Hollywood is out and about in the days and nights leading up to the Oscars. Here, Variety reporters go inside the hottest parties and events.
Mercedes-Benz USA Academy Awards Viewing Party
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The Four Seasons Los Angeles, March 27
Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz
The annual Mercedes-Benz USA Academy Awards Viewing Party was held on Sunday night at the Four Seasons Los Angeles in Beverly Hills, following a yearlong hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year, the luxury automaker, which previously hosted the glamorous affair in the hotel’s ballroom, opted for a tented, outdoor screening of the 94th Academy Awards telecast at the Four Seasons’ Wetherly Pavilion, with guests required to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination upon entry.
“It’s nice to have an excuse to get dressed up and go out and have a good time. Without a mask and the whole thing,” Mercedes-Benz brand ambassador Jon Hamm told Variety on the red carpet.
The “Mad Men” star, who made his red carpet debut with girlfriend Anna Osceola at the party, went on to note that last year he was “not dressed nearly as nicely” and he and Osceola spent the night on the couch with their dogs.
Of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ controversial decision to pre-record eight categories which were then edited and aired during the telecast, Hamm said, “You can’t win for losing with those things.”
He added, “Everybody says it’s too long and then everybody says it’s not long enough. It seems like a manufactured controversy. I’m glad that they all still get their moments, and they all get awards and are recognized so it will be what it is.”
Hamm told Variety that his favorite Oscars moment was “the streaker that one time. That’s probably all from the 70s.”
At the 1974 Academy Awards, photographer Robert Opel gained notoriety after he ran across the stage naked as co-host David Niven was about to introduce Elizabeth Taylor.
As for his Oscars picks, Hamm said, “I always root for upsets, I’m rooting for surprises, and I did my voting but I’m going to keep it all secret.”
“Dune” star David Dastmalchian told Variety that he was excited about the sci-fi epic’s 10 nominations and particularly that of longtime friend and collaborator Denis Villeneuve’s nod for best directing.
“In 2013, I was sitting with Denis Villeneuve in his hotel room watching the Oscars while we were making ‘Prisoners,’ cheering for our friends who that year were being nominated,” Dastmalchian recalled. “And to be here this year and celebrating him and cheering for him, it makes me really proud. I’m so grateful that he’s my friend and he thinks I’m interesting enough to keep putting in his movies.”
Villeneuve eventually lost the directing Oscar to “Power of the Dog” helmer Jane Campion, but “Dune” emerged as the dominant film of the night, taking home six Oscars including best visual effects, cinematography, production design, editing, sound and score.
Puerto Rican singer Ana Isabelle, who played Rosalia in Steven Spielberg’s seven-time Oscar-nominated 2021 remake of “West Side Story” told Variety, “I can’t wait to see my sister Ariana DeBose getting the best supporting actor award.”
She added, “It was just so incredible to work with a living legend and to be a part of this iconic musical and be a part of history. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico so being able to represent my people authentically in this new reimagined story that is a classic American story is just so magical. I’m really grateful to be here.”
DeBose made history on Sunday night as she became the first openly queer woman of color to win an acting Oscar.
The viewing party also provided attendees with the chance to have an exclusive first look at Mercedes-Benz’ Concept EQG, a near-production, all-electric model of its iconic G-Class, which was parked on the red carpet in front of the hotel.
Attendees were in high spirits during the opulent event as they nibbled on passed hors d’oeuvres and sipped cocktails while viewing the awards presentation on numerous screens that were stationed throughout the space.
Yet, the mood noticeably shifted when best actor nominee Will Smith slapped presenter Chris Rock after the comedian made a joke about the “King Richard” star’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith.
At various seating groups, guests murmured among themselves over the incident and the room fell silent as Smith gave his tearful acceptance speech for best actor.
However, “CODA’s” upset best picture win was met with cheers and provided a cathartic conclusion to the proceedings with guests departing as the party wrapped up at 10 p.m.
Other attendees included Derek Hough, Tayshia Adams, Luka Sabbat, Chrishell Stause, Samantha Hanratty, Jason Lewis, Metta World Peace and Quinta Brunson. -Ashley Hume
Chanel and Charles Finch Dinner
Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Beverly Hills, March 26
It sounds like “Belfast” director Kenneth Branagh and the film’s Ciarán Hinds will be at the Oscars. It was unclear if they could attend after both contracted COVID at the BAFTA Awards in London. “I know Ciarán is all clear,” Caitríona Balfe told Variety before heading into the Chanel and Charles Finch’s annual pre-Oscar dinner. “I think [Branagh] is, too. I think he’s good.”
