of how I see storytelling, and what it’s really about. It was a spiritual endeavor, to connect to something bigger than myself and to let go of control. It was about submitting. And Darius really created a process that enabled and encouraged that, which is so rare and it just takes such balls. It takes balls to go, “I don’t know how this is going to turn out, but this is how we’re going to try and get there. We’re going to make everything as difficult as possible in some ways, so that everybody brings their A-game, but we’re going to make it

Complicated Silence How Nicolas Becker captured the unique sound of Sound of Metal

H

as supportive as possible because the only failure now is not going all the way. So, let’s all join hands and jump.” Something magical happened when we did that. I said to Darius, “Man, when we wrap this film, if no one sees this, I don’t care, because this already changed everything for me, and for all of us.” Marder: And then you said, “But seriously, when can I

aving worked with directors such as Alfonso Cuarón and multime-

see a rough cut?”

dia installation artists such as Philippe Parreno, Nicolas Becker is

Ahmed: Yeah [laughs]. “When we get back to LA, I

hard to pigeonhole, which is how he thinks he came to the attention of

want my $900 meal.”

Sound of Metal director Darius Marder. “I think Darius was trying to find someone who would not be too classical,” says the Paris-based sound-

To those points, it feels to me like it requires of

man. “I work with a lot of directors who are really documentary-based,

a writer/director to leave their ego at the door

who work in the lines between fiction and documentary, but I’m also

when you gather on set. Darius, you’d spent

working with a lot of artists who are doing more conceptual work about

such a long time working on this screenplay

perception and so on. I think he likes those two extremes: the super-

in isolation, and just getting the project into

abstract and the very, very naturalistic.”

production. You’d be forgiven, I think, for getting

A year before the shoot, Marder flew to Paris. “We spent a week talk-

to set and wanting to dictate the next steps of

ing about the project,” he says, “trying to understand things. We saw

the journey, but to hear these guys describe it,

some films together, we read some books, we were listening to music—

you were much more interested in having your

just kind of brainstorming.” To prepare for the shoot, he recorded his

cast and the rest of your crew riff on the tune

own sound library, and researched the physical effects of hearing loss.

that you’d provided them.

During the shoot, he put microphones on actor Riz Ahmed’s chest,

Marder: That’s exactly right. But the word ‘ego’ is

mouth and head. “When you’re losing hearing,” he notes, “your tympani

an interesting one, because it’s a fascinating push/

muscle is not working any more, and so you’re hearing vibrations

pull impulse. Trust isn’t allowance, necessarily. It’s

through your tissue and your bones. I wanted to get that sound: it’s the

about knowing when to put the boundaries up. It’s

inner sound of your body or face. It’s not processed.”

about knowing when to pull back. And it’s just a very

It helped that, at the same time, Ahmed was acting with earplugs

interesting dance that I think, in the absence of any

that simulated different state of deafness. “His body, the way he’s

ego, would be a disaster. Everybody does need to

moving, the way he’s listening—he’s getting it exactly right,” says

know you’re not a pushover, and that you know what

Becker. “Now, if you the sound right but the acting is not right, it can cre-

you’re doing. There are times—and there were many

ate distortion. So, the fact that I already had an amazing performance

times on this set—where I couldn’t allow certain

from the actor meant that already 80% of the work was done for me.”

things to happen, and where I had to act in a way that

Looking back, the film resonates with Becker for two reasons. For

looked like I was shutting things down, and having

one, “The story is universal,” he muses. “It’s about resilience. But I also

that be OK is certainly a part of finding trust. Because

want to show to the people that you don’t need to have a huge amount

you can’t trust something that isn’t solid enough or

of money to do interesting sound work.” —Damon Wise

rigid enough. So, it is a really interesting dance. But I think ultimately it was about just what you’re saying. That ultimately it was about trying to get the deepest parts of people to show up, rather than having me control

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D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E


everything, because I never wanted it to be confined

everything perfectly. And we just try to do better

That’s what I heard, almost always. My produc-

to me. I always talked to everybody about serving the

next time. I think it’s certainly something I’d like to

ers supported it, but everyone else said, “Don’t

god that was the movie—not the actors, not me, not

continue doing in filmmaking… to not be afraid to

do that.” That’s how hard it is.

the producers, not anybody else—but the movie. My

wander into parts of the world that are not my own,

job was making sure everything was in service of the

because what else are we here to do?

Because I think it’s interesting that we say, “This

movie, not of myself.

Raci: That learning curve Darius had, he had

movie features a deaf person, it should be open

Ahmed: There are ways in which you can lead

been working at it for 10, 11, 12 years. And what

captioned.” As if deaf people don’t watch every

that are generous, and ways you can lead

was cool about it—and I said to him at the begin-

movie. That’s 50, 60 million deaf people that are

that are not generous. And I think one of the

ning—is that deaf people have a saying: “Nothing

routinely not invited to movies. I mean, it’s something

most generous ways you can lead is to lead by

about us without us.” So, the set was full of

we should all be thinking about.

example.

deaf people and Darius’s learning curve never

I’m curious to see if other movies do it now.

Even the panels we’ve done during this season…

I don’t think I’ve ever been this vulnerable

stopped. During the process, you learn, “Oh, we

some of them haven’t been captioned, and we’ve

on screen before. It wasn’t something that was

didn’t cover this base or that base,” and Darius

found out after the fact and we have to go back and

contrived or planned, but it was because I saw Darius

was always open to adapting. And I think the

make sure they get captioned. It’s a learning curve

making himself vulnerable, with everything he was

deaf people on our set took notice of that, and

and we’re right at the edge of it. We’re barely touch-

putting on the line to make this movie, and the way

they knew this was going to be authentic.

ing this issue of accessibility and it’s so easy to miss.

in which he was making this movie. So, when you

There was a point, after the film was shot, when

But I think it’s just so important that we don’t

lead by example with that, everybody is prepared to

Darius and I had a conversation on the phone. I don’t

shame each other. We encourage each other to try,

put themselves in a vulnerable position to make this.

know if you remember this, Darius. I said, “You know

and we’ll fuck it up, and then we’ll need to try harder

That tone is set from the top and it trickles down.

what? If you really want to do something cool, you

next time.

Marder: Yeah, that’s true, it was infectious in

might want to think about open captioning this

that way. I think there is a method to the mad-

movie.” And there was a long pause. Darius said, “Oh,

between a good interpreter and a bad interpreter.

ness, and it has to be a group activity. It can’t

yeah.” Then he tells me his grandmother went deaf,

Best laid plans, you think, “Oh, I’m being a good direc-

be one person over there in the corner being

and she was a cinephile, and she’d lost access to

tor by hiring interpreters.” Well, it’s just not enough to

vulnerable.

all of her movies from the 30s and 40s and… Well, it

hire interpreters. You have to hire good interpreters

made perfect sense. I could hear Darius, from miles

and be aware enough to know the difference. A bad

Was part of your vulnerability, Darius, about

away, and his wheels were still spinning, and he was

interpreter is an incredible insult to a deaf person. It’s

the world you were exploring here? We talk a

still learning. And so, then he ends up open caption-

almost worse than having no interpreter at all.

lot about the importance of representation,

ing the movie, which is the only right thing to do.

and I think it can be very easy to criticize

Even in this process, I’ve learned the difference

When it’s done right, it’s profoundly mean-

people who aren’t themselves part of a

You can’t imagine this movie not being open

ingful. Because you realize that representa-

particular culture for trying to represent

captioned.

tion isn’t just about giving voice to the

it, even if they’re well-meaning. But there’s

Raci: Well, except Hollywood would say, “What

voiceless—and that would be enough—but

power behind representation that makes

the hell are you doing?”

it’s about discovering what unites us in spite

a marginalized community feel seen in the

Marder: Yeah, what’s really interesting is how

of our differences.

way Sound of Metal does.

fraught that conversation was. Because it’s like

Ahmed: That’s the thing about storytelling

Marder: Yes, and my feeling about it was always

you’re saying Paul, of course it’s the right thing to

where it becomes a spiritual act, because it’s an

to be curious. That’s where I lived. I want to be

do, but it’s not even just the right thing to do. It

empathy engine, right? It’s teleportation. Every

curious and I want to listen. My edict with what

would be egregious not to do it. And interestingly,

movie is essentially a body swap movie, where

I was trying to do with this movie was to set up

I was talking to a deaf actor who had been in a

you’re stepping into someone else’s skin and

the parameters within which the deaf com-

big movie with a bunch of deaf people in it, and

bones and soul, and then living their experi-

munity could represent itself, and we could learn

they invited them to a screening of the movie,

ence.That’s why there’s something spiritual to

and be a part of that representation. That’s what

and that screening wasn’t even open captioned.

this technology, you know? And I guess it was

the whole thing was about.

Raci: You see, that’s what I’m talking about.

something I always knew, but it was something

That’s just crazy.

that was really reaffirmed and crystalized for me

made by a hearing person—I had to be curious, and

Marder: But that’s how far away we are from a

on this project. As an actor, every time you look

that creates a wonderful dynamic, I think. What we

that level of thinking and interest.

at a role, you think, “How the hell am I going to

Because of the construct of it—because it was

all want to be with each other is curious and open, to

So, to go back to your question, absolutely, when

play this guy? How am I going to get into the skin

allow us to see what is there. The deaf community

you put yourself in a world that isn’t your own, you

of this person who’s totally different from me?”

was really generous with us—and Paul, you’re part of

have to make yourself vulnerable, and that is what

And I think on some level, that’s how an audience

that community, and you were generous—because I

I did. In order to do that, you are going to make mis-

feels every time they meet a new character.

think they saw that we were all listening and watch-

takes, but I think the point isn’t to obstinately believe

Who is this person that is different from me?

ing and we actually wanted to.

you’re getting it right, but to be willing to make those

You start, as you do in life, with the illusion of

mistakes and then learn from them. So, the moment

difference. The illusion of separateness. And

documentary films. It’s like that science experiment

I realized the movie had to be open captioned, when

where you end up at the end of the journey is the

where the molecules change when you look at them;

you get to that point and you don’t go there, then

realization of oneness.

people know when you’re really watching, and really

shame on you. Once you know it…

listening, and you really care. That’s the situation

Raci: You can’t go back.

going to play Ruben? I can’t do this.” And then, by the

I was trying to create. We didn’t succeed in every

Marder: Yeah, so you have a ton of conversa-

end of it, I’m like, “This is actually me. I’m not acting on

moment, but we also learn from those moments

tions with people saying, “Don’t do it, you’ll have

screen anymore. I’m working through my own shit.”

in which we don’t succeed, or where we don’t do

no movie, it’ll flop, it’ll fall, no one will buy it.”

I’ve experienced this over and over, making

That’s how this started for me. “How the hell am I

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ever enter into that if you just walk past Ruben

Ahmed: Likewise. Joe’s like a father figure of this

on the street? You would just see someone

community in the film, and a bridge between the

completely different. And I think, isn’t that what

deaf and hearing worlds. And I think Paul served

we do all the time? It’s like with road rage: “That

that role on set. He was the father figure to that

car over there is an asshole, and I’m not.” But the

family of deaf actors, and to me, in that house

guy in that car is thinking the exact same thing

somewhere in rural Massachusetts. It’s like you

about us.

say, life does imitate art and lines blur in that way.

Ahmed: It almost seems like such an obvious

So, there was a sense of effortlessness to that

thing, but that is the thing. The only reason act-

dynamic. Having said that, seeing Paul’s work, and

ing is even possible is because inside each of us

the truth and heart that he injects into it, the soul

is all of us. That’s what it is.

that he puts into it, it just pulls that out of you, too. It

Marder: Well, I would say one thing about you

was a gift, on so many levels, working with Paul, not

Riz, from my experience of actors and of acting

just as an actor, but with the vibe he brings to the

myself, is that I think it’s a rare breed of actor that

set. You can see his vibe in this conversation, and

can pull from an almost infinite realm of experi-

that was very much Joe’s vibe in the story. It all fits

ence in the way you can. I don’t think everybody

together like a jigsaw.

has that. Even some wonderful actors don’t

Marder: It was about that unfolding. But what

necessarily have that, rather, they have limited

I also fixated on, when you weren’t a part of it

lanes where they can be wonderful within. But I

Paul, was creating a dynamic where you could

do think you’re one of those rare actors that can

just meet each other. You both had very different

really find core resonance in things that seem

processes leading you to that day on set. Yours,

incredibly far from your own experience. And it

Riz, obviously started with many, many months

just has something to do with your artistry, and

of learning to play the drums, learning American

that garden we were talking about that you can

Sign Language, and getting your body into the

pull from. I don’t even know how to explain it, but

shape that led you to drive that Airstream liter-

I know it’s true.

ally up to Joe’s doorstep. That was your journey, which took a lot of focus. And then Paul, you had

Paul, the way Riz talks about feeling over-

yours and we worked together and spent time

whelmed by the challenge of the role and

together, and you’d lived an entire life leading

needing to yield control, it strikes me that

you to this place. But the really interesting thing

it’s really echoed in Ruben, who is com-

was getting the two to collide in a way that was

pletely overwhelmed by feeling like he’s lost

simple and without pretense. We didn’t rehearse,

control of his hearing and he tries to regain

and what we were really looking for was that

control through the film. Ultimately, Joe tells

little electric spark of a moment of these worlds

him, “Deafness isn’t something to fix.” How

colliding, and then what would happen. That’s a

much did life imitate art in the relationship

very simple concept, yet on a film set, it’s incred-

you had on set?

ibly hard to achieve.

Raci: We shot the film chronologically, and that

So, that particular day, me and Riz wrestling in

helped the whole process, for me at least, but I

the yard was part of getting it right. There are times

think for all of us. When I got there, Darius and Riz

when you need to show everyone that it isn’t just

had already been working for a couple of weeks,

business as usual. And that’s what that day called

I guess. There was no, “Hey, how are you doing?

for. It was about the collision of these two men, and

I’m this guy, you’re that guy.” I just met Riz and a

what came out crystalized really quickly and organi-

few minutes later we’re walking to shoot our first

cally between the two of them.

scene together, so we don’t know each other.

