To some, the awards season schedule can feel like an exhausting, soul crushing experience. But for filmmaker Sarah Polley and Hildur Gudnadóttir, it’s simply the best.
“We’re going to all the events,” said Women Talking and Tár composer Gudnadóttir while standing next to pal Polley on the red carpet at the BAFTA Tea at Four Seasons Los Angeles in Beverly Hills on Saturday. “It’s actually really fun because we don’t see each other very often and it’s been a really great excuse to hang out with Sarah and just go to all the events with her. We’ve been pissing ourselves with laughter.”
Polley, on the circuit for her critically acclaimed Women Talking, called it “weirdly amazing” that others may complain about the demands and dizzying number of red carpets while she’s embracing the chaos. “We’re having the best time ever. We go to everything,” she said with a smile. “We’re so happy to be there. I guess it’s kind of loser-ish but we’re fine with it. We’re going to have every scone and cup of tea or champagne that is offered to us. It’s all going to be consumed. We’re good.”
That’s precisely the celebratory mood that BAFTA Tea officials were hoping for this weekend as the event returned after a two year, pandemic-enforced hiatus. Depending on how one chose to look at it, the torrential downpours across the city of Los Angeles either threatened the vibe or enhanced the London-like feel of the festivities. What better time to cozy up to contenders while sipping on a cup of Earl Grey tea and nibbling on scone with Devonshire cream and strawberry preserves?
Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu was fine a cocktail and a close friend. “I’m here because I will see Guillermo del Toro, that’s my main thing,” said the Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths auteur. “I will have a drink with him and then I will be happy to see some other directors and actresses like Andrea Riseborough, who I haven’t seen it in seven years since Birdman. I like seeing people that are here and taking the opportunity to give a hug. That’s enough reason for me to be here.”
Presented by first-time partners Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic, BAFTA had a healthy turnout of guests including recent Golden Globe winners like Cate Blanchett, Angela Bassett, Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Guillermo del Toro and his Pinocchio team including Mark Gustafson, Patrick McHale, Corey Campodonico and Gary Ungar, along with guests like Michelle Williams, Jerry Bruckheimer, Kate Hudson, Rian Johnson with composer cousin Nathan Johnson, Zar Amir Ebrahimi, Jaylen Barron, Elegance Bratton, Diane Warren with Sofia Carson, Park Chan-Wook, Chinonye Chukwu, Scott Cooper, Danny Ramirez, Tarzan Davis, Danielle Deadwyler, Dolly De Leon, Lukas Dhont, Jenny Slate, Dean Fleischer-Camp, Brendan Fraser, Jared Harris, Eve Hewson, Judd Hirsch, Sharon Horgan, Nina Hoss, Stephanie Hsu, Samuel Hunter, Justin Hurwitz, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, Daniel Kwan, Gabriel Labelle, Janelle Monae, Kathryn Newton, Bill Nighy, Brandon Perea, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Lewis Pullman, S. S. Rajamouli, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Banks Repeta, Andrea Riseborough, Taylor Russell, Daniel Scheinert, Julia Schlaepfer, Maria Schrader, Cathy Schulman, Jonathan Tucker and many more.
The event supports BAFTA’s year-round Learning, Inclusion and Talent programs in North America and was positioned on a new date. It typically landed on the Saturday before the Golden Globes and today’s gathering followed the Globes by four days. “We looked at the calendar and considered the best fit with [the upcoming BAFTA Film Awards] after our short list and long lists came out. We also had folks coming over from London and they could make the trip before it got too busy in the U.K.,” explained Matthew Wiseman, CEO of BAFTA Los Angeles. “New date, same weather.”
BAFTA CEO Jane Millichip also noted the precipitation. “I brought the English weather with me,” she joked before getting serious. “It’s a really important event for us to be able to celebrate the nominees, the long lists and to build anticipation around the [BAFTA Awards] that are happening next month.” Happening more quickly: Millichip said she was looking forward to a nice cup of tea, preferably assam tea leaves with a “nice bit” of skim milk. “But the water needs to be boiled very hot. Americans don’t always boil the water long enough.”
While countless cups were being consumed inside the Four Season ballroom, the red carpet was boiling over with talent keen to talk up their projects. Below are highlights from those interviews.
The Fabelmans star Michelle Williams, fresh from watching Steven Spielberg win two awards at the Golden Globes including best picture, praised the legendary filmmaker and expressed how exciting it was to see him honored in that way. “What he offered is so intimate and so achingly vulnerable and to see that vulnerability rewarded on this scale is really thrilling for the people who were witness to that incredibly soft place that he opened up to us all.”
Top Gun: Maverick producer Jerry Bruckheimer has experienced a lot of good fortune in his career but says this awards season attention for the Tom Cruise-starrer feels different. “It’s a movie that brought people back to theaters. Older audiences hadn’t been to a theater in years and this got ’em back and reminded people what a great experience it is sitting in a theater where you can hear the laughter, the sobbing and the exhilaration. That’s what movie theaters can do,” said Bruckheimer.
The Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery helmer Rian Johnson walked the carpet with his composer cousin Nathan Johnson and they took a trip down memory lane to recall how they started making movies together when they were tweens. “That’s how we spent our vacations and now there’s a weird vertigo when we’re on a real scoring stage at Abbey Road with a 90-piece orchestra and we look over at each other,” explained Rian.
Of those home movies, Nathan said they would finish their films and invite all their relatives in one room for a family screening. “Now, they all come to our premieres but there’s thousands of people now,” he said. For the record, those early home movies still exist but “will never see the light of day, Rian said with a smile. “I digitized them a while back and passed them around the family. Our first one was called Bee-Busters. It was like Ghostbusters but with kids busting a wasp’s nest in their playhouse. It was just goofy fun, you know?”
Triangle of Sadness star Dolly De Leon took some time over the holiday break to process the good fortunes of her critically-acclaimed turn in Ruben Östlund’s film. “I spent some time by the ocean, and when I’m around a huge body of water, it really balances me somehow and I’m right back in my groove. It finally sunk in and I just realized that I should be in the moment, enjoy everything, suck everything in appreciate all that’s going on. It’s as simple as that and it works.”
Pinocchio co-director Mark Gustafson was still processing the team’s recent Golden Globe win for best animated movie. “It was crazy,” he said. “I never thought I would experience that in my life so I was trying to take it in and not get too drunk.” Flanked by collaborators Patrick McHale, Corey Campodonico and Gary Ungar, they each were quick to pay respects to the hundreds of artists that worked on the film (while also shouting out MoMA’s current exhibition featuring their work). “Incredibly talented artists who all became family because we shot for about a thousand days. We became very, very close so we are just here representing all of those other immensely talented people.”
Speaking of animated movies, Turning Red collaborators Domee Shi, director, and Lindsay Collins, producer, said they’re enjoying the swirl of events and the chance to meet other artists they admire. “The whole cast of Everything Everywhere All at Once,” Collins said. “We love them and are always like, ‘Remember us?’” Shi shoot her shot on Friday and introduced herself to Avatar guru James Cameron. “I made sure to say, ‘Hi James, from one Canadian director to another, congratulations,’” Shi explained, adding that Cameron promised to watch Turning Red with his daughter. “I was like, ‘Yes, please do. I’ll hold you to it.’”
Holy Spider star Zar Amir-Ebrahimi admitted she was jet-lagged but still found the energy to enjoy the scene even if it “feels like a dream.” She added, “It’s been an amazing, amazing journey, this movie for me. The prize has been the message of justice and hope with this movie and that so many people were touched. That really touched my heart, too.”
The Whale writer Samuel D. Hunter was stoked to find out that the Brendan Fraser-starrer directed by Darren Aronofsky was expanding and would finally be showing at his hometown movie theater in Moscow, Idaho. “It’s playing at the same theater where my grandfather was an usher in the ‘30s,” said Hunter, a University of Iowa graduate who originated the work as a play. “I can’t wait for them to go there and see it. They will give me a report.”
Even though she’s been down this road many times before, Oscar winner Diane Warren said every year “feels new with different energy.” Flanked by actress-singer Sofia Carson who performs the track “Applause” from the film Tell it Like a Woman, Warren is in a familiar place after having made the Oscar shortlist for their collaboration. “I never take it for granted. You know, it’s an honor just to be on the short list. It’s hard to even get on that. Now, you try for the shorter short list.” [Oscar nominations are announced Jan. 24.]
Speaking of nominations, Jonathan Tucker already snagged one — a best supporting performance nod at the upcoming Spirit Awards — for his daring turn in Palm Trees and Power Lines. He confirmed that it was a heavy lift as a performer to take on a role of an older man who seduces a teenage girl while hiding ulterior motives. “There were many facets of building the performance that were so challenging. I also always wanted to support these three women — the director and writer, the producer and the actress, Jamie Dack, Leah Chen Baker and Lily McInerny. That was my job and in many ways, that leaked into the performance in a really good way because ultimately that’s what you wanted out of that character. I played somebody who felt like they were offering up a sense of self-worth. So, there were all these weird, meta things about it.”
And after a long and successful career, Tucker admits that it’s one of his performances that proves to be a tough watch. “It’s the hardest project I’ve ever had to watch myself in,” he added. “Watching the movie as a father and a husband is like brutal, that’s for sure.”
Stephanie Hsu was feeling much more sunny while wearing a Simone Rocha creation fit for the occasion. “This is my first big parade and it’s been a whole learning adventure,” said the Everything Everywhere All at Once star. About her look, she praised Los Angeles-based styling duo Wayman and Micah for helping craft the perfect ensemble for each event. “Today is a tea party so we decided on something that felt like a British tea party. There’s always intention behind how I show up.” Cheers to that.