Henry Golding said it was nice to see Hollywood reopening for Oscar festivities. “I think it’s great and it’s about time,” he told Variety. “Chanel has made sure everyone has had a PCR test and that’s a step further than a few events that I’ve been to. But I’m fully vaxed and have all the shots, so it’s back to normal.”
Golding said he suspects he and his wife Liv Lo had COVID at some point, but they were never officially diagnosed. “Our little baby [daughter] had it,” he said.
“Spencer” Oscar nominee Kristen Stewart arrived at the party hand-in-hand with fiancé Dylan Meyer. Taiki Waititi playfully chewed on his Chanel necklaces for photographers as his girlfriend Rita Ora did some interviews with the press.
Sofia Coppola said she was excited to see her longtime muse Kirsten Dunst nominated for the supporting actress Oscar for her work in “The Power of the Dog.” “It’s so fun to watch and I’m just so happy for her,” she told Variety.
When will the two team up again? Coppola cracked, “I’m going to track her down tomorrow.”
Also at Chanel were Sienna Miller, Rashida Jones, Simon Kinberg, Jamie Dornan, Camila Morrone, Whitney Peak, Soo Joo Park, Adrien Brody, Brie Larson, Camila Morrone, Chris Pine, Daisy Edgar Jones, Francis Ford and Eleanor Coppola, Giveon, Gerard Butler, Griffin Dunne, Harvey Keitel, Jason Clarke, Jessie Buckley, Joan Collins, Jonathan Majors, Julie Delpy, Kate Beckinsale, Lily James, Minnie Driver, Paolo Sorrentino, Pablo Larrain, Regé-Jean Page, Reinaldo Marcus Green, Richard Curtis, Sofia Boutella, Ava DuVernay, David O. Russell, Denis Villeneuve, Jane Campion and Oswald Boatang. —Marc Malkin
Beverly Hills, March 26
Giorgio Armani honored Nicole Kidman with its annual pre-Oscar party, but the fashion house also used the occasion to toast the re-opening of its renovated Rodeo Drive flagship store.
The “Being the Ricardos” Oscar nominee entered the party with Roberta Armani. Kidman told Variety she is still recovering from a torn hamstring. The magazine was the first to report that production of Kidman’s Amazon series “Expats” had to be temporarily halted after the injury flared up during shooting Los Angeles. “It’s getting better,” Kidman said. “I’m healing.”
In other words, Kidman isn’t going to be wearing heels to the Oscars. “I’ll be in flats,” she said. “But that’s okay because I am six-feet tall.”
Inside the store, Kidman chatted with rising star Alan Kim as well as Amazon’s Jennifer Salke and “Dune” director Denis Villeneuve.
Also at the soiree were Miles Teller, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Taylor Zakhar Perez, Justin Hartley, Glenn Powell, Justice Smith, Adrien Brody, Diego Boneta, Lana Condor, Alexandra Daddario and Sebastian Stan.
“Dickinson” star Ella Hunt stunned in a white Armani suit. “It feels so good,” she told Variety. “I feel like you can wear it to get married.”
And then she added with a smile, “Or if I go to the Oscars one day.”
“Euphoria” star Colman Domingo attended the party with his husband and producing partner Raúl Domingo. The actor returned home to Los Angeles for the weekend festivities from Atlanta, where he’s shooting the feature adaptation of the “Color Purple” musical.
— Marc Malkin (@marcmalkin) March 27, 2022
A crowd of fans and paparazzi swarmed in front of the store to catch a glimpse of Sophia Loren. When Tiffany Haddish’s driver pulled up too far away from the store entrance, the funny lady asked if her security could be escorted into the bash. Traffic came to a halt as dozens of people ran into the street when Mark Wahlberg was spotted driving down Rodeo in a massive black and white convertible Rolls-Royce. —Marc Malkin
Green Pre-Oscar Gala
Petersen Automotive Museum, March 26
On the eve of the Oscars, guests including Ronen Rubinstein, Sharon Lawrence and Jordyn Wood, hit the rooftop of the Petersen Automotive Museum to enjoy a night of eco-conscious vibes, cocktails and mixing and mingling to promote the widespread adoption of diverse zero emissions solutions.