By the time we hit that last scene, there was a life

And the way that first scene unfolds is perfect,

lived between them. They’d started with this collision,

traditions. If you want proof of that profound truth,

because Joe was doing an intake on Ruben, so

but by virtue of starting with the collision, it was a

watch a movie. What we’re putting forth into the

they didn’t know each other.

relationship that meant so much more to them. And

world is proof of the universal spirit.

So, we’re walking over to do this scene, and then

then all of a sudden, they’re having that last moment

Darius and Riz start attacking each other, physically.

together. It had stakes, it had teeth. So, that was the

cult now. But that is the reality of it. And so, to ground

They were wrestling around right next to me. I’m

methodology of the whole shoot, and when you have

it in something that feels less abstract in this moment

the new guy on the block and I’m thinking, what the

artists like these guys, that can really bear fruit. It’s a

in time, when we all feel so isolated from each other,

fuck? They’re wrestling like two MMA guys.

I mean, I’m going to sound like I’ve signed up to a

it’s really important to remember that there’s a com-

We start there, with me wondering what the hell

high-wire act, but it’s very exciting to witness. Raci: Imagine going into that first scene with no

mon well of humanity that connects us all.

is going on, and as we shot the scenes, Ruben and

rehearsal. In my head, I’m thinking, OK, this feels

Marder: We really experienced that with you in

Joe were getting to know each other, and Riz and

uncomfortable. But what a brilliant thing to force

this role, Riz. It was very, very real in that micro-

Paul were getting to know each other. It was a beau-

me into, because we’re getting all those real

cosm. I like the way you described it, “How am I

tiful unfolding, all the way to that final scene where

reactions. I’m so grateful that was the way it was

going to access this, that is so many worlds apart

we’re saying goodbye to one another, as actors and

done, because then we were allowed to improv

from me?” Only to find out that it’s almost on

as characters. I don’t think it could have been more

within there with just little bits here and there. It

a molecular level, just utterly you. When do you

perfect as a way of shooting this movie.

was just perfect.

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“WHEN YOU PUT YOURSELF IN A WORLD THAT ISN’T YOUR OWN, YOU HAVE TO MAKE YOURSELF VULNERABLE, AND THAT IS WHAT I DID. IN ORDER TO DO THAT, YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE MISTAKES, BUT I THINK THE POINT ISN’T TO OBSTINATELY BELIEVE YOU’RE GETTING IT RIGHT, BUT TO BE WILLING TO MAKE THOSE MISTAKES AND THEN LEARN FROM THEM.”

marder

ST Y LI N G BY E RI CA CLOU D, G RO OM I N G BY C H RI ST I N A R EY N A

—darius

photograph by josh telles

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

31


my career I have not allowed myself to draw from my own life experience at all. I somehow thought that was cheating, or that it wasn’t right. It was based on the idea, I think, of not believing that inside each of us is all of us. That actually, I’m the wrong shape, size and color to be universally relatable. I thought I didn’t have the right senses to smell those flowers, so I was going to go and just cultivate other gardens out there. But this came along at a moment in my life where I was thinking, “Fuck that, I want to see what’s in my own fucking garden, and do some digging there.” Marder: I saw that too, and it was incredible to watch in you. Almost magical.

“WHEN WE ALL FEEL SO ISOLATED FROM EACH OTHER, IT’S REALLY IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT THERE’S A COMMON WELL OF HUMANITY THAT CONNECTS US ALL.”

—Riz Ahmed

But it’s an interesting question, because my experience in theatre—and Paul, maybe you can talk to this because you’ve had vast experience in theatre—was that it was always about impulse. That what you were always looking to do was to listen and react. And that incredible routine of theatre, where you do one show night after night, was fascinating to me, because it was never the same from one night to the next. Every night there was something organic happening, if you were listening and responding. The art of acting is listening and reacting, not actually acting. And you can do that on a green screen if you’re

Darius, did that approach come from the

constructions. Riz, you’ve shot big movies

opposite another actor, and it’s just a bit harder

documentary background you spoke of

against green screens. Can it be interesting

because it’s artificial. But the idea of creating reality

earlier? If you’re in an environment where

to play within those limitations?

from nothing is almost anathema to the art itself. It

you’re capturing life rather than construct-

Ahmed: Yeah, I guess that can be part of it. I

gets into this hyper echo chamber, which doesn’t

ing it, do you have more affinity with the

mean, it’s certainly a challenge, especially on

tend to be transcendent. So, it isn’t that there aren’t

truth that can emerge from preventing too

those big films. I actually heard Ethan Hawke say

many ways to do it. But I think, at the end of the day,

much artifice?

once, in an interview, that it’s harder to be good

that there is one final thing we’re after really, and

Marder: I think it actually went more to my act-

when you’re working within those conditions,

that’s impulse.

ing background. I mean, my background is more

and so I think that can be its own skill, fighting

Ahmed: The preparation you do so that you can

in fiction than it is in documentary. But there

for your creative space within that. So, look,

then let go of it all when you’re in the moment,

was something really fascinating I learned in

that’s one way of looking at it. There are more

they’re two sides of the same coin. When you’re

documentary filmmaking, which is that it’s really

obstacles to truth, perhaps. However, with a

a boxer, you’ve got to spend a lot of time on the

the same construct. You often see documentar-

project like this, and a filmmaker like Darius, I

punchbags, but once you’re in the ring, you don’t

ians entering a real-life situation and go, “OK,

think what was demanded of all of us was a level

know what’s going to happen. But you’ve got

we’re just going get the sound guy over here, and

of truth and depth of engagement that perhaps

muscle memory and you’ve built those path-

could we get a bit of light on that back wall? And

none of us had plumbed before.

ways. You’ve been to the gym; and so you have

guys, if you could just enter from over there and

And also, I think frankly there can be other

then do what you’d normally do…” I’ve edited a

obstacles as well, like not having four months to

lot of docs, and I can tell you, that’s what I see

shoot, and having four weeks instead. Glass is

training and the preparation and the research.

more often than not. When I was shooting docs,

half-full and it’s half-empty. I think it’s personally not

You absorb that all through osmosis so that when

it was all about, “OK, how can you possibly bring

so much about the project as it’s about where you’re

you finally get there, you can just surrender to that

the false construct of a camera to a situation

at in your life and what you’ll bring to it. What kind of

flow state. Flow isn’t the way you do something, or

without killing the life?”

perspective can you bring to your work?

something you become a part of, it’s something you

The idea of a fly on the wall is preposterous.

You mentioned theatre, right? I think the British

the stamina. So, you need the scaffolding of the technical

surrender to. You can only jump in the river, though, if

And in documentary, I really learned that, and I

approach to acting—the way it’s taught—is often

you’ve learned how to swim.

practiced the art of how to bring a false construct to

steeped in theatre and about the technical mastery

Raci: That’s almost a spiritual tenet. You have

something while still actually experiencing life. And

of repetition, and analysis of the text. And that’s

to go to the gym; you have to learn how to swim.

narrative filmmaking is no different. Fiction is the

great. Those muscles are important to have and to

The craft of acting is learning the lines and

same thing. How do you do this without killing it? So

train. But I think actually there’s something beyond

everything, however, if you jump into the river

much of filmmaking is about killing the life and taking

that, which is the leap of faith, and the loss of control

and you drown, whose fault is that? It’s not the

the scraps.

that this film demanded of us. That was scary, and it

river’s fault.

was new for me.

You’ve got to learn your craft before you jump in

Is that part of what makes it interesting

I started working with acting coaches for the first

for all of you; pushing past the false con-

time, to push and pull me in a new direction. I tried to

you’re trying to articulate it over and over again.

struct and finding truth? We’ve all seen

find a new process. You were talking before, Darius,

You’ve got to learn your craft; you’ve got to do it

theatre that leans heavily on abstract

about pulling from the garden. Actually, for most of

every day. Find a partner. If you’re a writer, you’ve

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D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

that river. And I don’t think you can teach it because


got to write every day. If you’re an actor, you’ve got to act every day. So that when you finally jump into that river—when the director says, “We’re not going to rehearse this,”—you’re just going to go at it. You’re so ready that you can go at it. Because you’ve done your work already, and now’s the time to let it go and be real. All the effort that went into this film was rewarded the morning you each received Oscar nominations for the movie. After this long, winding road, how did that feel? Raci: Oh, for me, you keep wanting to say, “This is too good to be true.” But I think this is something everybody should take to heart, which is that nothing is ever too good to be true. I know it’s been years and I’ve been working, doing all these things, but I can’t think of a more perfect scenario for myself. If it had to happen this way to be rewarded with all this lavish praise—which, for me, is truly, truly lavish—then I just couldn’t be more grateful for it. I’ve got a grateful heart and I’m excited as hell for the future. It’s a beautiful thing for me. Ahmed: Yeah, it’s crazy, and yet, in a weird way, I knew that this was a special film. I knew that we were doing something special. You never know how it’ll land or how it might connect, or what the landscape of the world will be to receive it. But I knew it was a special film. It started from that place of, “I don’t care if nobody sees this,” which is a selfish perspective in

Cutting Edge Mikkel E.G. Nielsen placed Sound of Metal inside its lead character’s head

F

or Mikkel E.G. Neilsen, every film is a journey, but none have been quite like Sound of Metal and the editor is still reeling from his

Academy Award nomination. “No editor in Scandinavia or Denmark has

terms of the experience we gained from doing this,

ever been nominated for an Oscar or BAFTA,” he says. “It’s insane in our

and how it transformed us personally and allowed

world.” Neilsen, best known internationally for his work on 2015’s Beasts

us to grow creatively. But what’s exciting to me now

of No Nation, can’t quite place how he ended up on director Darius

is that more and more people might see this film

Marder’s radar. “Maybe he’d seen some of my earlier work, but I also

now it’s had a Best Picture nomination, and what

know that he’s very influenced by Danish cinema. And I’m a drummer

it might mean for them. For a long time, the idea of

myself—I have a drum kit in my edit room.”

whether anybody would see it wasn’t a given.

The appeal was instant. “I read the script,” says Neilsen, “and I really

Marder: That’s true. That’s the greatest gift of it

connected with it somehow, probably because of my own background

for me. It is a dream state right now that we’re all

and my own family history. My father is a musician, and he’s also losing

inhabiting, because we’re still in this COVID land

his hearing. So, there were a lot of elements.” In fact, Neilsen fully admits

where we’re not really connecting in the normal

to becoming “obsessed” with the script and its themes. “I even went

ways. But the piece of it that feels really pres-

into a silent retreat,” he recalls. “It’s funny what [silence] does to you.”

ent is my connection to you guys and the other people that worked on this movie. We shared the Oscar announcement on Zoom.

Knowing that Marder had been working on the project for many years, Neilsen insisted on being left alone for the first pass, which resulted in a 225-minute assembly. From there, the pair worked

We just decided that if it was going to be a disap-

together to find the emotional beats. “To be honest,” he says, “sound is

pointing day, we’d be in it together. And if it was

the only physical element in the cinema. It’s something that you really

something else, and maybe one person would get

feel. And in this film, you go into someone’s head, you feel that you are

nominated, then we’d celebrate together. And it just

losing [your hearing] with him. You become Ruben, right up to the point

turned out to be so ridiculous because we could all

where he suddenly goes ahead of you and you’re left behind.”

celebrate with one another. We could all share in it. After going through this process that I’ve been

For Neilsen, having hearing viewers suddenly have to play catch-up was an important part of the narrative. “I saw the film in Toronto with

through on this movie, and feeling it, living it, and

a huge audience of deaf people,” he says, “and they were laughing in all

dealing with all the hurt it put me through along the

these scenes. I was puzzled. I thought, What’s going on here? I just loved

way, these guys are the people that put their faith

that, because it’s so rare that you get these experiences.”

in me—real faith—and put their everything into this

—Damon Wise

movie without any proof of concept. To see these guys recognized, it just fills my heart. They really walked the walk, and that was amazing to me. ★ D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

33


THE

LONG  ROAD TO  OSCAR EACH OF THIS YEAR’S BEST PICTURE NOMINEES HAS SURVIVED A JOURNEY TO CROSS THE FINISH LINE, BEFORE EARNING THE ACADEMY’S CONSIDERATION. HERE’S HOW THE OTHERS CAME TOGETHER.

THE FATHER

P

laywright Florian Zeller’s The Father enjoyed several award-

winning runs on the stage before it made its evolution to film, but first-time feature film director Zeller had long been imagining moving his unnerving story of a man sliding into dementia to the big screen. “For years I was dreaming about making that film. I would say it was a profound desire,” he says. Partly what drove him was the response to the play. “That play has been staged in many countries, and I was surprised and profoundly moved to see that everywhere, the response of the audience was always the same.

lose your bearings.” He plotted

face I had in mind was Anthony’s.”

They were always waiting for us after

to constantly discombobulate

Fortunately, upon meeting Zeller,

every performance, just to share their

the viewer with a subtly shifting

Hopkins was intrigued by the role

daughter Anne, Zeller added another

own stories.”

environment. “Step-by-step, as

and agreed. “He was amazingly

dementia-inspired twist by suddenly

subtle as possible, always in the

generous,” Zeller says. “I think he’s

switching Colman for Olivia Williams.

background, things are changing.”

really humble and brave. He’s 83 now.

