If "Gravity" comes away a winner on Oscar night, filmmakers may have George Clooney to thank. A challenging scene in "12 Years a Slave" was resolved with a surprising substance, legal in certain parts of the world. And that baby in "American Hustle" — it's Jeremy Renner's real-life little daughter.
There are a slew of secrets behind this year's Oscar nominated movie scenes. Here's some good ones:
Renner's Real Baby
"American Hustle" director David O. Russell's son makes a quick cameo in the film, playing the son of Carmine (Jeremy Renner). But he's not the only family member to make it in the 10-time nominated Oscar film. Renner's own baby appears in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it scene when his politician character cradles a constituent's infant — played by his daughter Ava Berlin, born March 28, 2013.
The Scene Clooney Sort of Wrote
Best Director frontrunner Alfonso Cuarón may have been overzealous when he claimed George Clooney wrote a pivotal scene in "Gravity" — the one when Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) imagines she's talking to Matt Kowalski (Clooney) about her daughter before returning to earth. Clooney graciously bowed out of taking credit, saying, "I didn’t write any scene." But he did admit to writing a portion of it, and that he was responsible for the idea that Kowalski talks to her daughter, which in turn inspires her to live. "I would never write myself a scene to come back in," Clooney clarified.
An Herbal Voyage
The scene in "12 Years a Slave" when Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is transported into slavery on a steamboat proved problematic for director Steve McQueen and his editor Joe Walker; it simply took too long. Editing in Amsterdam, where McQueen resides, Walker turned to marijuana out of pure frustration (it's legal there, mind you). Admitting that the drug had a strong effect on him (he usually sticks with peppermint tea), he admitted that the green leafy drug actually did the trick. "What was going on in my head was a combination of some of the images," Walker said of his pot-induced thinking. McQueen agreed after seeing how Walker changed it: "It was amazing… It abbreviated the scene, but you felt the journey."
A Real Doll
Best Supporting Actress favorite Lupita Nyong'o really learned how to make those corn husk dolls for one of her emotionally powerful scenes in "12 Years a Slave." The touch was actually her idea. She wondered what Patsey, a Southern slave who's both celebrated and severely abused by her owners, would have done with her free time. She thought of the dolls, searched online to ensure that it would be historically accurate and brought the idea to set. "There was always something very childlike about Patsey for me because I know she had been robbed of her childhood," Nyong'o said in an interview late last year. Nyong'o wound up giving her dolls to castmates as gifts when filming wrapped.
Dern Really Walks Like That
In every scene in "Nebraska," for which Bruce Dern is nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role, he had a crooked swagger. Truth be told, Dern has a handicap in one leg due to an injury to one of his quadriceps. Director Alexander Payne said the 77-year-old actor1 exaggerated his hobble for the film.
Theodore in Plethora
If you've seen the five-time Oscar nominated "Her," you know Joaquin Phoenix plays the mustached Theodore as philosophical, smart, and a tad sheepish. But according to Phoenix, he played several versions of his character, doing scenes about five different ways. "It's what's so exciting about working with [Spike Jonze] — he's constantly looking for other colors," he said late last year.
When Best Supporting Actor nominee Jonah Hill acted out swallowing a goldfish in "The Wolf of Wall Street," People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals were on set to make sure everything was on the up and up. The way Hill tells it, he didn't swallow the fish. But his co-star, Best Actor nominee Leonardo DiCaprio, seems to recall that Hill actually swallowed the fish. "I think PETA got very mad at him," he said early this year. "And the goldfish s--- in his mouth as well."
In one part of "Frozen," nominated for two Oscars, there is a little, hidden Mickey Mouse figure (see it at 36 seconds into the above clip). Blink and you'll miss it! Of course, Disney masterminds hide a lot of "easter eggs" in their animated features.
Tune in to Yahoo's live Oscars pre-show this Sunday at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT, and then watch the big show on ABC.
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