Before the main event began outside, attendees grabbed Seven Springs Vineyard wine from waiters’ trays inside and drifted around the top floor of the museum, eyeing famed cars like the “Ghostbusters” Cadillac Ecto 1 and the beloved “Batman” 1989 Batmobile. There was also a silent auction at the event hosted by Global Green USA and Energy Independence Now, with items like a Vrai diamond tennis bracelet and a signed football by Eli and Peyton Manning up for grabs.
But as guests headed outside to enjoy the main event and the sunset, there was one car that was the main topic of conversation – a custom Toyota Mirai covered with an artistic design, on which guests could leave their signatures. It turns out the car produces clean water, and Brian Goldstein, the executive director of DriveH2 and Energy Independence Now, explained how hydrogen plays a big part in how that water is stored, and why the element is so important in the fight against climate change.
“It’s the storage part of that equation that makes hydrogen the cornerstone of our clean energy future,” Goldstein said as he took the stage. “And that’s because, as we march towards 100% renewable electricity, that’s law in California, that electricity’s coming from intermittent sources, like wind and solar.”
“Imagine how much solar energy it will take to power a town the size of LA, then consider that we’ll have to produce three times more than that and store it in order to keep the lights on at night across the city,” he continued. “There are just not enough batteries on the planet to do that. So in order for us to achieve 100% renewable electricity, we simply must use hydrogen to store and distribute the power of the sun and the wind. We have to use every single resource at our disposal to clean up our air and to fight for climate change.”
Guests went on to munch on buffet style small bites, including kebabs, macro salads and miniature desserts, clinking cocktails from an open bar. They also mixed, mingled and danced in their seats as Jake Wesley Rogers and Eric Krasno performed.
As they wrapped up the evening, every attendee took home a planet-friendly gift bag curated by Erewhon, filled with goodies and sustainable foods and drinks. —Brandi Fowler
Frank Micelotta/Walt Disney Television
Onyx Collective’s “Summer of Soul” Celebrations
Private home, Brentwood and the El Rey Theatre, March 26
Disney hosted an intimate outdoor brunch in the verdant backyard of a private home in Brentwood to toast the success of “Summer of Soul,” a top contender for Oscar’s documentary feature prize after landing a slew of docu honors in recent months. Disney TV chieftains Dana Walden and Peter Rice hosted alongside Tara Duncan, president of Freeform and leader of Disney’s new Onyx Collective label that championed the release of Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s feature directorial debut.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek and Kareem Daniel, Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution chairman, were also among the Disney executives on hand. So was Cinetic Media’s John Sloss, who brokered the Sundance deal with Disney for Thompson and other producers, and RadicalMedia’s Jon Kamen. Quinta Brunson, creator and star of ABC’s new comedy “Abbott Elementary,” drew compliments on the success of her freshman-year series.
Duncan told guests she knew “Summer of Soul” had to be Onyx Collective’s first major effort after she learned that Thompson was at work on a movie about the Harlem Cultural Festival, the 1969 musical event known as “Black Woodstock,” as Duncan noted.
“What we saw in ‘Summer of Soul’ was a mixture of awe and pride — it was an experience we wanted Onyx Collective to stand for,” Duncan said.
She praised Thompson’s dogged work on the film and his emergence as a filmmaker in addition to his other activities. “You are bursting with endless amounts of story to tell,” Duncan told the longtime leader of the Roots and bandleader of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
Following the intimate brunch, Thompson was joined by his Roots bandmates for a jam session at the El Rey Theatre, emceed by Deon Cole. The legendary band was joined onstage by an incredible lineup of special guest performers including George Clinton, El DeBarge, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Muni Long, Thundercat, Alice Smith, Goapele and Mike Phillips.
Two-time Oscar host Chris Rock also took the mic to tease his role in Sunday’s ceremony. “I’m presenting the documentary Oscar tomorrow, and I just came from a rehearsal, and I opened the envelope,” Rock cracked, joking that he was more than prepared to read Thompson’s name. —Cynthia Littleton and Angelique Jackson
Women In Film Oscar Party
Bar Lis at the Thompson Hollywood, March 25
Following a two-year hiatus, the 15th annual Women in Film pre-Oscar Nominee party returned, with guests heading to the swanky rooftop of the Thompson Hotel at Bar Lis for a star-studded poolside celebration.
Last year’s Best Original Song winner, H.E.R., who co-hosted the evening with 2006 Best Picture winner and WIF LA president, Cathy Shulman, arrived in a black sequined jumpsuit and struck poses with “P Valley” director Katerina Evans before heading inside.