“I had this idea: If it was another

Zeller felt that the medium of film would bring even more dimension to the story. “Something could be done,

34

Zeller knew he wanted Anthony

yet, cinematically talking.” With Olivia Colman as Anthony’s

He knew that it was not an easy task

actress, what would happen?”

only thanks to the cinema, something

Hopkins in the lead role, but as a

to take. Trying to do something he

Zeller says. “The film adaptation

that was not possible on stage,”

first-time director, it was a long shot.

hasn’t done yet, trying to be pure

was the opportunity to try to find a

he says, “and it was to experience

He was so determined he re-named

emotion and this vulnerability, it was

translation of this confusion, but in a

subjectively what it means to

his lead character Anthony. “The

something that he hasn’t explored

very cinematic way.” —Antonia Blyth

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E


JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH

T

he story of William

Lakeith Stanfield, who found only

O’Neal, an African

a 1989 TV interview with O’Neal,

American career

some court transcripts and a few

criminal blackmailed by the FBI

anecdotal remarks from people

in 1969 into infiltrating the court

who knew him. “It was so hidden

of charismatic Black Panther

by the FBI,” he says. He based

Chairman Fred Hampton, is not

his performance on O’Neal’s

well documented, and bringing it

revelation that he felt “bad” and

to the screen came at a great price

“angry” about Hampton’s fate.

to director Shaka King—literally. It

“He felt he didn’t have a choice,”

took a lot of hunting through out-

Stanfield says. “He had to continue

of-print books to piece together

to do this or else he faced dire

a story that is still riddled with

consequences.”

question marks. “The amount of

King next had to negotiate

several-hundred-dollar books

with Fred Hampton’s son and

that I bought,” King recalls, “just

widow. “Fred Hampton Jr. was on

because this history isn’t widely

set nearly 90% of the time,” King

covered. It’s intentionally kept

says. “He’d read the script a mil-

from us.”

lion times… But it’s very different

Indeed, Daniel Kaluuya was

reading something and then being

MANK

T

rust David Fincher to turn to

as Fincher’s feature debut, Alien³,

Netflix to finally deliver Mank,

as a script developed by his father.

his long-gestating project that

It had been a passion project for

was so much about the glory days

Jack Fincher, who died in 2003, and

of Old Hollywood that it would be

yet the younger Fincher admits

shot in black and white, using pro-

that what drew him to the tale was

surprised in his research for the

on set watching it unfold. There

role of Hampton. “When I saw the

would be things in the moment

date when he was born and the

that he hadn’t considered that

date he was assassinated, I was

he would now be confronted with

duction techniques of the 1930s,

not the debate about the author-

like, ‘That can’t be right.’ Not only

and it would really push us to

and with sound design that echoed

ship of Citizen Kane which lies at

did they assassinate him at 21, he’d

change course. Sometimes we

the movie palaces of the era. This

the heart of the film. “I’m still not

made it to Chairman by 21, and that

could accommodate. Sometimes

is the director, after all, who snuck

interested in a posthumous credit

blew my mind.”

we couldn’t. Sometimes it made

Fight Club’s anti-corporate ideals

arbitration,” he says. “I’m still not

past Rupert Murdoch, and woke

interested in the idea of the villain-

the world up to the lawlessness

ous position of [Orson] Welles.”

A slightly harder job went to

scenes better.”—Damon Wise

of Silicon Valley’s club of billion-

Instead, what drew him was the

aires with The Social Network.

aspect of the story that was about

Where better for a provocateur to

change. “[Herman J. Mankiewicz]

indulge in cinema history than at a

could sign a contract,” Fincher

streamer that has been accused of

says. “He was a grown man; he

plotting its death?

knew what he was doing. But he’d

Of course, it’s no small wonder

happily written and disappeared

that Neflix hopped aboard; after

into the wings many, many times

all, they’ve gone out of their way to

before, and on this one, he didn’t.

silence doubters by backing strong

That was interesting to me. I was

work from top flight directors in

fascinated by the notion of a guy

the past, greenlighting projects

who is on record so many times

traditional studios have consid-

decrying the shallowness and

ered too risky to back. That was

hopelessness of cinema finally

the case with Mank, which had

saying, ‘Wait a minute. I want this

been in the ether since as far back

one on my headstone.’” —Joe Utichi

“I WAS FASCINATED BY THE NOTION OF A GUY WHO IS ON RECORD SO MANY TIMES DECRYING THE SHALLOWNESS AND HOPELESSNESS OF CINEMA FINALLY SAYING, ‘WAIT A MINUTE. I WANT THIS ONE ON MY HEADSTONE.’”—DAVID FINCHER

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

35


MINARI “This is a story that has always been with me and in my mind and in my heart,” he says. “The work of it was interesting in trying to birth it into a film — to get it away from my own personal experiences and memory toward something that works as a film.” The screenplay was however loosely based on Chung’s life—something that gave him “a lot of apprehension about whether I was doing some kind of injustice to my parents.” But ultimately, his cast and crew eased those concerns as the project took on its own resonance. “I think he really left a lot of space for us to imbue our own things,” Yeun says of playing the lead role of Jacob. “I appreciated that Isaac didn’t really express to me his worry about it. If anything,

I

he really always supported me through my fears n January 2020, Lee Isaac Chung premiered

forward to 2021 and six Oscar nominations later,

about approaching a character I think a lot of Asian

Minari, his first feature since 2012. The story

and the film’s shine has not dulled at all in the year

Americans and specifically Korean Americans have

follows a Korean American family that

since its debut.

an idea of what is on their minds.”

uproots from metropolitan Los Angeles to a small

With the recent surge of violence against Asians,

Arkansas town where they start a farm. Starring

2013, when his daughter was born and his family

this film feels more important than ever. “I hope

Steven Yeun, Yeri Han, Yuh-Jung Youn, Alan S. Kim

moved to Los Angeles. He found he had the desire

that what we are putting forward with this film is

and Noel Kate Cho, the drama provides a stunning

to tell a more personal story about what it was

that we are not an issue. We are human beings first

portrait of the American dream, and immediately

like to be a father, but it wasn’t until 2018 that he

and foremost,” Chung says.

garnered buzz at the Park City festival. Fast

started to put this down on paper.

—Dino-Ray Ramos

F

rances McDormand was at the

producer Peter Spears had identified

Toronto Film Festival promot-

a non-fiction book, Jessica Bruder’s

ing Three Billboards when she saw a

Nomadland, that seemed like the

film that stopped her in her tracks.

perfect fit of director, star, and mate-

Chloé Zhao’s The Rider, the director’s

rial, and Zhao got to work crafting a

second feature, struck her as exactly

fictional lead—McDormand’s Fern—

the kind of indie spirited produc-

from the real stories about people

tion she wanted to be involved in.

who had given up settlement for life

Zhao had cast a real young cowboy,

on the road.

recovering from a traumatic brain

As chance would have it, Zhao

injury, to fictionalize his own story on

had already been building her own RV

camera, an approach that blended

when the project beckoned. Into the

documentary with narrative fiction

script she incorporated many of the

in ways that sparked McDormand to

book’s real characters, charging them

track Zhao down.

all to play themselves in the resulting

communities with little fanfare, Zhao

away with hiding behind characters

film, to tell their life stories for the

was very often able to place McDor-

entirely. McDormand’s real life crept

pendent Spirit Awards, they each

camera. Some had hit the road by

mand in that world without alerting

into the Fern Zhao constructed, and

received prizes for their respective

choice. Others still had seen no alter-

the real Nomads to the Oscar winner

co-star David Strathairn blurred the

films, and used their speeches to

native in an increasingly suffocating

in their midst.

lines between art and life to such a

announce how excited they were

economy. And with a nimble shoot

to work together. McDormand and

that slipped in and out of the Nomad

A few months later, at the Inde-

36

The idea for Minari initially came to Chung in

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

But even the professional actors in Nomadland’s cast didn’t get

degree that his own son, Tay, was cast to play his son in the film. —Joe Utichi


THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7

F

ew Best Picture nominees have had a longer road than

asked who the Chicago 7 were.” Sorkin then wrote 32 drafts for

The Trial of the Chicago 7. But,

Spielberg and Paul Greengrass.

perhaps surprisingly, Aaron Sorkin

But it was at a dinner in London

credits Donald Trump for breaking

that the latter helped Sorkin

the film’s 14-year log-jam.

find the movie’s core. Sorkin told

“He would have rallies, there

Greengrass, “There are these

would be a protester or two, and

two guys, brothers basically, who

Trump would get nostalgic about

plainly can’t stand each other and

the old days, when we would

one thinks the other is harming

carry that guy out on a stretcher.

the cause.” And Greengrass said,

That is what made Steven

“Write about the brothers.”

[Spielberg] say, ‘The time to make this movie is now.’” Back in 2006, Sorkin was summoned by Spielberg. “He told me he wanted to make a movie about

They were Abbie Hoffman, played by the Oscar-nominated Sacha Baron Cohen, and Eddie Redmayne’s Tom Hayden. Sorkin didn’t consider directing

the Chicago 7. I said, ‘Great, I’m in.’ I

until Spielberg told him to stop

left his house, called my father and

rewriting and just do it. “Screenplays are never really finished,

“HE WOULD HAVE

PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN

W

riter and first-time director Emerald Fennell came up with

the Morning” by Juice Newton. LuckyChap were smitten with the results. “I feel like Emerald had

the idea for this twisty tale of a

an incredibly clever approach in

woman avenging sexual assault

luring us, especially those of us

before the #MeToo movement

who grew up in the ’90s, into nos-

began in earnest. It came up “like

talgic territory,” Robbie says.

a hairball” she says. “It probably

Mulligan also found herself

came out because it’s something

instantly drawn. “For ages before

that I find incredibly troubling and

this film came along, people were

I wanted to talk about.”

like, ‘What part do you want? What

Key to getting the film made

to do?” she says. “And I couldn’t

in the lead role of Cassie, and the

describe what it was… When this

early backing Fennell found in Mar-

came along I was like, ‘Oh, it’s that.

got Robbie and Josey McNamara’s

That’s what I want to do.’”

and finally Netflix got the film out

PROTESTER OR TWO,

during the pandemic. And Sorkin

AND TRUMP WOULD

believes it was destiny.

GET NOSTALGIC

“Chicago 7 has never played to

ABOUT THE OLD

an audience,” he says. “I under-

DAYS, WHEN WE

stand why and can live with it. The

WOULD CARRY THAT

last thing Steven said when I left

GUY OUT ON A

his house in 2006 was, ‘It would

STRETCHER. THAT IS

be great if we could release this

WHAT MADE STEVEN

before the election.’ He was talking

SPIELBERG SAY, ‘THE

about the 2008 election, but he

TIME TO MAKE THIS

didn’t specify. So, I feel like I deliv-

MOVIE IS NOW.’”—

ered the picture right on time.”

AARON SORKIN

—Mike Fleming Jr.

On a small budget, a heavily-

But first, Fennell crafted her script

pregnant Fennell decamped from

alongside a mental soundtrack.

her native London to LA for a light-

“I don’t write at all until the end

ning-fast 23-day shoot. “It was all

when it’s done,” she says. “When it

over LA, it was wherever we could

is I’ll transcribe it, and it takes not

beg, borrow and steal places,” she

very long. The real bulk of the work

says. “Thank God that it was such

is done entirely in my head, entirely

a kick-bollock-scramble and we

with music.”

had such a short shooting time,

That music included such

Then, Paramount, Cross Creek

WOULD BE A

have you not done that you want

was both casting Carey Mulligan

production company LuckyChap.

they’re confiscated,” he says.

RALLIES, THERE

because I think if we’d had any

kitschy throwback anthems as

longer I’d have been forced to think

Paris Hilton’s “Love is Blind”, Brit-

about the enormity of it and how

ney Spears’ “Toxic” and “Angel of

terrified I was.” —Antonia Blyth

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

37


O scar Nominees Inter vie ws by Antonia Blyth, Ryan Fleming, Pete Hammond, Nadia Neophytou, D i n o - R a y R a m o s , B r i t t a n y S p a n o s , J o e U t i c h i , D a m o n W i s e a n d S t e v i e Wo n g

Vanessa Kirby B E S T AC T R E S S | P i ece s of a Wo m an

In Pieces of a Woman, Vanessa Kirby plays Martha, a first-time mother who loses her baby daughter at birth. Based on the experiences of screenwriter Kata Wéber and her director partner Kornél Mundruczó, the narrative explores Martha’s journey through grief, forgiveness and identity, as her mother Elizabeth (Ellen Burstyn) pushes her to seek legal retribution for the midwife’s supposed negligence. Nominated in the Academy’s Best Actress category, Kirby has also received Globe and BAFTA nominations for her eviscerating portrayal of a woman fighting for emotional survival. In order to authentically inhabit the role, she spoke with bereaved mothers, shadowed a doctor and even witnessed a birth.

This is such a harrowing story,

pieces of writing ever. And you have

incredible as Martha's mother

of hope, and I think that’s what

and it required such deep

to learn to wipe the slate and start

Elizabeth in this.

people needed this year.

emotional connection, how did

at the beginning again.

I know. I think sometimes there's

I really hope so. I felt that we all

no rhyme or reason to these things,

go through such difficult things,

you protect yourself?

And then the second part

I thought about it a lot in the middle

was—and Ellen and I talked about

is there? I know that I’ve been on

and you want to find a way to get

of the movie when I thought, Oh,

it a lot too—I think as an actor, it

set with her and I witnessed some

through another day alone. I think

every day I’m tortured. I knew my

is a privilege to touch something

of the most powerful and present

that it’s such a story of female

main job was to try and access

that’s real, it’s a truth of somebody

acting I’ve ever been around in my

courage. Pregnancy and then the

the collective experiences of all

else’s that, however difficult it is, it

life. And she cares so much about

miscarriage, and it’s never spoken

the different women I’d spoken to

feels like that’s your job to try and

the heart of the story, and she

about and yet that affects 25%

[for research], whether they’d lost

go as close to that as possible.

wore that as a mantle for women,

of women. All those unspoken

babies really early on, or had to give

And so that feels like an honor. It’s

the mother-daughter relationship.

stories of grief that people have

birth to them, or lost them just after

something that in a way, is more of

But also, she always felt that it’s

to go through. I think so often we

birth. The unbearable grief that

a privilege.

a true story of forgiveness and

leave things and we have to let go,

finding a way to heal rather than

and we don’t ever know why. We

came with losing your baby like that.

I think I came away from it a

I just knew that every day I had to

really different kind of person and

to seek revenge or compensation.

can never explain it. And so many

try and do what they described to

understanding so much more about

I think she’s very philosophical and

of the women I spoke to had lived

me justice. And so, I tried to live that

grief and the level of pain other

gracious and only really wanted the

alongside their loss, but the memory

every day.

people have to go through. My life

story to live. She’s never concerned

of having a baby and of being a

hasn’t been near that, but it was

with herself solely. She’s one of

mother—they’ll always be a mother

I’ve done theater, because doing A

a privilege to try and understand

the most gracious actors I’ve ever

to that child. I think Martha finds her

Streetcar Named Desire, for example,

people that have had to navigate

known. And she’s so soulful; she’s

voice and her daughter teaches her

when you have to do a three-and-

that course.

like living poetry, that woman.

how to heal.

only got an hour break. And that

It’s such a shame Ellen Burstyn

This is really a story about

And she ultimately finds pride in

play really is one of most harrowing

didn’t get nominated, she’s

finding a way through, a story

her motherhood.

