Sunday, April 14, 2024

Oscar Nominee Joaquin Phoenix on Showing Up: “Is There a Choice?”


Twas the night before Oscars and all through the town, everyone was stirring and no one was down. Indeed, Hollywood seemed ebullient on Saturday night as limos careened back and forth up and down Sunset Blvd. from the Chateau Marmont to Soho House and up to the Beverly Hills Hotel carrying actors, actresses, and celebrities. Meanwhile, at the Dolby Theater, in rehearsal, you could hear the cast of “Les Miserables” and a 48 person strong chorus belting out show tunes, and Dame Shirley Bassey polishing up her “Goldfinger” for the big event.

At Madeo’s on Beverly Boulevard, Charles Finch held his annual pre Oscar dinner, sponsored by Chanel, and featuring Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain. Finch, the British impresario, is also the son of late great actor Peter Finch, and he knows a thing or two about theater. The result is that his parties are like little presentations, cozily lit, super-salons.

And who did we see? Rebecca Gayheart and Eric Dane, Ioann Grufudd and Alice Ryan, producer Ed Pressman and wife Annie with producer Laura Bickford, Jared Harris and producer Cassian Elwes and so on, sprinkled in among fashionistas. Livia Firth, Colin’s wife, explained her Oscar winning husband was abroad shooting his second film in a row with Nicole Kidman. Cool.

And all through the low ceilinged room of Madeo’s you could hear the word “Argo” burbling along. Chastain, a pragmatist, told me: “I’m not going to win, and it’s fine.” She and her Italian boyfriend — Gian Luca Passi de Preposulo– are headed to Milan next week for a break before Jessica begins work on her next film. Between “Zero Dark Thirty” and “The Heiress” on Broadway, Chastain has had an extraordinary run this year.

Some other guests included writer Brett Easton Ellis, and married actors Alessandro Nivola and Emily Mortimer.

Meantime, back at the newly refreshed and just reopened Polo Lounge, Warren Beatty caused a stir when he walked in– and headed straight over to a table hosted by producer Brian Grazer. Soon it was clear that Ron Burkle and Steve Bing were also there, and some attractive young ladies filled in the extra seats. But the Polo was buzzing. Brett Ratner arrived in a wool cap.

“Dark Knight” director Christopher Nolan had the table for eight right next to the Beatty-Bing-Grazer, while Alanna Stewart got her own table., Phillippe Dauman, the man who runs Viacom, was fully ensonced in a banquette. And the in house pianist played the theme from “Downton Abbey.”

Everyone loves the Polo Lounge, but here’s some advice. Don’t go there unless money is no object. Our waiter said he’d bring my friend a “very good glass of red wine.” Hell0–the one was glass of red wine was $65. Yes, sixty five dollars.

Why was everyone eating in the Polo? At the same time, the notorious “Night Before” party was going in the hotel at $5,000 a ticket. “There’s no food in there,” one guest told me of the star studded event that benefits the Motion Picture Home in Woodland Hills. This year’s gift bag: a small picnic basket in a vinyl container. Ah, for the pre-recession days of iPods, Flip cameras, and custom made sneakers.

So we skedaddled over to Soho House where Harvey Weinstein had good reason to celebrate: Silver Linings Playbook was named Best Feature at the Indie Spirit awards. So Piers Morgan, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Quentin Tarantino, Jamie Foxx, Pauly Herman, Dermot Mulroney, director John Wells, and actor-rapper Common, Suzanne dePasse, Star Jones, Norah Lawlor, and so on kept the garden room high above Sunset Blvd. humming for some time after midnight.

Joaquin Phoenix, looking spiffy, put in an appearance “Are you going to be at the show?” I asked him. Joaquin was amused. “People keep asking me that,” said the star of The Master, “I didn’t know I had a choice.”



Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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