“I’m so grateful for events like this and people like you who really advocate for us women,” H.E.R. went on to say as she took the stage with Schulman later in the evening. “To me it’s always about the women supporting women and I always say that the moment we realize we are unstoppable together the stronger we will become.”
Schulman, meanwhile, whose highly anticipated Showtime episodic “The First Lady” premieres April 17, was beaming as she reflected on what it meant to her to be back at the party she helped start. “My daughter is about to, like, explode that she’s on her spring break trip and isn’t here tonight to meet H.E.R.,” she quipped to Variety. “[This year’s event] is very exciting mostly because of the cross-generational aspect of things. This was something that was only a dream when I started this party 16 years ago and there were so few of us. To have somebody like H.E.R a part of this excites me because she still thinks it matters. That means that if a woman in her twenties sees how much we still have to do to get to where we need to be, that means it’s important.”
— Variety (@Variety) March 26, 2022
As far as what still needs to be done, “CODA” star Amy Forsyth called on more transparency with actors’ salaries. “I think it needs to be the norm to discuss with your coworkers what we’re all making,” she told Variety. “There have been countless circumstances where either for myself or dear friends of mine that are women have found out they’re making less than half of their male counterparts. This happened this year.”
Forsyth went on to head into the party with her mom, whom she told us will also be her Oscar date.
There was a sense of sisterhood and camaraderie in the air as guests and nominees enjoyed Don Julio cocktails and Don Julio 1942 cocktail tastings at sunset with the picturesque Hollywood sign serving as the backdrop for the scene. In the midst of cocktail toasts, guests also stopped by the Charlotte Tilbury make-up touch up station, set up with illuminated mirrors.
As in previous years, before the day was done, Schulman called nominees like “Attica” director Traci A. Curry and “The Power of the Dog” cinematographer Ari Wegner to the stage to share a few words. “West Side Story” star Rita Moreno stole the show when she did, giving a quick candid speech that had guests chanting “Rita, Rita, Rita”.
“I want to say to all of my brown skin friends, all of my Latinas I have never forgotten where I came from. It’s so important to me,” she told the crowd.
“Writing With Fire” co-director Rintu Thomas also made onlookers laugh when she revealed, “I’m so excited to be in this room that I spilled a glass of wine on my sari.” —Brandi Fowler
Getty Images for Fund for Women's Equality
No Time Limits on Equality
NeueHouse Hollywood, March 25
California congresswoman Jackie Speier, Nevada State Senator Pat Spearman, Virginia legislator Jennifer Carroll Foy and Fun for Women’s Equality CEO Carol Jenkins were honored at the No Time Limits on Equality cocktail soiree to promote the inclusion of the Equal Rights Amendment in the United States Constitution.
The event, hosted by Hollywood players-cum-activists such as Jane Fonda, Jill Vedder and Rosanna Arquette, was a political powerhouse of politicians and concerned American citizens fighting for equal rights of women.
Actor and activist Alyssa Milano stressed the importance of the ERA, which has been ratified by 38th states and needs to be certified and published in the Constitution by the United States archivist in order to be enforced. “To have the weight of the Constitution behind [the ERA] is a very important thing,” Milano said. “Because of the way we look at cases, it will be under strict scrutiny for discrimination cases, things like violence against women, sexual assaults, harassment, but also things like equal pay for equal work. The ERA will codify Roe v. Wade and will make sure that no one can discriminate anybody on the basis of gender. The ERA will protect trans rights as well.”
Twelve-year-old guest Nathan Martone said, “We need to all support the ERA. My mom should have equal rights to my dad.”
Speier, an attorney and politician serving as the U.S. representative for California’s 14th congressional district since 2008, has been a tireless advocate for equal rights since the 1970s. “The ERA has been ratified by 38 states,” she said. “But it has not been certified by the archivists. And there is a dispute about whether or not it can be certified because there was in the preamble [of the Constitution], a deadline date, which the Congress actually extended, and has since expired. Meanwhile, all these other states have actually ratified it. The ERA should be the law of the land. It should be the 28th Amendment to the Constitution.”
Speier was serving as a congressional staffer for Congressman Leo Ryan in 1978 when she was shot five times during a fact-finding mission to Guyana to investigate human rights violations by infamous cult leader Jim Jones and his Peoples Temple followers. Ryan was assassinated; Speier miraculously survived. And she made it her mission to do whatever she could to fight for human rights.