I thought, God, I’m so grateful

a-half-hour show, and then you’ve

38

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E


She’s a proud mother for her baby.

wanted us to go back, and they

And, at that moment, the most

had to work so hard to make sure

precious moment in her whole life,

it was possible. I’ve been in London

that one that would be taken away, I

with the whole industry closing

think the message of grief is in some

down, and to be back on set is just

ways learning how to heal and let go.

a miracle. I’m so grateful for what

I think it’s something that unites us

we do, and to do what we love,

all, and it’s something I think we all

and I don’t think any of us will take

have to navigate and know.

it for granted again, honestly. It

N E T FLI X / EV E R ET T COLL ECT I ON

was a whole industry completely You watched a woman give birth

shut down across the board for

for real in preparing for the role?

everyone, and I think I did feel a

Yes. Seeing another woman do it for

sense of everyone coming back with

real, live, was life-changing for me,

a renewed sense of clarity about

because I’m a woman and have full

the story that they wanted to tell

power, full surrender, in the most

and why. I know I definitely had

trying or feminine place you could

that—just the responsibility we all

ever be. I’m just so honored by this.

have now to really, truly represent

I think as an actor, it is a privilege to touch something that’s real, it’s a truth of somebody else’s that, however difficult it is, it feels like that’s your job to try and go as close to that as possible.

the whole spectrum of being that You’ve been shooting the next

experience. And it’s so exciting

two Mission Impossible films,

because it’s telling stories that

resuming your White Widow role.

haven’t been told. I feel like the heart

Has that been a bit of a palate

of it is that. There are just so many

cleanser after this film?

things that haven’t been finished

It’s just been so amazing to be

on screen, and I’m really excited to

back on set. Because Mission really

begin being a part of that.

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

39


O s ca r Nomi n ee s

Leslie Odom Jr. B E S T S U P P O RT I NG AC T O R | B E S T O R I G I NA L S O NG O ne N igh t in M iam i

How do you reflect on your nominations for One Night in Miami after such a crazy year? The experience is just profound gratitude. The fact that we were able to make something so special, and we knew it was special. There were moments shooting it where I was getting goosebumps. That’s never happened to me on a set before. There are technical aspects to shooting that have historically stopped it from being as emotionally satisfying for me. But there was something about this writing, these actors, and Regina King that let it be an experience a lot closer to what theater feels like to me. Where did you begin, trying to become Sam Cooke? Singing is a tradition that is passed down through listening, so Sam, in many ways, was one of my teachers. As a child, I tried to sound like Sam Cooke, like Donny Hathaway. You learn by trying to mimic. How close can I sound to Marvin Gaye? They’re teaching you everything about the technical aspects, but also the emotional contours of a song. You have to put all that together. At the same time, you set it aside and you have to become your own thing. So, to pick that back up again and to go back to mimicry—to go back to trying to fit his very large shoes—was daunting, but it was part of it. I just felt like that nine- or 10-year-old kid again.

Maria Bakalova B E S T S U P P O RT I NG AC T R E S S | B orat Subs equent Mov ief ilm

What is the best feedback you’ve received for your role as Tutar? The best feedback is how many young girls from my country, from Eastern Europe, even from America and Australia, from everywhere all over the world, have been inspired that their dreams are possible, and they should dare to achieve them. We should take the risk, we should follow our dreams, like Tutar did in the movie, and support each other with love and respect because we are all humans. We are equals, and that’s the best thing, and it relates to all of us because

How does it feel to be an Oscar-nominated actress? I was crying and shaking. It’s just beyond all my expectations. Having this movie and this recognition, it makes me inspired to bring more attention to people from my region of the world, people from Eastern Europe, people with accents, and people with different backgrounds, because I think we should celebrate who we are and be proud of it. The world is going to be better and beautiful if you celebrate that diversity. If you celebrate the stories of strong women like, in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, the story of Tutar, or the story of Jeanise Jones, or the story of Judy, the Holocaust survivor, it’s just beautiful. And I think we need it. We need it these days more than ever.

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PAT T I P E R RE T/A M AZO N / E V E RE T T CO LL ECT I ON

at the end of the day we all have this young child inside of us.


F O R

Y O U R

C O N S I D E R A T I O N

ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEE ®

BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM VENICE FILM FESTIVAL OF F ICI A L SEL ECT ION

TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

INDEPENDENT SPIRIT AWARDS BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM

OF F ICI A L SEL ECT ION

NOMIN EE

“ASTONISHING. HARROWING. UNFORGETTABLE.” “TRANSCENDENT.”

“SWIFT AND SHATTERING.” “DEEPLY COMPELLING AND HEARTBREAKING.”


O s ca r Nomi n ee s

Andra Day B E S T AC T R E S S | The Un i ted State s vs . Bi l l i e Ho llid a y

While preparing to play Billie Holiday, at any point did you think, “Yeah I got this?” I don’t know that I ever really had that moment. I think every day was, “All right, today’s the day they’re going to realize I’m terrible and I’m going to be fired.” I had a phenomenal director in Lee Daniels. This man is one of the greatest at pulling performances out of people, so I have him to thank. For my preparation, I was already such a fan, but I tried to read every book I could get my hands on, I re-read Lady Sings the Blues and even a book about her relationship with her dog, Mister. There’s just so much she held onto in every single relationship and that’s so telling about who this woman is. I also

Chloe Zhao

laughing and cussing like a sailor as she does. She had a PhD in cussing.

BEST PICTURE | BEST DIRECTOR B E S T A DA P T E D S C R E E N P L AY | B E S T F I L M E D I T I NG No ma d la n d

Did you ever think of not singing in the style of Billie Holiday?

listened to every interview, every rehearsal tape, which are my favorite. I loved to drop into a tape of her rehearsing with her band and telling stories and just

I did not want to do this movie without doing her voice, because I look at her voice as a scroll. And on it is written all of her experiences, every hit, every time

Your films blend narrative fiction with real people, real

she slammed heroin, every time she stood up against the government where

worlds, in a fascinating way. How does the script come

they came after her for singing “Strange Fruit”, every drag from a cigarette. I just

together when you’re folding in so many of these real-life

stopped taking care of my voice the way I would as a singer. No drinking tea, just

elements?

drinking cold gin and cold water and smoking cigarettes and laughing and yelling.

At the same time that I’m trying to figure out who Fern is, based

Her voice is just as much her personality and character as she is. So, singing the

on the stories in the book, we’re also trying to work out which

songs was not just about emulating her, it was about interpreting her.

of the Nomads can be in the film, who wants to be in the film, and what that will do for the locations. Everything happens simultaneously, because once we meet someone like Swankie, we realize she has to be in the film, and that informs the journey that Fern is going to take. Eventually I drew a map of Fern’s locations we’ll travel to, the towns Fern will visit. So, we knew we wanted to cover almost all of the landscapes in the American West. The only ones that we didn’t really cover were the canyons and maybe the Rockies. This is the first time you’ve worked with professional actors. What kind of partner was Frances McDormand? I feel incredibly lucky that my first experience with a professional actor was with someone who was willing—whether it was difficult for her or not—to step out of her comfort zone and be completely open and vulnerable in those moments you see on screen. It doesn’t matter how much training you have, or how exceptionally talented you are, or how much you buy into the method. All that stuff is incredible, and I respect the craft. But the cinema that really draws me is the type where, in that moment on screen, none of that matters; that all has to go. Are you truthful in that moment of connecting with another human being on camera? And Fran, aided by everything that she has experienced and learned, is able to throw it all away in the moment and just react.

PARA M OU N T P I CT U E ES / E V ER E TT COL LECTI O N /S E A RC H LI G H T P I CT U RES

journey, which the producers could use to work on the film; the


O s ca r Nomi n ee s

Carey Mulligan

when I was 14, and I saw the produc-

released, we did a concert in New

tion of Cabaret that Sam Mendes

York with Patti Smith and Gillian

did. I also saw Kevin Bacon doing a

Welch and all these incredible peo-

B E S T AC T R E S S | P ro m i s i ng Yo u ng Wo m an

one-man show on that same trip, and

ple. I’ve never been so nervous in my

one other thing, I can’t remember.

entire life. I was a complete wreck.

Carey Mulligan has made a career of out of taking on roles that feel unprecedented for women, finding truth and human connection in the celebration of strength that goes unrecognized and the honesty of flaws that have historically been treated as unseemly. It’s there in her earliest work, like An Education, for which she received her first Oscar nomination. And in her latest, Promising Young Woman, which netted her a second. She sat for a long discussion about her life and career to date, of which only a small fraction is reproduced here. You can find the extended cut on Deadline.com.

That trip, I think, solidified it for me. I

But, no, I’d love to do a musical. I

wanted to live in a tiny apartment in

definitely will one day. Or else I’ll do

New York and tread the boards; show

what Judi Dench did, and sneak into

up to auditions every day and not get

the back of the Les Misérables cho-

the job; live the proper struggling-

rus during an interval. So cool.

actor dream. It was a musical theatre passion that started it for me.

With singing, it’s hard to get away from it being you, and that’s what’s so vulnerable about it. With acting,

How come you’ve never done a

I’ve got this voice that’s not my voice,

musical?

and I’m wearing these clothes that

Well, at school I did, but I can’t sing

aren’t mine. So, even with Shame,

well enough for musicals. I’m not

once I was in the costume and the

You were born in London, and your

up from rehearsals one day, my mum

a singer like a proper singer. But I

makeup and I was in the room, it was

dad was a hotel manager, so you

and I, and I watched them do a scene

loved it. I always wanted to do Caba-

fine. But it was the build-up to that,

lived in Germany for a spell when

on stage, and I was distraught that I

ret. That was my dream. I always

when it was just me.

you were younger. How did you

wasn’t allowed to be in it and appar-

wanted to play Sally Bowles. I think

discover acting?

ently kicked up a massive fuss. So,

I might have left it a bit too late, but

This is why Cabaret is the answer;

At school. I went to the International

then they sort of bent the rules and

that was all I wanted to do. There’s

it’s all about taking on other per-

School in Düsseldorf in Germany. My

let me do it. And that was my first

something so exposing about sing-

sonas. And you know the man to

brother was in a production of The

play. I think my mum must have gone,

ing. I’ve sung in Shame, and we did

do it, because you’ve worked with

King and I, and I was too young to

“Oh no, I’ve got this precocious little

Inside Llewyn Davis, the Coen broth-

Baz Luhrmann.

be in it. They weren’t letting my year

kid.” But I loved it; just loved it.

ers’ film. Recording it for the film was

Oh, yeah. Gosh, that’s true. I do

one thing, but then after the film was

know a guy. I do still do Cabaret a lot

group in. We went to go and pick him

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D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

Then, I took a trip to New York


everything Jena did and just copy

about it—and perhaps this was the

her, basically.

director, Lone Scherfig’s intent—felt really small. It was very exciting, but it

You did your first play, Forty

sort of felt like this cool little thing we

Winks, at the Royal Court not long

were doing that nobody would ever

after. You hadn’t been to drama

see. So, I didn’t feel any pressure. In

school; did you find that the stage

fact, the first time I saw it, I was on

was a good proving ground for

my own, and I remember calling my

developing as an actress?

mum and being like, “It’s so boring.

I think it is definitely that. That first

My stupid face is doing nothing and

play I did, I felt massively out of my

I’m terrible in it and everyone’s going

depth too, and very aware of not

to hate me.”

being trained. I think practically everyone in the cast had gone to RADA or

Have you come around since?

somewhere. But later, when I did The

Yeah [laughs]. I mean, of all the films

Seagull, I was about 21 and I remem-

I’ve done, that’s the one I’ve seen

ber thinking, Oh, I think I can actually

the most because it was amazing to

sort of do this. I’m not just winging it.

watch it in Sundance and to feel that

Up ’til then, I’d played characters

reaction. And then we did all the film

where I could borrow from my life a

festivals. It didn’t occur to me to not

lot. If I needed to cry, I’d think about

sit through the film in the way that

terrible things happening to my fam-

now I will do everything I can to not

ily to try and make myself cry. It was,

have to be in that room. But she’s an

firstly, mega depressing, and sec-

incredible director, Lone, and she gave

ondly, really hard to sustain. But when

me a lot of amazing pep talks about

I played Nina, firstly I felt very close

how to work on camera, because I

to that character, as I’m sure most

think at that point, I felt more com-

actors do. But at the same time, she

fortable on stage. You always see your

goes through things that, thank God,

flaws in your performance; it’s hard

I’ve never been through. It became

not to. So, I do love it. It was the hap-

obvious that I couldn’t borrow from

piest set full of just the nicest people.

life anymore, and I had to start building somebody. I remember reading

You’re Oscar nominated again

something at the time about how

this year for Promising Young

Meryl Streep puts on the character’s

Woman. Cassie is the latest in

hat, metaphorically, and then plays

character you’ve played who

the part and takes it off again. I felt

bucks conventional ideas of who

like that might be my way of working,

women can be in cinema. The film

that I don’t become the person, and

makes you grapple with under-

it doesn’t become me. I just build that

standing her actions.

person on their own with their own

It’s essentially about the fact that

memories and references and life.

revenge is futile. There’s no endorse-

Then I would just sit backstage every

ment of anything she’s doing, but it

night writing out stuff about her life.

was interesting to have the reaction

in the shower. I’ve been practicing

On the first day of the rehearsals,

And it has sort of stayed that way

from a couple of journalists, like,

for 25 years.

Judi Dench—Dame Judi Dench—

ever since, really.

