The nominees react

Posted by · 10:30 am · January 23rd, 2007

After a few weeks of frigid, citrus terrorizing temperatures, if you step outside this morning in Los Angeles, it’s a beautiful, cloudless, sunny day. But it’s a little sunnier for those who were greeted with Oscar nominations, whether expected or unexpected. I had the opportunity to talk with a few of the lucky souls who’ve had the pleasure of fielding phone call after phone call this morning. Here’s what they had to say.

Lots of happiness in the Fox Searchlight camp today, as the little film that could, “Little Miss Sunshine” made its way to four Oscar nominations including Best Picture and, not surprisingly, Best Original Screenplay for Michael Arndt. I called Michael around 7:45 this morning to get his reaction, and he was still the same modest fellow I spoke to face to face over the weekend.

“I knew that there were a lot of people out there who loved the film,” he told me, “but this is the ultimate validation of the idea that the film industry is democratic. A year ago we were hoping to get a distribution deal and now we have four Oscar nominations.”

Michael says he went to sleep pretty easily (and who wouldn’t, in his shoes), but that didn’t stop him from waking up at three o’clock and suffering insomnia throughout the rest of the early morning hours. Suffice it to say, he was wide awake when he heard his name called this morning.

Best Supporting Actor nominee Jackie Earle Haley (“Little Children”) has to be the happiest guy in the business this morning. “I think I’d have to agree with you on that,” he told me, calling from his home in San Antonio. “This is just unbelievably crazy. They need to invent a few more words, because every adjective, this is just a little bit better.”

The most adorable and giddy Oscar nominee you could expect to talk to, Haley was clearly on cloud nine, even hitting bouts of speechlessness during our conversation. Funnily enough, even in the central time zone, Jackie was asleep when the announcement hit. His wife ran into the bedroom screaming and crying, “You got it!” “We just hugged each other and cried for, like, five minutes,” Haley said.

One of today’s nominees was actually surprisingly snubbed for his work on “Good Night, and Good Luck.” last year, film editor Stephen Mirrione. Mirrione and Douglas Crise shared one of “Babel”‘s seven nominations this morning.

“The types of movies I gravitate towards aren’t really mainstream movies,” he told me via telephone shortly after the nominations were announced. “So I’m pleasantly surprised when they become so widely accepted, even if I know the material I’m working with is exceptional. And I owe a lot to wonderful performances.”

Crise has served as Mirrione’s first assistant editors for ten years. This year he got the bump to co-editor because “Babel” started shooting before Mirrione had finished work on “Good Night, and Good Luck.” Now the longtime collaborators get to share in the spoils of an Oscar nomination together.

Another nominee who has felt the sting of Oscar’s avoidance is Patrick Marber, nominated today for his adapted screenplay “Notes on a Scandal,” based on the novel by Zoe Heller. In fact, when Marber failed to score a WGA nomination for his work two weeks ago, he says it felt exactly how the circumstance of “Closer” played out in 2004, for which he received BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations, but found no such luck with the guild and with the Academy. Suffice it to say, he was pleasantly surprised this morning.

“Being nominated is a lot more fun than not being nominated,” he told me, calling from London. “You suddenly get lots of phone calls from people you haven’t spoken to in years. And it’s huge for us, for the film, to get four nominations. Judi and I texted each other, and I got a one word email from Zoe: ‘Yay.’ She’s always to the point.”

Finally, one of the big stories of the morning was Picturehouse’s six nomination haul for Guillermo del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth.” Hitting the ground running in its inaugural year, Picturehouse had two critically lauded efforts hit screens in “Pan’s” and director Robert Altman’s “A Prairie Home Companion.” Picturehouse president Bob Berney concedes that it was a shame not to land at least one mention for Altman’s golden-hued, poignant swansong, but it was bittersweet considering the surprising glut of appreciation thrown the way of “Pan’s Labyrinth.”

“We decided to come out at the very end, but to do that, you have to know you’ve got a great film,” he told me earlier this morning. “It’s cool to get these broader nominations outside of the foreign film category, because this really is such a group effort. You get a lot of energy from this film and it just takes you back to the joy of movies.”

Berney conceded that a lesson learned in this introductory year for his studio was the subtlety of positioning your film as an underdog. The strategy paid off in spades this morning, and the president affirms that he and his team are ready to do it all over again next Oscar season.

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