“When I was shot in Guyana, I said to myself that if I survived, I would never take another day for granted, and I would pack in as much as I could every day,” Speier says. “I said that I would dedicate my life to public services. And I’ve done that. And it’s been a wonderful, fulfilling profession for 39 years.” —Malina Saval
Getty Images for Vanity Fair
The Future of Hollywood
Mother Wolf, Los Angeles, March 24
Presented by Vanity Fair and Lancôme and co-hosted by the magazine’s editor in chief Radhika Jones and Amanda Seyfried, the early evening soiree attracted Kaitlyn Dever, Brittany O’Grady, Kate Beckinsale, Chloe Fineman, Diana Silvers, Harley Quinn Smith, Nat Wolff, Jack Quaid, Jane Levey, Greg Tarzan Davis, Ella Hunt, Winnie Harlow, Rumor Willis, Kathy Hilton, Casey Wilson, Ashley Benson and Chris Sullivan.
Angelica Ross caught up with “Abbott Elementary” star Quinta Brunson. “She’s taking over the world,” the “Pose” star beamed about her friend. Dylan O’Brien stopped by after having to cut off his recent press tour for his latest movie “The Outfit” after contracting COVID. “I’m trying to get to the bar for a drink but not sure that’s going to happen,” he said as he looked around at the packed out.
“The White Lotus” star Brittany O’Grady stunned on the carpet before heading into the party but then returned to the arrivals line to shoot video of Ryan Destiny posing for photographers. “I gotta take care of my friend,” O’Grady said. Destiny was enjoying her night off because she’s been spending her days been training for her starring role in “Flint Strong” as real-life Olympic boxer Claressa “T-Rex” Shields. Shooting begins any day now in Toronto.
Mother Wolf chef Evan Funke watched party-goers devour his cheese-filled zucchini blossoms and bite size pieces of pizza.
“The Sex Lives of College Girls” actor Will Ropp joined his friends for some shots at the photo booth but not before telling Variety how excited he is about the release of “The Greatest Beer Run Ever,” his upcoming Peter Farrelly-directed feature starring Zac Efron, Russell Crowe and Bill Murray. They shot the film during the pandemic in Bangkok. —Marc Malkin
Karim Saafir Photography
MACRO Pre-Oscar Party
So-Fi Stadium, Inglewood, March 24
After a jam-packed day of luncheons and cocktail parties, one might think well-heeled partygoers like Tiffany Haddish or Lena Waithe would be too tired to Electric Slide their way into the wee hours in the morning. But as the clock struck midnight on Friday, music from DJ D-Nice continued bumping through SoFi Stadium. The 4th annual party, hosted by MACRO founder and CEO Charles D. King and Stacey Walker King, was the place to see and be seen as guests sipped custom cocktails with names that embraced the Oscars spirit, like “The Winner Is…”
Upon entering the venue, guests descended down an escalator onto one of the indoor-outdoor terraces of the football stadium, which just hosted the super bowl. The faux foliage walls were lined with paintings inspired by this year’s Oscar nominees, including “King Richard” and “Summer of Soul,” by artist Noah Humes, plus portraits of hosts Regina Hall, Wanda Sykes and Amy Schumer. The centerpiece of the entrance was a giant gold MACRO logo, which made an elegant backdrop for stars like “Insecure’s” Kendrick Sampson and Jay Ellis, as well as “Black-ish” star Marsai Martin and “Pose” lead Michaela Jae Rodriguez. Other photo opps included a chance for guests to pose in front of the football field (which was outfitted with another MACRO logo) and another portrait studio in the luxe lounge presented by Chase Sapphire.
At the end of the evening guests were treated to nibbles from Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen (co-owned by Inglewood native Issa Rae) and an assortment of tacos from the famous All Flavor No Grease food truck, which served the likes of Kandi Burruss and Christina Milian.
Also spotted at the party were Kelly Rowland, Ava DuVernay, Nia Long, Quinta Brunson, Chanté Adams, Colman Domingo, Dominique Fishback, Dominique Thorne, Chloe Bailey, “King Richard’s” Demi Singleton and Saniyya Sidney, Tri Star President Nicole Brown, Orion Pictures President Alana Mayo, directors Tim Story, Coodie & Chike, Matthew A. Cherry, Tommy Oliver, Rick Famuwiya, Reinaldo Marcus Green, Tina Mabry and Janicza Bravo; Amber Riley, Sujata Day, Cameron Fife, London Hughes, Jimmy Akingbola, Lexi Underwood, Shaun Robinson and Affion Crockett. —Angelique Jackson
W’s Best Performances Issue Party
Gigi’s, Los Angeles, March 24
Happy Birthday, Quentin Tarantino! W’s editor in chief Sara Moonves surprised the director with a birthday cake at about 9 p.m. While some of the star-studded crowd sang “Happy Birthday,” Tarantino quickly blew out the candles as his handler unsuccessfully tried to stop onlookers from taking photos and video of the celebration.