“She’s crazy.” That really struck me,

FOC US FE AT T U R ES / E VE RE T T CO LL ECT I ON

came over to me, and I was sitting

because I think of all the films where

Instead, your first job was as

on my own in the rehearsal space,

In between runs of The Seagull,

men have gone to much more violent

one of the Bennet sisters in Joe

and she said, “I believe we have the

you did An Education. You then

and drastic and dramatic lengths for

Wright’s Pride & Prejudice. What

same agent. I’m Judi, nice to meet

wound up with your first Oscar

somebody they love; a daughter, a

did it feel like to step on that set

you.” I just didn’t know what to do

nomination for that role. Did you

wife. I’ve never heard them described

having never been on a profes-

with myself. It was so nice and kind,

get the sense, in the middle of all

as crazy. I think her methods are

sional production before?

because I’d never met a professional

that, that things were changing?

morally questionable, but she's right.

I had no idea what I was doing

actor, let alone met Judi or been in a

No, not at all. I did Doctor Who, then

That’s the complicated thing. What’s

[laughs]. But Joe Wright was amaz-

film with anyone. I was completely

The Seagull, then An Education. I was

great about what Emerald’s written,

ing, and we had more rehearsals

out of my depth. And I just sort of

ping-ponging all over the place. An

is that you see Cassie being held

than I’ve ever had for anything. We

attached myself to Jena Malone,

Education was around in my life for a

accountable for it just by herself. She

had a week of dancing, because

who was incredibly experienced and

while before we actually shot it, so it

is a person who does have a con-

there are so many dances in the film,

very confident and just so much

was quite a long process. By the time

science. She’s not a sociopath. She’s

and then two weeks of rehearsal.

fun. I decided I was going to just do

we were actually doing it, something

feeling deeply throughout.

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

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O s ca r Nomi n ee s

Emerald Fennell BEST PICTURE | BEST DIRECTOR B E S T O R I G I NA L S C R E E N P L AY P romising You ng Wo m an

Did you experience pushback on the film’s shocking and unconventional ending? LuckyChap had come on board before I’d written it, and they’re just amazing. They didn’t know it was going to end the way it did, but when they called me when they first read it, I think we had a very brief discussion about it, but they were completely onboard. The whole thing is you couldn’t really change anything about it because otherwise it would then just become the thing that it’s trying so hard not to be, which is just a kind of generic revenge thriller. I was lucky that they were really behind it from the get-go, and so when it came to finances, it cast them in a situation where some people were like, change the ending. But then lots of other people really said the ending is kind of crucial, so I think I was lucky. There’s such a dichotomy between the film’s pastel pink appearance and its dark underbelly. Yes, totally. I think for me that just feels like so many women’s lives. We’re so practiced at covering things up and making things appear functioning, appealing, happy, putting a brave face on it all. It’s so much about looks being deceiving in every way. And I love getting dressed up, I love having stupid nails, I love Britney. I’m really interested in what part of our culture diminishes that stuff and makes that stuff silly. So partly for me, this movie

Sacha Baron Cohen B E S T S U P P O RT I NG AC T O R | The Tr ial of the Chicago 7 B E S T A DA P T E D S C R E E N P L AY | B orat Subs equent Mov ief ilm

was also about interrogating why that is. Why should it be this grey? Why should it be relentless and dark and serious? I suppose it still is in some

You play Abbie Hoffman in The Trial of the Chicago 7. You’d

respect, but it didn’t feel real to me that that’s how things were.

learned about him in college, is that right? I was 20 years old and my undergraduate thesis was about Jews in the Civil Rights Movement in the ’60s and Abbie was one of many Jewish left-wing radicals who traveled down to the South to parthat Black people had the right to vote, and fighting systemic racism then, which obviously still exists now and is exemplified in the movie itself. The interesting things for me was that that group of radical Jews went from fighting for Black equality to forming the basis of the anti-Vietnam war movement. You brought Borat back to screens in a triumphant way just prior to the election. Why did it feel so essential? I didn’t think it would have much impact, but I felt I would have to be able to look at myself in the mirror on November 4 and say, “I did what I could.” I didn’t know whether it’d be a disaster, or whether I’d get through it, but I must say, myself and the crew around me, the thing that spurred us on through the risk of getting Coronavirus, and the risk of getting arrested, or being in physical danger was, they were all terrified about Trump winning again, and they were deeply patriotic Americans who felt they had to do what they could to preserve the republic.

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X FOC US FE AT U R ES / E VE RE T T CO LL ECT I ON /AM AZON /N E T FL I X

ticipate in the Freedom Riots. And he was risking his life to ensure


O s ca r Nomi n ee s

Viola Davis B E S T AC T R E S S | Ma Rai n e y’s Bl ack B o tt o m

You won an Oscar for your turn in another August Wilson adaptation, Fences. Ma Rainey couldn’t be more different from Rose Maxson, but how does it feel to find the power and the cadence in his words? It feels good. It feels freeing. It feels liberating and it feels right. I’ve always wanted to play human beings, and I think I’ve spent the better part of my career having to do the classics, and having to really work to imagine myself in George Bernard Shaw, or Shakespeare, or Eugene O’Neill, or any number of great playwrights. It’s always me taking everything that I’m about—my Blackness, my womanhood, my memories—and trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, trying to be a human being within those characters. I don’t have

Lee Isaac Chung B E S T D I R E C T O R | B E S T O R I G I NA L S C R E E N P L AY Min a r i

to really work at that part of it with August. August already speaks to my soul. August already begs me to give him my Blackness, to give him my womanhood playing August Wilson. It is extraordinarily liberating.

Steven Yeun

Your late co-star, Chadwick Boseman, has been rightly winning awards

B E S T AC T O R | Min a r i

and my memories. Actually, all of the things that make me, me, serve me in

for his performance. What was it like to witness that performance every day?

It was the experience of working with a true artist, which you only find a few times in your career. You just do. The average actor only experiences this weird

Isaac, did you feel apprehensive or vulnerable telling such a

alchemy when everything is in alignment—the writer, the work, the other

personal story?

actors, the director, the designers—and that’s what it felt like to work with

Chung: Strangely, I felt a lot of apprehension about whether I was

Chadwick. I always say that he was a character actor in a leading man’s body.

doing some kind of injustice to my parents, because I know the feeling

That he wasn’t interested in the last film making a billion dollars, he was inter-

of somebody telling a story with you as a character in it. It’s like I’m

ested in what he had in front of him right then and there, and making it as hon-

trying to tell their story in a way, but they’re not really telling it with

est and as truthful as possible. He was not a vanity guy at all. And the reason I

their own voice. It’s me. It’s my perspective, so that made me really

mention that, too, is he could easily have been that vanity guy, but he wasn’t.

nervous. Other than that, I tried to keep some distance from reality and

He was the real deal. One of those people that come by once in a lifetime.

what actually happened so that I don’t have to try to make it so exact to what actually happened, but just to make a story and to make it entertaining. It was important for me to try to figure out a way to let the audience have a good time while watching the film. I actually enjoyed they’re not exactly from my real life. Steven, do you think the American dream and an immigrant story are one and the same? Yeun: I heard this really cool quote from another interview where someone said that all immigrants are artists, and that was very profound to me because I realize how true that is—to make something from nothing. America is the land of immigrants. It is an immigrant nation. The initial outset was to leave a system behind to create something brand new. We find ourselves a couple hundred years into this and trying to shake ourselves awake from the way that perhaps the larger section of the country has rooted itself—in its comfort in generations in some way—and then you have these beautiful images and examples of people that are doing it now. I feel like that’s ultimately what makes America beautiful. I don’t know if there’s an intrinsic difference.

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D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

N E T FLI X /J O E RUS H M ORE /A24 /E V E RE T T CO LL ECT I ON

writing those parts, knowing that they are from my real life, but that


O s ca r Nomi n ee s

Yuh-Jung Youn

know what the lines mean!” He just

a water shortage. My great grand-

said, “Just read it.” He was the direc-

mother tried to save the water. She

tor of the station. So, I read the lines

used the used water again and I saw

B E S T S U P P O RT I NG AC T R E S S | M i n ar i

and that’s where I started.

it and I felt like she’s dirty. That’s the

You had plenty of roles in South

David [played by Alan Kim]. David

Korea, but Minari marks your first

doesn’t like my character because

role in an American film. When

she smelled like Korea. That I under-

you first read Lee Isaac Chung’s

stand, really. And then in every other

script, what was your reaction?

situation, it felt natural and very

Before I even read the last page, I

realistic. I, myself am a grandma,

found it very authentic. It touched

so there was no problem playing

me. I made the phone call to the

that role with just a grandson, but

person who gave me the script and

the nice thing about Isaac was that

asked if it was based on [Chung’s]

when I asked him, “Should I imitate

real life, and she said yes, so I said,

your grandmother or is there any

“OK, I’ll do it.” I’m a very quick

specific gestures should I imitate?”

decision-maker.

he said, “No, no, no. You just play

reason why I didn’t like her. It’s like

In Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari, actress Yuh-Jung Youn plays the grandmother who swoops in from South Korea to the small Arkansas town where her Korean American family have made their home, delightfully disrupting their lives. With her abundant charm and unfiltered ways, she makes a significant impact in this heartwarming story of the American dream. The veteran actress made history when she became the first South Korean actress ever to receive an Oscar nomination in the Supporting Actress category. Here, she discusses forging a connection with a very American film, and how she is grateful, but somewhat stressed, by her nomination. Was being an actress always the

moderator asked me to come stand

ultimate goal for you?

beside him and hand some gifts to

How did you find a connection

gave me the space and freedom and

No, it wasn’t. It just accidentally

the audience. I said, “OK, I’ll do that,”

with the story?

was really very open-minded about

happened to me, being an actress.

and they gave me a check. Then one

I connected it with my great grand-

that character.

I was actually looking for a part-

day, I ran into this other guy work-

mother. I was nine when she passed

time job, and back in the ’60s when

ing for the drama department, and

away, but I was really bad to her. The

How was the experience of hav-

Korean television was becoming

he asked me to audition and just to

reason I didn’t like her—it’s very stu-

ing Alan Kim playing your grand-

famous, I was touring the station,

read lines in front of camera. I said,

pid now—but after the war, we tried

son? He is quite charming.

and somebody suggested to me that

“No, no, no, no, no. I’m not person

to save a lot of things. We didn’t have

I enjoyed Alan because he was like

I attend some kind of program. The

who could read the lines. I don’t

enough of everything and we had

a sponge. Firstly, he doesn’t have to

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D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

whatever you feel like to do.” So, he


like me, and I was a total stranger to him, so it wasn’t a problem. He was well prepared. I was kind of worried because of the experience of a seven-year-old boy, but my worry was all wrong. Seeing that this was your first American film, did you find major differences in the production process from your acting career in South Korea? I didn’t have any problem, but in Korea, I had a long career, more than 50 years. Everybody knows me. I’m not bragging about myself but… You should brag about yourself. In Korea, they know me [laughs]. They know what I don’t like and what I prefer on set. They know all the details. Here, nobody knows me. I was just nobody to them and I realized that I’ve been really very spoiled in Korea. Hollywood is currently going through this change when it comes to representation of people from Asian, Black, Latinx and other marginalized communities, and then there is the violence against Asians which is terrible. Do you think this is a very American issue or do you think it spans across the globe? I think all the across the world. I think that the world is changing. My son, who is Korean American, is living in the States. He was worried about me

My son, who is Korean American, is living in the States. He was worried about me coming to the States for the Oscars, because he was scared I would get hurt. He asked, “Don’t you need to have some guard or something like that?” It’s a sad thing. Just because you are Asian, there’s no reason to be attacked randomly like that.

coming to the States for the Oscars, because he was scared I would get M E LI SSA LU KE N BAUG H /A24 /COU RT ESY E V E RE T T CO LLECT I ON

hurt. He asked, “Don’t you need to have some guard or something like that?” It’s a sad thing. Just because you are Asian, there’s no reason to be attacked randomly like that. People in the U.S. are calling you

What does it mean to you to be

the Meryl Streep of South Korea.

the first South Korean actress to

How do you feel about that? Do

be nominated?

you see that as flattering?

Very stressful. I was just very happy

I feel sorry for me and for Meryl

being nominated. I never even

Streep—she doesn’t know me

dreamed about being nominated for

[laughs]! To be honest, I don’t like to

an Oscar. People will be very happy

be compared with somebody. I don’t

for me if I get the win, but it’s very

like to be the competition. I admire

stressful. It’s not like I’m representing

her work and everything, but there’s

the country by going to the Olym-

a story for her and there’s a story for

pics, but I feel like I’m competing for

me. I’m Korean.

my country. It’s stressful.

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

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O s ca r Nomi n ee s

Amanda Seyfried B E S T S U P P O RT I NG AC T R E S S | Mank

What did you make of the complexity of the role of Marion Davies? Whenever you play someone from real life, they’re all three dimensional, but it’s possible nobody really understood Marion as a three-dimensional person, except perhaps the people she knew or worked with back in the day, and most of them aren’t alive anymore. I thought it was an opportunity to give this person new life, and to show the world a completely different side of her. To show the complexities of this person. I saw her as someone who was a lot like me in a lot of ways. She was somebody who was just unabashedly honest

David Fincher

and very much looking for the truth in everything, and I find it very difficult to lie. She knew what was going on, but she didn’t necessarily understand which

B E S T D I R E C T O R | Ma nk

pieces of it should be kept from which people. Did you go back and watch her work? I did, but it only went so far in understanding her mannerisms and the way she moved, because she’s playing characters. My intention from the very beginning was that I wasn’t going to imitate her in the characters she played, because that wasn’t Marion. But she was right in front of me for hours and hours. It was amazing to have that.