The magazine’s annual Best Performances party is usually held the Friday night before the Golden Globes at Chateau Marmont but was postponed to Oscar week due to the pandemic. It was also located to hotspot eatery Gigi’s — the party was outside adjacent to the restaurant — in the wake of Chateau owner André Balazs’ allegations of sexual misconduct and reports of treating his employees unfairly during the pandemic.
— Marc Malkin (@marcmalkin) March 25, 2022
The changes didn’t keep the soiree from remaining one of the hottest tickets in town. Among the revelers were Andrew Garfield, Zoë Kravitz, Chris Pine, Gabrielle Union, Pedro Almodóvar, Lily Collins, Ava DuVernay, Jamie Dornan, Ari Emanuel, Mindy Kaling, Jonah Hill, Dakota Johnson, Marlee Matlin, Diego Boneta, Emilia Jones, Diana Silvers, Lauren Ridloff, Chloe Fineman, Maddie Ziegler, Daisy Edgar-Jones, Ella Hunt, Kaitlyn Dever and Simon Rex.
Austin Butler and Kaia Gerber kissed and posed for a photographer shortly after they arrived and before Butler made a beeline for Wilmer Valderrama.
Party co-host and Louis Vuitton creative director Nicolas Ghesquière, greeted guests as they entered the party via a dark walkway lit by the dizzying glimmer of a disco ball. Moonves introduced Ghesquière to Maya Rudolph and Paul Thomas Anderson, who was carrying a hardcover copy of Donald Knox’s 1973 book “The Magic Factory: How MGM Made An American in Paris.”
Guests had to show proof of full vaccination and a negative COVID test taken within 48 hours of the party. —Marc Malkin
Michael Buckner for Variety
Oscar Wilde Awards
The Ebell of Los Angeles, March 24
In spite of a venue switch due to the pandemic and a missing honoree due to COVID-19, the Oscar Wilde Awards still maintained its usual Irish charm as it kicked off at the Wilshire Ebell Theater instead of its usual hub at emcee JJ Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions in Santa Monica, Calif.
Before the awards ceremony began, guests, who were required to be vaccinated to attend (both shots and a booster) mixed and mingled, toasted Oscar WildeTini and Irish Gimlet cocktails, and noshed on a variety of eats, including fish and chips and vegan enchiladas.
“This is an incredibly formal [ceremony], very serious, and no one takes a risk,” the “Star Trek” director, who was dubbed an “Honorary Irishman” at the 2010 awards, joked about the vibe of the event before heading inside. “I think you can see it’s fun. And I think after a couple years of not being able to do this, a lot of people are feeling a relief to get to sort of hang out again and toss back some Jameson and Guinness and enjoy the night.”
Adam McKay, Jamie Dornan, Dónall Ó Héalai and Kenneth Branagh were all honored at the event. Branagh was recently diagnosed with COVID-19 and couldn’t attend, but did send in a video acceptance speech.
Dornan told Variety that he’s keeping his fingers crossed that his “Belfast” co-star will be able to attend the Oscars on Sunday.
“We’re all gunning for him and hope he can make it,” Dornan said. “He and Ciaran Hinds are both in the same situation. So hopefully, he will pass the fitness test and we have them with us. I can’t even imagine going on Sunday night without those guys.”
Inside the event, Dornan kept the crowd laughing as he accepted his award, even pulling out a pair of silver handcuffs, Christian Grey-style. “I’ll start with something you’re familiar with,” he quipped. He went on to take a more serious turn, getting emotional as he called working with Branagh in Belfast, “the greatest honor of my career.”
Mary Steenburgen introduced McKay and dished about their best moments working together on “Step Brothers,” praising the director, too.
“The fact that somebody can be so outrageously funny, and still have the heart and the passion to make films about the environment, about hypocrisy, who shine the light on the injustices in the world the fact that all of these things are in this man’s absolutely brilliant career makes him a rare, and Irish, and loud and sometimes obscene bird,” she said.
As Ó Héalai accepted his “Wilde Card” award, he recalled how he “nearly quit acting” and moved from New York City to Buffalo, N.Y. He was later sent the script for “Arracht,” which changed his life. “Buffalo taught me what can come into your life if you stop chasing things,” he told the crowd, later adding that an Irish proverb continues to ring true for him in his career. “It’s in each other’s shelter that we survive and thrive as people.”
Ironically, as “King Richard” director Reinaldo Marcus Green presented Ó Héalai with his award, he said the “Arracht” star helped him push forward when he was a struggling filmmaker in New York with a ton of student debt. He told Green to keep going and that he was “so close.” He was so right. —Brandi Fowler
Canada & the Oscars
The Consul General of Canada, March 24
Canada’s Consul General to Los Angeles Zaib Shaikh took a moment to commemorate the lives of Canadian filmmakers Jean-Marc Vallee and Ivan Reitman and remember their contribution to cinema.
Shaikh addressed the crowd of Canada’s Oscar hopefuls that included the nominated crew from “Dune,” filmmaker Denis Villeneuve, his wife and the film’s producer Tanya Lapointe, “honorary” Canadian Guillermo Del Toro whose crew were nominated for “Nightmare Alley” and “The Power of the Dog” producer Roger Frappier.
The Consul General asked the crowd to raise a glass and toast “the key figures who would have been here and should have been here but aren’t able to be here tonight,” Shaikh said as he began his welcome speech.
He spoke of the indelible mark Reitman and Vallee had left on the world and their impact on the industry.”Those in the film and TV industry here, of course, not just in Canada or in Hollywood, but around the world, were devastated by their passing,” Shaikh said.
Reitman directed and produced some of the most successful and beloved film comedies in the last 45 years including just naming a few of these ‘National Lampoon’s Animal House,’ ‘Ghostbusters’ and ‘Twins.”
Shaikh noted 2022 was a historical year for the country’s film industry and its talent and felt like this was a real moment for Canada and its filmmaking.
“Dune’s” makeup artist Donald Mowat, nominated alongside Eva Von Bahr and Love Larson, said he was already in conversations for “Dune: Part Two” with Villeneuve and would be returning to work on the sequel with his fellow nominees Von Bahr and Larson. “We’re hoping to be back in May or June,” Mowat told Variety.
Elsewhere, as new cases of COVID continue to rise, Villeneuve and Lapointe remained masked as they entertained well-wishers and talked with their fellow crew, removing them only for a quick photo moment. —Jazz Tangcay
Dan Steinberg for Variety
Essence Black Women in Hollywood Awards
Beverly Wilshire Hotel, March 24
The annual ceremony paid special homage to a quartet of stars — Aunjanue Ellis, Quinta Brunson, Nia Long and Chanté Adams — honored for their contributions to the “Black Cinematic Universe.” Those four joined the more than 50 women honored by the magazine over the last 15 years.
Among those previous honorees is Lena Waithe, who remarked to Variety on the red carpet that the event is essentially a family reunion. She explained, “It’s an amazing sorority that we all pledged. We’re sisters.”
“Snowfall” star Damson Idris, one of the few men in attendance, emceed the luncheon. “I thought they mistook me for Idris Elba,” he joked about booking the gig.
Four-time Oscar-nominee Will Smith dropped by to salute his “King Richard” queen and present her award.
“If there’s a central word that describes Aunjanue Ellis, it’s integrity,” he shared onstage. “What’s beautiful about being friends with Aunjanue is that she demands it of you in the most loving way.”
Ellis then delivered a near nine-minute barn-burner of a speech that galvanized the audience full of women already clapping, cheering and yelling the Delta Sigma Theta “Oo-oop!” call in her honor. Ellis meditated on the work she’s “done in the dark,” including those roles that have gone unseen or unheralded, particularly by white institutions.
“And yet I did it anyway,” she declared. “The work I did in the dark, fed and clothed and put roofs over the heads of people that I loved. My work sustained a movement to remove physical tools of segregation in my home state of Mississippi.”
Speaking to the crowd — which including Serena Williams and her “King Richard daughters” Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton, Mikayla Bartholomew, Layla Crawford and Daniele Lawson — Ellis noted that this glorious awards season run, this “moment of shine, of luminosity” will eventually pass. Her next job won’t be with Smith and it might not be loved, but she’ll continue to push on. Why?
“I have to because every day I wake up to fight against my certain annihilation,” she explained. “Those who would obliterate me as a Black American. Outside these doors right now, there is legislation all across this country that seeks to keep the names of [Civil Rights activists] Medgar Evers and Fannie Lou Hamer outside of curriculums, outside of the mouths of students and children.”