Gary Oldman B E S T AC T O R | Ma nk

David, you found a number of resonances with where we are today in the story of Herman Mankiewicz; certainly, the fake newsreel stuff seems pertinent. Your father wrote the script in the ’90s; has it evolved over the years as the world and the industry has changed? Fincher: No, there was no doubt in 1996, or whenever we first tried to mount this movie, that the black and white was a barrier for entry. There was a feeling amongst everyone, including myself, that the notion of in some way inciting righteous indignation in octogenarians about the 1933 gubernatorial race in California was an issue; that stuff was discussed openly [laughs]. It was only, ironically, 25 or 27 years later that the fake newsreels became fake news. And even then, it was only oddly prescient if you ignore the fact that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Gary, do you hold the same affinity for Citizen Kane Oldman: Well, I like Chimes at Midnight and A Touch of Evil. They’re just more my bag, really. But I admire the ambition. I admire the commitment to it. I mean, you don’t meet anyone who would dislike early Robert De Niro, but even if he isn’t your cup of tea, you have to admire the commitment to the work. You can’t look at Raging Bull and go, “Eh…” I mean, watching Kane again for Mank, it’s a little hokey here and there. It creaks a little. But it holds up. It’s not something you put on and then, 20 minutes in, you think, it’s not as good as I remember… I think we can all agree it was a revolution for its time.

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that Fincher has?


FEATURE FILM SCRIPTS

The Writers’ Program congratulates the winners of the 2020 UCLA Extension Feature Film and Television Writing Competitions. 1ST PLACE Amy Teague The Art of Lying (Dramedy)

2ND PLACE Zdenka Turecek Marrying Me (Romantic Comedy)

3RD PLACE Sean Whitney B.L.I.S. (Sci-Fi / Romantic Drama)

TELEVISION PILOT SCRIPTS

CELEBRATING TOMORROW’S TOP SCRIBES

1ST PLACE Oliver Cooper IV Mercy (One-Hour)

2ND PLACE Denise Miotke Vigilante Nancy (Half-Hour)

3RD PLACE Shira Weitz Alice, The Most Ethical Sex-Worker In The World!!! (Half-Hour)

71623-20

TELEVISION SPEC SCRIPTS

1ST PLACE Nat Dinga Succession: Heart and Soul (One-Hour)

2ND PLACE Shari Sharpe Fleabag: Season 3, Episode 1 (Half-Hour)

3RD PLACE Christopher Peplin Ozark: Two Dead Men (One-Hour)

To receive information about the winners, or to learn more about the Writers’ Program, call (310) 825-9415, email writers@uclaextension.edu, or visit writers.uclaextension.edu.

Thanks to our Writers’ Program instructors and mentors: Julia Camara, Cynthia Hsiung, Roberto Marinas, Donald Martin, Koji Steven Sakai, and Andrew Osborne. Special thanks to our industry judges: (Feature Film) Jennifer Au, Jennifer Au Management; Elisa Oliveras, New Cadence Productions/Further Films; Chris Sablan, Avenue 2020; (Television) Lauren Dineley, Writ-Large; Isabella Mastrodicasa, Heroes and Villains Entertainment; and Mette Norkjaer, BOOM! Studios. The Writers’ Program is one of the most prestigious continuing education writing programs in the nation. Alumni include Gavin Hood, Stuart Beattie, Melissa Rosenberg, Doug Ellin, Kevin Williamson, Tucker Cawley, Earl W. Wallace, and Diane Thomas.


O s ca r Nomi n ee s

Anthony Hopkins B E S T AC T O R | T he Fathe r

How did you get into this character constantly being wrongfooted by dementia? It’s quite easy really because Florian [Zeller]’s play is such a remarkable play and Christopher Hampton’s script which pulls it together, made it easy. It’s like a map, you just follow the course of the road. And then working with Olivia Colman and Olivia Williams and all of them makes it really easy. I’m 83 now so I’m at that dangerous age. But I work a lot, I play the piano, and I keep my brain active. But it felt very second nature to me. I don’t know why. I’ve been doing it a long time, this business. This was actually the summit of my life in a way, doing this. It was such a wonderful part to play, but it was so easy, because I guess I’m closer to it now.

Daniel Kaluuya B E S T S U P P O RT I NG AC T O R | J udas and the Black Mess iah

Did playing the role affect you personally? It has actually yes, and as an actor, I’ve been doing this for many years, and I don’t carry it around with me. I don’t make my life miserable being an actor, I do it because it’s my work. I leave it as soon as it’s over. But this one, it’s hard to describe. It’s stayed with me. It’s made me much more aware of mortality and the fragility of life, and I think it’s removing from me my judgements of people. We are all fragile, we are all broken. We can point fingers, we can condemn, we can ridicule, it’s so easy… It has had the effect on me, to [make me] realize that

LaKeith Stanfield B E S T S U P P O RT I NG AC T O R | J udas and the Black Mess iah

I know nothing, and I’d better keep my mouth shut and not judge people and enjoy life as best I can. I think this has given more compassion, more feeling

Daniel, what made you say yes to playing Fred Hampton?

towards humanity, more love that I just took for granted before.

Kaluuya: He is a figure that encapsulates so much of what people today are fighting for in America, and around the world. And he was a channel. He was murdered at 21 and he was a channel, a vessel for all these incredible ideas, incredible philosophies, that are still being used resonated with me, and really resonated with how I see the world, and how I want the world to be. So, it was that. And it was also working with Shaka, working with Lakeith [Stanfield, co-star], working with Ryan, working with Charles [King, producer] and Macro [King’s production company], all of those factors, it was like so many stars aligned. So, it just made sense. LaKeith, how has your perception changed since making this film? Stanfield: So many things happened in the world at such an alarming rate. Things unraveled crazier and crazier. The perception’s changed with what I’m experiencing; that’s changed. So, the story itself has always been a beautiful story to me, and one that I wanted to tell, talking about the heroes that trailblazed the way for us to be where we’re at. But right now, I think it’s more important than ever, so I think the landscape has changed in an interesting way, where now it needs this story more than ever. So, I just feel like, damn that’s crazy, we hit that right on time.

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SON Y P I CT U RES C LASS ICS /E V ER E TT COL L ECT IO N /WAR N E R BROS .

today. And what the Black Panther party represented, as well, really


O s ca r Nomi n ee s

Thomas Vinterberg B E S T D I R E C T O R | B E S T I N T E R NAT I O NA L F I L M An oth e r Rou nd

yourself doing a year of traveling and celebrating yourself. And it’s not

With the pandemic, the film

necessarily very healthy. A lot of this

could very easily have gone a dif-

stuff can be dealt with on Zoom,

ferent way. What were you doing

which means I can go to the office

when lockdown started—were

and work on my next thing.

you still working on the film?

Even in a world as volatile as the film industry, Thomas Vinterberg has had some serious ups and downs. After becoming the toast of Cannes in 1998 with his Dogme film Festen, the Danish director fell sharply from grace with the follow-up It’s All About Love and endured several commercial flops before returning to favor with his provocative 2012 Oscar nominee The Hunt. His latest, the drinking drama Another Round, could have set him back to square one—as shooting began, his teenage daughter died in a car crash, and its Cannes premiere was scuppered by the Covid-19 pandemic—but somehow it prevailed, sweeping festival prizes across the globe and bringing Vinterberg back to the Oscar conversation.

No. There’s been a guardian angel

When did you first realize Another

somewhere with this movie. We’ve

Round was gathering so much

been incredibly lucky. The cinemas

momentum?

opened during a certain timeslot in

We felt it already with Denmark—

Denmark, we put the film out there,

there were some really strong reac-

and it filled every cinema in Denmark

tions here. We could actually sit in

throughout that timeslot. And then

a cinema full of people, watching

it finished its run, they locked down

the film, and that was sensational.

again. Similarly, the film was in final

The international success of the film

mix when the whole pandemic thing

became real to me in Rome, and in

broke out, so it never affected the

Lyon, and in Paris, during a trip that I

film back home. Then, of course,

went on [in October 2020].

there’s been all the festivals, that we What do the Oscars mean to you

when I went there with The Hunt it

haven’t been able to attend, which

What was so specific about the

right now?

became real, and I suddenly met all

has been a shame. But that can also

reaction in Denmark?

Since my childhood it has been a

these cineastes—people who have a

be turned into an advantage, I have

There was a lot of laughing, a lot of

dream, like a kind of phantom. I’ve

true fascination for film. There was

to say.

cheering, and a lot of tears. A lot of

been catching myself doing Oscar

a lot of camaraderie, so it became

speeches—like, when I’m in the bath-

more like a family, a family of people

In what way?

marily women. A lot of youngsters

room. Throughout my childhood, it

who all share the same interests.

If a film is successful, which this

used the film as a kickstart on a Fri-

was a thing I dreamt of. And then

But, as a kid and as a youngster, it

one has been, you very easily find

day night. And at the same time, in

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everything, basically—all ages, pri-

SA M U EL GOL DW Y N F I LM S /E VE R ET T CO L LECT I O N/AN D E RS OV ERGAAR D

was a filmmaker’s nirvana, I guess.


tried in my life. In Denmark, it was

didn’t only have to be drunk, they

urge to see him dance. And also, I

800,000 people, which, out of 5 mil-

had to be very tender, they had to be

felt it really made sense, in a movie

lion, is a lot.

fun, they had to be very refined, they

about drinking.

had to be great teachers, they had to

You know the film Zorba the Greek?

You first began talking about

dance… I put a lot on their plate. The

I love it, particularly the end scene,

Another Round while you were

drunken part of it just had to work,

where they dance on the beach. I

promoting Far from the Madding

so we had a full week of rehearsals.

always was mesmerized by that,

Crowd in 2015. Is it the film you

Eight hours a day, for five days, which

because everything fell apart in that

thought you’d end up making or

included filming the actors under dif-

movie, everything was destroyed.

has it changed?

ferent levels of influence of alcohol.

They call it “a beautiful catastrophe”.

At that time, it was still only a pitch.

We watched a lot of material involv-

I felt that was mesmerizing, and I

And, as I remember, back then it was

ing drunks—for some reason, par-

kind of went for it. The end of this

more like a celebration of alcohol.

ticularly Russian videos [laughs]. It

movie is a beautiful catastrophe.

And then maybe in 2015, we fig-

was a lot of fun, but also a lot of hard

ured out that if we wanted to make

work. The eyes were a big giveaway

And then you released this film in

a movie about alcohol, we had to

constantly, especially at a high level

the middle of a pandemic…

talk about the whole spectrum of

of alcohol intake, so we had to keep

Oh yeah. But it’s given this film some

it, and also talk about the fact that

calling the makeup department. We

extra energy. Of course, I would love

it kills people and destroys families.

also saw on the videos that when

people to see this film in screening

We’ve had very close relationships

people fall over when they’re drunk,

rooms. I miss the element of… what

with people who’ve lost either their

they don’t protect themselves, they

do you call it? Collectivity? Commu-

life or their dignity to alcohol. But

just fall on their heads, so we needed

nity? That you can actually all feel

the story—the story of doing this

the stunt department to come in.

the same thing, at the same time, is

experiment—I feel came a bit later

There were a lot of practicalities that

an enormous and almost forgotten

than that. We were looking for it

we had to work on, basically.

thing. But, having said that, the film

for a while, and then when we ran

is landing in an environment where

into [Norwegian psychiatrist] Finn

What is it about the eyes?

Skårderud’s theory [that humans

They go blurry. It’s the difference

are born with a blood alcohol level

between control and lack of control,

You’ve had success and failure

that is 0.05 per cent too low], things

so if you act like your body is out of

in roughly equal measure. Do you

started to take shape. When we then

control, but people can see that your

think failure is a part of what

decided to make them teachers, it

eyes are navigating, it’s a giveaway.

makes a good artist?

really took shape.

So, when they become blurry and

It’s a double-edged sword. Through

watery and reddish, it helps. It actu-

failure, you learn to enjoy success,

How real is the theory?

ally helps them act with their eyes—

and it gives you courage somehow

Well, it’s real in the sense that a Nor-

they let go of scanning around.

to know that, OK, it can’t get any

wegian psychiatrist said it and wrote

people are yearning for this, I think.

worse than this. But then again… I

it! But in the world of academics, it

Obviously you’ve worked with

remember talking to a boxer once,

takes more than just saying some-

Mads Mikkelsen before, so you

and he said, “If you have experienced

thing to qualify as a theory. It’s only

knew he’d been a professional

a knockout, it’s the ultimate humili-

in the movie business where you can

dancer. Had you wanted to have

ation. The problem is you become

have theories about everything. So,

him dance in a movie before?

cautious. You become less daring.” I

it’s basically just something some-

I’ve always wanted to, but there’s

think the whole idea is to try to not

one said; I guess polemically. He read

never been an opportunity. Like in

get too carried away, either when

the script and helped us with it—he’s

The Hunt, the audience would have

we fail or when we have success. I’ve

very supportive and likes it a lot. But,

been sure that he was guilty if he

said this before, but the best advice

from an academic view, I don’t think

started dancing [laughs] In Nicolas

I’ve ever had, was from Ingmar Berg-

it makes sense. We tried to elevate it

Winding Refn’s movies, it would have

man in that regard. He said, “Always

into an academic experiment.

been even more fun—can you see it

decide your next movie prior to the

in Valhalla Rising? The jazz hands? It

premiere, prior to the opening night.”

the same cinema, you had ex-alco-

Have you tried it?

would have been beautiful! I always

holics who felt that this movie was

No. I haven’t tried it because I’m

wanted it, but there wasn’t really the

What’s your next project?

about them, and felt seen by it, and

nervous about the outcome. I’m ner-

opportunity, until this project came

I’m writing a TV series, Families Like

enjoyed the fact that someone was

vous that I’m too far from reality. But

about. Mads was very nervous about

Ours, which I’m very much enjoy-

finally talking about why it’s so great

the French distributor tried it, so I’ll

it, and so was Tobias Lindholm, my

ing. It’s not going to be with Tobias

to drink. The film made sense to a lot

ask them how it went.

co-writer. They’re both “reality rules”

[Lindholm] this time, as he’s becom-

kind of guys, and they felt it was a bit

ing increasingly rich and famous as a

of different people of a lot of different ages and a lot of different social

How difficult it is to film drunk

of a stretch, to have a school teacher

director, so I’m working with [Bo Hr.

levels, so it was a proper blockbuster.

scenes like these?

ending up in a musical-like scene at

Hansen], my old collaborator on my

It has sold more tickets than I’ve ever

It’s really difficult. For this film, they

the end. I felt that too, but I had this

graduate film, Last Round. ★

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OSCAR H AN DICAPS / BY PET E H A M M O N D

BEST PICTURE IT’S BEEN A YEAR LIKE NO OTHER. Actually, make that two years like no other, since eligibility in the unusual 14-month Oscar calendar was extended by two months until February 28, 2021. This will be the very first Academy Awards since the 6th edition, listed as 1932-33, that have included one year and part of the other, and this year’s awards will technically be categorized as 2020-21. While theatres remained closed, streamers like Netflix and Amazon became more prominent than ever—a sea change that even the cinema-centric Academy had to acknowledge by making films automatically eligible even if they first debuted on a streamer, at least for this year. Still, as the nominations showed, and my predictions will support, the traditional studios, whether alone or with the help of their specialty divisions, still look to triumph once the history of this weird season is finally written. Be sure to check my columns online closer to the show for updates and changes.