Adams and Brunson were next up, accepting their honors from “Roxanne Roxanne” producer Mimi Valdes and “Atlanta” creator and star Donald Glover, respectively. Long accepted her honor from “Love Jones” costar Larenz Tate.
It was an emotional afternoon for the legendary actor, who got so emotional on the red carpet that she had to take a break mid-interview when she began to tear up. Onstage, Long explained why she was overcome at being honored by Essence in “phase two” of her career.
“My kids are here; my mother’s here. I’m seeing this beautiful group of new young Black talent who are just taking over the world,” she said. “I’m seeing old friends; I’m seeing just us in all of our greatness. And so there are those moments in your life that take your breath away and I’m just gonna lean into the fact that I’m emotional.”
Among the attendees were Robin Thede, Marsai Martin, Michaela Jae Rodriguez, Niecy Nash and Jessica Betts, Ashley Nicole Black, Moses Ingram, Kaci Walfall, Lexi Underwood, E’s Nina Parker, Amber Riley, Loni Love, Tabitha Brown, Gina Prince Bythewood and her “The Woman King” stars Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch and Sheila Atim and “Bel-Air” stars Coco Jones, Jabari Banks and Akira Akbar. —Angelique Jackson
Celebrate South Asian Excellence in Film
UTA, Century City, March 23
Hollywood’s South Asian powerhouses gathered in UTA’s courtyard to toast a historic milestone — this year’s Oscar hopefuls include 10 South Asian nominees. “I think it’s really important for us as a community to recognize that and celebrate it,” event co-host Priyanka Chopra Jonas told Variety. “I’m so proud to see that and honor excellence that I could only dream would happen when I came to work here. We’re making strides in that direction. We have 10 nominees this year, which is more than we’ve ever had.”
Speaking to the crowd, which included nominees Riz Ahmed, Fatima Mirza, Aneil Karia, Joseph Patel, Anurima Bharghava, Pawo Choyning Dorji and Gulistan and Elizabeth Mirzaei, Chopra Jonas choked up with emotion. “We’re creating a sense of community for each other,” she said. “We’re creating a community that not just celebrates each other, but offers shoulders to stand on.”
She added, “I haven’t been stepping out anywhere. But I had to come here tonight, just to say this, that I am highly proud to be rubbing shoulders with all of you, to be encouraging you, to be offering a sense of help [and] support.”
Ahmed, nominated this year as a producer for live action short for “The Long Goodbye,” also offered remarks. “This has been a beautiful community over the years of people just trying to help each other, support one another,” he said. “We’ve been meeting often in private to try and encourage one another. It’s really emboldening when you’re surrounded by people who share your experience because you realize you’re not alone. You feel less afraid to share that experience and get out there.”
Kal Penn looked out at the crowd and recalled his start in the business. “Certainly 20 years ago when I moved to Los Angeles I didn’t think I’d be coming to something like this,” he told Variety. “I could only imagine 20 years from now and what that will look like.”
The guest list also included Hamesh Patel, Aziz Ansari, Manish Dayal, Netflix’s Bela Bajaria and Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Radhika Jones. —Marc Malkin
Taste the Future Draws Celebrity Biotech Entrepreneurs
Four Seasons Beverly Hills, March 24
Entertainment names like former One Direction superstar Liam Payne and “Vampire Diaries” star Paul Wesley were among co-hosts at a splashy lunch dubbed “Taste the Future,” which previewed cutting-edge food technologies from companies backed by SOSV and Apeiron Investment, including Formo animal-free dairy products, Grounded cheeses made from fermented cauliflower and Trip CBD drinks.
“Climate change can be solved” was the over-arching message, if agriculture moves away from animal production and embraces biotech. Payne invests in psychedelic medicine, while Questlove, who backs innovative food companies such as NotCo, was too busy promoting “Summer of Soul” to join. Celebrity vegan chef Matthew Kenny served ravioli made with Perfect Day’s non-dairy ricotta and tacos with Abbot’s Butcher meatless chorizo, while cocktails were served with bourbon from Wesley’s Brother’s Bond Whiskey, which he blends with actor Ian Somerhalder. “We drank bourbon often while we were shooting the show,” Wesley said. “One of our missions is to give back a percentage of all of our sales to regenerative agriculture. I’m a vegan and animal rights activist. I think (these products) could be the end of animal products being one of the leading contributors to climate change.” —Pat Saperstein
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