BEST ACTOR In any other year Anthony Hopkins could probably count on a second Oscar in this category for his devastating performance as a man slipping into dementia in The Father. At 83, he would probably take this walking away, but this is not an ordinary year and the presence not only of a fine performance from the late Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, but also the backstory of how that was achieved when no one on the film knew he was giving the performance of his career while he himself knew he was dying of cancer is simply too poignant and powerful a scenario to overcome in this category. Steven Yeun and Riz Ahmed are exceptionally fine first-time nominees, and both in Best Picture-nominated films, which certainly helps, as is Gary Oldman, who is just great in Mank. But he’s also a very recent winner here so not likely to repeat so soon. This likely goes to the only actor in the category not in a film also up for Best Picture. THE WINNER: Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

The Father DIRECTOR Florian Zeller PRODUCERS David Parfitt Jean-Louis Livi Philippe Carcassonne STUDIO Lionsgate OSCAR NOMINATIONS Best Actor Best Supporting Actress Best Adapted Screenplay Best Production Design Best Film Editing

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The only adaptation from stage to screen among this year’s eight Best Picture nominees, The Father uses the power of cinematic images and technique to make a chamber drama about a man’s slow descent into dementia into a powerful universal story about an issue so many families are dealing with on a daily basis. It started as a French play from writer Florian Zeller, and was translated into other languages, including English, where it also became a Tony Award-winning Broadway play. For the film version, and Zeller’s own feature directorial debut, it is set in a subtly-changing flat, which we see through the eyes of the title character, brilliantly played by Anthony Hopkins in one of his finest performances. With a cast including Olivia Colman as his daughter, this heartbreaking drama won six nominations, including well-deserved noms for its exceptional editing and production design.

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

BEST ACTRESS This has been an exceptional year for leading actresses, one of the best in recent Oscar history to be sure. What can you say about a year in which the likes of Sophia Loren and Michelle Pfeiffer doing some near-career-best work are not even nominated? Among those who did make the cut, two of them represent the only nomination for their respective films—Vanessa Kirby in Pieces of a Woman, and Andra Day in The United States vs. Billie Holiday—and that can be a tall, but not impossible mountain to climb. Two others, Frances McDormand in Best Picture favorite Nomadland, and Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman, are in movies high on the list of Best Pic nominees, and therefore likely to have been more widely seen. Viola Davis in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom pulled out all the stops and is formidable (but didn’t do her own singing). But it’s likely the love for that film goes to Boseman in terms of acting. He really is the center of it, despite the title and Davis’ recent SAG win. Day won the Golden Globe so don’t count her out in her film debut. McDormand likely won’t get a third Oscar so soon after the second, but does anyone out there think Mulligan is not a ‘promising’ choice here? THE WINNER: Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman


Judas and the Black Messiah DIRECTOR Shaka King PRODUCERS Shaka King Charles D. King Ryan Coogler STUDIO Warner Bros. OSCAR NOMINATIONS Best Supporting Actor Best Supporting Actor Best Original Screenplay Best Cinematography A late-breaking entry into the race, this film represents one of the few major studio projects to gain significant Oscar recognition this year, landing six overall nominations for Warner Bros. with its unpredictable and complex true story of a young man named William Neal—played by Supporting Actor nominee Lakeith Stanfield—who becomes a pawn for the FBI in infiltrating the Black Panthers in the early ’70s. He encounters a life-changing experience and the power of the Chicago chapter’s 21-year-old leader Fred Hampton, played with extraordinary skill by another Supporting Actor contender Daniel Kaluuya. With a stunning directorial turn by Shaka King, and a nominated screenplay that pulls no punches, the film destroys stereotypes of the government’s attempts to thwart the Black Panthers, presenting a different view as seen through the prism of a half-century later.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR Always a competitive category, this year it is also Oscar’s most diverse, with three exceptional performances from Black actors among the five nominees. We are also seeing the first time two Black actors compete against each other from the same film in the same category: Golden Globe and Critics Choice winner Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield in Judas and the Black Messiah. The latter was a jaw-dropping surprise on nomination day as he wasn’t even being campaigned in this category, but rather for lead actor instead, and no one had predicted he would land here. The fact that he did means the path got a little more complicated for front runner Kaluuya who has the showiest role, while Stanfield has the trickier task. Could this mean an opening for Sasha Baron Cohen in The Trial of the Chicago 7, in which he expertly plays Abbie Hoffman, or for Leslie Odom Jr.’s remarkable Sam Cooke in One Night in Miami as the only one of the five candidates not in a Best Picture nominee? All four of the above play real-life people, increasingly a plus at the Oscars, but if a split occurs, could the prize go to a veteran getting his first big recognition, Paul Raci in Sound of Metal? Voters do like to reward long careers in this category. Still the odds seem to be on Kaluuya’s side for his second nomination in three years. THE WINNER: Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah

Mank DIRECTOR David Fincher PRODUCERS Ceán Chaffin Eric Roth Douglas Urbanski STUDIO Netflix OSCAR NOMINATIONS Best Director Best Actor Best Supporting Actress Best Cinematography Best Original Score Best Production Design Best Costume Design Best Makeup & Hairstyling Best Sound

David Fincher’s masterful look at Hollywood’s Golden Age does so via the creation of the screenplay of 1941’s motion picture classic Citizen Kane. But instead of telling it from the POV of its wunderkind director/star/ producer Orson Welles, this is the story of the lesser known but brilliant screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz—a self-loathing alcoholic who managed to write a movie still considered by many the greatest ever made—as he fights to get credit. Nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including its gorgeous cinematography, the Netflix film leads the pack by far this year in sheer numbers, proof positive of the craft that went into this immaculate recreation of another era in movie history. Considering that Kane’s only Oscar out of nine nominations came for the screenplay credited in the end to both Mankiewicz and Welles, it is ironic that Mank, written by the director’s late father Jack Fincher, failed to be recognized in that very category. Still the Academy loves to see movies about themselves, and the film leads in nominations. Could this be a surprise on Oscar night?

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS Hands down the toughest category to call of all the acting races this year. It really could easily go to any one of the five nominees for any number of reasons. Bulgarian newcomer Maria Bakalova in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm could ride a wave of international support for her endearingly, and challenging (thank you Rudy Giuliani) performance. Also globally imposing would be Korea’s “Meryl Streep”, Yuh-Jung Youn as the unforgettable and wild grandmother in Minari. Oscar first-timer Amanda Seyfried was a standout playing ’30s star Marion Davies in Mank. For playing a star who never got awards recognition from Hollywood, could Seyfried be the beneficiary? And then there is the rematch of the Best Actress race of just two years ago between veteran Glenn Close who received her eighth nomination this time for the critically-reviled but popular Hillbilly Elegy and Olivia Colman’s touching performance in The Father. In the recent past we have seen actors like Mahershala Ali and Christoph Waltz win two Oscars in a short time frame, so it is not out of the question for the much-loved Colman. Wow. This is really a toss-up. Sentiment is on Close’s side but can she pull it off for Hillbilly? Let’s go out to left field here and ignore the rematch and go for the SAG winner. THE WINNER: Yuh-Jung Youn, Minari

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Minari

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE Pixar is competing against itself with two entries this time around, Onward and Soul. The former has little chance of an upset, as even the studio itself has put all its marbles behind the groundbreaking Soul—a jazz-infused musical treat that also represents true diversity for a change in this category. Of the other three nominees, Netflix’s Over the Moon from veteran Glen Keane, as well as A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon would both seem long shots. That leaves Apple’s most promising shot at a first Oscar win, the stunning Wolfwalkers, third in a trilogy from Ireland’s Tomm Moore. Can the third time be a charm for Moore? Not really. THE WINNER: Soul

DIRECTOR Lee Isaac Chung PRODUCERS Christina Oh STUDIO A24 OSCAR NOMINATIONS Best Director Best Actor Best Supporting Actress Best Original Screenplay Best Original Score Despite wins in precursor awards shows like the Golden Globes and Critics Choice as Best Foreign Language film rather than the American movie that it is, this heartfelt and emotionally rich story from Korean American writer/director Lee Isaac Chung has been a crowd pleaser since sweeping both the Grand Prize and Audience Award at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. With six BAFTA and Oscar nominations, it struck a chord with voters. This story about a Korean American (Steven Yeun) who moves his family to Arkansas in search of his American dream of owning a farm has drawn comparisons to classics like The Grapes Of Wrath, but it is a sweet and irresistible film that marches to its own drum—a universal story of family and one man striving to be a father and husband on his own terms. This would be the second film in a row with a Korean footprint to take the top Oscar.

Nomadland DIRECTOR Chloé Zhao

STUDIO Searchlight Pictures

PETE’S

WINNER PICK

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BEST COSTUME DESIGN This award almost ALWAYS goes to a period piece, and the older the better. That rule bodes well for Alexandra Byrne’s designs for Emma. But veteran Ann Roth is back in the race for her saucy work on Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and at 88, she is this year’s oldest nominee in any category. Bina Daigeler’s stirring work on Disney’s live action Mulan can’t be discounted, and neither can Massimo Cantini Parrini’s inventive threads for Pinocchio. Then there are Trish Summerville’s sumptuous creations for Mank, looking ever like the best of the period in black-and-white glory. I am guessing the Academy might like to blow what could be their last kiss to Roth, but it could go to Emma too. I reserve the right to change my mind. THE WINNER: Alexandra Byrne, Emma BEST DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE) Collective, a detailed look at Romania’s flailing health care system, is double-nominated here and for International Film, and it might be the favorite here, certainly by critics who also championed the challenging Time. Both are formidable, but I have a feeling sentiment might rule the day, and one of three other nominees including Chile’s remarkable The Mole Agent in which a man in his 80’s goes undercover in a nursing home, the tear jerking and amazing My Octopus Teacher, or maybe the inspiring Crip Camp. The Producers Guild and Critics Choice both rewarded My Octopus Teacher, and I think that could be the sleeper winner here. THE WINNER: My Octopus Teacher

PRODUCERS Frances McDormand Peter Spears Mollye Asher Dan Janvey Chloé Zhao

OSCAR NOMINATIONS Best Director Best Actress Best Cinematography Best Adapted Screenplay Best Film Editing

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY It would be good to look to ASC as a clue to what might also win here, even if ASC nominated the complex Cherry while the Oscar branch replaced it with Judas and the Black Messiah. I don’t see Sean Bobbitt’s exceptional work for the latter crossing the finish line, especially when there are the likes of Erik Messerschmidt’s gorgeous black-and-white work on Mank, Dariusz Wolski’s beautiful Western-flavored News of the World, and Phedon Papamichael’s exceptional The Trial Of The Chicago 7. Doesn’t this go instead to first-timer Joshua James Richard’s stunning southwestern vistas in Nomadland? Sure looks like that is the one to beat here. THE WINNER: Joshua James Richards, Nomadland

Since winning the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, this deliberately paced and moving ode to those contemporary American nomads who drop out of society and hit the road, has swept through awards season on a tear, taking a slew of critics’ honors, including the Golden Globe, and the all-important PGA top prize. In a normal year, that would make it seem inevitable to win here, and quite frankly, it is hard to go against that tradition, since at press time it was expected to also take top honors from other groups as well. Frances McDormand produced and stars in the film for which writer/director/producer/editor Chloé Zhao stands to make history on Oscar night as the biggest female winner ever. Can any other movie stop its momentum? This film is poised to become Searchlight’s fifth Best Picture winner, and its first since Fox merged into Disney.

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BEST DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT) MTV Documentary Films is doing a big push for Hunger Ward, which chronicles a humanitarian crisis in Yemen, while the film of Hong Kong riots and protests, Do Not Split, is generating publicity due to controversy and the feeling that China is apparently upset about its inclusion. Netflix’s timely A Love Song For Latasha, revisiting the life of a young Black girl killed in L.A. has its supporters, but I have a hunch the winner might be either Colette—a holocaust-themed story of a 90-yearold survivor of the French resistance—or New York Times Op-Docs A Concerto Is A Conversation, about jazz virtuoso Kris Bowers tracking his family lineage. It comes from Executive Producer Ava DuVernay among others. Check back for my later updates of these predictions closer to the show. For now, though… THE WINNER: A Concerto Is a Conversation


Promising Young Woman DIRECTOR Emerald Fennell PRODUCERS Ben Browning Ashley Fox Emerald Fennell Josey McNamara STUDIO Focus Features OSCAR NOMINATIONS Best Director Best Actress Best Original Screenplay Best Film Editing

The true Cinderella story of the whole season, here is another femaledriven original film poised to make history at the Oscars. With five key nominations, including Picture, Actress, Director, Original Screenplay and Film Editing, this is a twisty, highly entertaining movie in which a 30-year-old woman gets unique revenge on some unsuspecting males by posing drunk and then offering up some very big surprises, giving the guys more than they bargained for at the moment of truth. There is much more to it than that in a clever and most impressive feature film debut from thrice-nominated Emerald Fennell, who has already won the WGA award for her script, and could see a repeat at the Oscars. But can this widely acclaimed, in some corners divisive, film go higher in an Academy still dominated by white men in the #MeToo era? It should be interesting to see.

Sound of Metal

BEST FILM EDITING Pundits know this is the category that you have to at least be nominated in to have a chance of winning Best Picture. Only once in 40 years has that rule not proven true, and that was when Birdman managed a Best Picture win without an editing nomination, but that was because they made a big deal of saying it was all just one shot. Best Picture prospects aside, the actual winner here can be something else indeed. All five are Best Pic nominees, The Father, Nomadland, Promising Young Woman, Sound of Metal, The Trial of the Chicago 7. The latter could have the edge, although let’s see how it does at the Ace Eddies that take place the week before Oscars. Chloé Zhao has one of her historic four nominations here for Nomadland, but this seems to be the least likely place she will actually win one, and I doubt Promising Young Woman comes out on top here either. The Father’s editing was subtle and truly brilliant, but will the Academy at large notice? I have a feeling Sound of Metal, a technical high wire act, could squeak this one out. THE WINNER: Sound of Metal BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM Denmark’s Another Round is the front runner here, having swept the European Film Awards, and additionally landed its filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg a Best Director nomination at both BAFTA and the Oscars. Impressive indeed for a foreign entry, and a reason why this is the high profile likely pick. If the documentary from Romania, Collective, wins here it would be a first for a doc, but not likely. Hong Kong’s Better Days, a two-hour-plus film on bullying, was a bit of a surprise to get in, but could have strong international appeal, even though Hong Kong’s carrier of the Oscar show has announced it won’t be airing the Oscars—a move many think is because of criticism from China. That leaves as an alternative to beating the Danes, Tunisia’s inventive and intriguing The Man Who Sold His Skin, and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s devastating and powerful Quo Vadis, Aida? to pull off an upset. Either one could, but you probably have to go with the odds in order to win your pool. THE WINNER: Another Round, Denmark BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING For my money, the finest, and most imaginative work in this category came from the charming Italian import Pinocchio, and if enough voters actually saw it, I would not be at all surprised to see it pull off a shocker here. However, the odds favor the vividly garish looks created for Viola Davis in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom—over the top but truly quite effective—and for Glenn Close’s complete physical transformation into Mamaw in the raw Hillbilly Elegy. As for the other two possibilities in this category, Emma seems less likely to triumph here, and Mank may have a better chance, but still needs a boost against more obvious likely winners mentioned earlier. Oscar voters please watch Pinocchio. THE WINNER: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

DIRECTOR Darius Marder PRODUCERS Bert Hamelinck Sacha Ben Harroche STUDIO Amazon Studios OSCAR NOMINATIONS Best Actor Best Supporting Actor Best Original Screenplay Best Film Editing Best Sound Amazon Studios’ gripping drama of a drug-addicted musician whose increasing loss of hearing threatens his whole life and career, hits notes that seem to belie its subject matter. It’s a movie that ironically connected with audiences during a pandemic from which many people will also emerge with their lives turned upside down, needing to start over in a world they don’t recognize. Riz Ahmed beautifully plays the drummer Ruben, who finds he is lost and must overcome his addiction to survive within the new sounds of silence. Nominated for six Academy Awards, this is the kind of small sleeper that could turn out to be another film ripe to pull off an upset, despite the lack of a directing nomination for Darius Marder, who is up nevertheless for his screenplay which he co-wrote with his brother Abraham from a story by past collaborator Derek Cianfrance.

BEST MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE) Sometimes the winner in this category is the entry that just clearly screams music. And if that course is followed once again this season, then you can expect Pixar’s Soul to march right into the winner’s circle. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are previous winners here, and they were joined by the stunning jazz contributions of Jon Batiste, who is primed to become only the second Black composer ever to win in this category, following Herbie Hancock who took it for ‘Round Midnight in 1987. Even Quincy Jones couldn’t pull off a win in this category. Veteran James Newton Howard really deserves an Oscar, and some day he will certainly get one, but unfortunately, even with the Western-themed News of the World repping close to his finest work yet, he will once again be overlooked, as will the excellent Terence Blanchard with only his second career nomination ever for Da 5 Bloods, and ditto goes for Emile Mosseri for his wonderfully lilting work on Minari. THE WINNER: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Jon Batiste, Soul

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OSCAR H AN DICAPS / BY PET E H A M M O N D

Trial of the Chicago 7 DIRECTOR Aaron Sorkin PRODUCERS Marc Platt Stuart Besser STUDIO Netflix OSCAR NOMINATIONS Best Supporting Actor Best Original Screenplay Best Cinematography Best Film Editing Fourteen years after Steven Spielberg first came up with the notion of making a movie centered on this wild trial of a group of protesters accused of inciting riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, it finally hit the screen written and directed, not by Spielberg, but Aaron Sorkin. At the same time, it soared into the zeitgeist in terms of reflecting what is still going on in our world today. In fact, if anything, this movie chronicling events of 50 years ago is more relevant by the hour in an almost eerily prescient way. As the most socially conscious and politically rousing film among the eight Best Picture nominees, could it become the ticket in Netflix’s quest for a Best Picture winner? With a sterling cast and the exceptional script by Sorkin, it has the elements needed to triumph, even without Sorkin receiving an expected Best Director nomination. If Oscar voters want to make a statement this year, the time might be just right for the Chicago 7.

BEST DIRECTOR

BEST MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG) Three of this year’s nominees are strong anthems for the times, passionate pleas to get involved and stand up and fight. Will they cancel themselves out? All were written (in collaboration with others) and performed by big name musical stars. You have H.E.R.’s powerful “Fight For You” from Judas and the Black Messiah, Celeste and Daniel Pemberton’s hypnotic “Hear My Voice” from The Trial of the Chicago 7, and Leslie Odom Jr.’s perfectly timed “Speak Now” from One Night in Miami. The smart money is on Odom’s Critics Choicewinning song. Then you have the big novelty number that snuck in this year: “Husavik” from Eurovision. A song written for a song contest? You know it just might have a chance here, crazy as it seems. Finally, there is the 12th nomination for perennial bridesmaid, Diane Warren, Her Italian song, “Io Si (Seen)” for the beautiful The Life Ahead, is already a Golden Globe winner. She deserves it but it doesn’t mean she will win it, even though The Motorcycle Diaries and its Jorge Drexler song “Al Otro Lado Del Rio” proved a foreign language tune could be a victor here in 2005. THE WINNER: “Speak Now”, One Night in Miami BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN By its very presence in this category, the far from flashy production design of the chamber drama, The Father proves that the branch that voted on these nominations recognized the challenge and subtlety employed in helping us see the apartment through the eyes of a man slipping into dementia. Brilliant. The period recreations of 1920’s New York in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and 1930’s Hollywood in Mank are fine entries. Post Civil War America is spare but gorgeously appointed for News of the World, and the twisted futuristic world as dreamed up by Christopher Nolan for Tenet is certainly mind blowing. Still Hollywood loves Hollywood so… THE WINNER: Mank BEST SHORT FILM (ANIMATED) I was sorry there weren’t more fun shorts in this category which nevertheless offers impressive choices for voters. The punch-in-the-gut, and sadly relevant, tale of the effects of a school shooting in If Anything

THOMAS VINTERBERG Another Round

Vinterberg joins a rare circle of international directors who cracked the code and managed a nomination for a foreign language film—a group including last year’s winner, Bong Joon Ho. With Another Round, an unusual story of four teachers out to prove the virtues of drinking, Danish helmer Vinterberg earned a BAFTA nomination and a sweep of the European Film Awards. With his film also up for Best International Film though, and considered a front runner there, a win in this category is a decided long shot.

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Happens I Love You is all too true of the times in which we live. It has the emotional power to win, despite the various attributes of the very French artiness of Genius Loci, the vividly performed Icelandic Yes People, and the very busy and dazzling mind-bending take on great art in South Korea’s Opera. All three of these aforementioned films show the global reach of Oscar in this category. For sheer visuals, Opera has it over anything else, but for heart and delight, Pixar’s Burrow is the most traditionally deserving of the bunch. Depends what mood voters were in, folks. THE WINNER: If Anything Happens I Love You BEST SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION) All five of these films have reasons to vote for them. Two Distant Strangers with its Groundhog Day view of killings of Black people, took its inspiration from the murder of George Floyd, and plays it over inventively in a different way again and again. Feeling Through is guaranteed to touch you with its story of the connection between a young Black man helping a deaf and blind stranger find his way home. The Letter Room has star power with Oscar Isaac delivering letters to death row prisoners. White Eye wraps its simple story around a stolen bike and how the incident changes two lives. The Present, my favorite of the bunch, is an exceptionally well-made story of a Palenstinian father and husband taking his young daughter past Israeli outposts in the West Bank in order to buy an anniversary gift for his wife. This is a toss-up, and the emotional pull of Feeling Through could be its ticket to the stage, but again, that is just a hunch as I could give you a reason for each of them. THE WINNER: The Present BEST SOUND This year the Academy has made a major change by eliminating one of the two sound categories and combining mixing and sound editing into just one category for the first time in decades. It doesn’t really matter because in recent years, the same film tends to film both, not always though. Since even most Oscar voters don’t really know

what goes into great sound work, usually war films and musicals score best here. In that regard, WWII adventure Greyhound and Disney/Pixar’s Soul could stake out a win. News of the World and Mank don’t seem as likely victors. That leaves one other nominee: Sound Of Metal, a movie with “sound “ in its title, and extraordinarily subtle and groundbreaking work that should define what a winner is for Best Sound. I am guessing that for once, even Oscar voters understand that. THE WINNER: Sound of Metal BEST VISUAL EFFECTS Hollywood held back the kind of blockbuster tentpoles that normally compete for this award because theatres were largely closed, so you have something of a ragtag bunch nominated that might not have made it in a year of the usual big giant effects movies. Even with that caveat, huge barnburners like Wonder Woman 1984 didn’t even make the cut. Love and Monsters somehow did, and so did Disney’s live action Mulan. George Clooney combined two challenging effects movies into one with the outer space and arctic CGI work of The Midnight Sky. If I were voting, I would check off the flawless CGI animal creations that gave The One and Only Ivan its wondrous personality and charm, but did voters see this Disney+ family film? This would seem to be the place to give Nolan’s Tenet some recognition for being the lone movie that dared to keep the summer blockbuster alive in the year of a raging pandemic. THE WINNER: Tenet BEST WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY) Two plays brought skillfully to the screen made the cut, and both The Father and One Night in Miami did some splendid cinematic things to take away the staginess inherent with their initial conception. But in writing categories, Best Picture nominees usually have the edge, so eliminate Miami and move on to the two literary adaptations Nomadland and The White Tiger. Eliminate the latter, fine as it is, since this is its only nomination, and move the former forward since it is considered

a Best Picture frontrunner and that is a huge plus. Winning a WGA award can’t hurt, but because of the guild’s quirky rules, the non-union Nomadland didn’t get that opportunity. That honor went to Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, with nine credited writers, including Sacha Baron Cohen. He says they may have won at WGA because half the guild worked on the film. You never know. The first Borat movie was also Oscar nominated, so the writers’ branch likes comedy in this instance and that’s a good thing, and this wild ride actually had a mission to make a difference in perhaps the most important Presidential election ever. If voters get that aspect, maybe it could squeak out a win as happened at WGA, but the likely scenario favors the Best Pic frontrunner. THE WINNER: Chloé Zhao, Nomadland BEST WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY) The WGA winner in this category was Emerald Fennell, taking the prize on her first time out with Promising Young Woman. That likely makes her the front runner, not only because of a WGA win, but also her film was startlingly original and isn’t that what this category is all about? It also appears to be the year of the woman, and a female sweep of the writing categories seems to be in the cards. Stiff competition comes from writing god Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7, but he did have all those trial transcripts to work from, so some might think it is not as original and take points off. That would be unfair, because the way he managed to weave in all aspects of this event and its aftermath is nothing short of masterful. This will be a close contest between those two movies, but if Lee Isaac Chung’s lovely and personal Minari wins here, that could also portend a Best Picture upset, just as Parasite pulled off last year when its early win as Original Screenplay gave a clue to its Oscar night fate. Sound of Metal and Judas and the Black Messiah have their supporters, but probably not enough to overcome the heavyweights competing in this category. THE WINNER: Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman

PETE’S

WINNER PICK

DAVID FINCHER

LEE ISAAC CHUNG

CHLOE ZHAO

EMERALD FENNELL

Fincher is one of Oscar’s most overdue directors. With two previous nominations for The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button and The Social Network, he easily could have won this award before now—and that doesn’t even count his classics like Seven and Fight Club. His meticulous and loving recreation of Hollywood’s Golden Age bringing to life a screenplay written by his late father makes Mank a very personal movie, but is this the year, one with a historic two women also nominated, that he can actually win here?

Before embarking on writing the semiautobiographical Minari, Lee Isaac Chung had just hit 40 and decided to quit filmmaking for a teaching job in Utah instead. Fate would have it that he gave it one more try, combing his background as a Korean-American growing up in Arkansas to create this story of what family and being a father and husband really mean. It earned him two personal nominations, as well as BAFTA and DGA recognition for a film everyone seems to love.

Already making history with four nominations for Nomadland, Chloé Zhao is the odds-on favorite to become only the second woman ever to win the Best Director Oscar, and this coming in a year when she isn’t even the only female nominated— heartening news indeed. Her tender telling of this story of a group of people who hit the road and live off the land hit a nerve during an unprecedented pandemic, by emphasizing the need for human connection. It just may also win Oscars down the road.

And speaking of that other woman nominated, Fennell is well-known as an actress who currently plays Camilla Parker Bowes in The Crown, but who wowed the world of cinema with this, her feature directorial debut, shot in just 23 days. The film earned her entry into the exclusive directors’ club, with nominations for her work behind the camera not only at the Oscars, but also the DGA.

Mank

Minari

Nomadland

Promising Young Woman

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3 ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS ®

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY KEMP POWERS BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR LESLIE ODOM JR. BEST ORIGINAL SONG “SPEAK NOW”

W I N N E R C R I T IC S ’ CHOICE AWA RDS BEST SONG “SPEAK NOW”

“THE BEST FILM OF THE YEAR” “KEMP POWERS’ SCREENPLAY

IS LAYERED WITH AN EMOTIONAL STORY AND CRACKLING DIALOGUE”


Profile for Deadline Hollywood

Deadline Hollywood - AwardsLine - 04/14/21 - Oscar Nominees  

Deadline Hollywood - AwardsLine - 04/14/21 - Oscar Nominees  

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