Academy Award Nominations 2017 [Contents]
Damien Chazelle, ‘La La Land’ writer-director
Many Oscar nominees are still in bed on the West Coast when the news rolls in. This wasn’t the case for Damien Chazelle, the writer-director of “La La Land,” who is on a press tour in China with the movie’s co-star, Ryan Gosling. It was around 9:30 p.m. in Beijing when Mr. Chazelle heard his movie had been nominated for a record-tying 14 nominations. “Ryan and I got to have a little champagne celebration right away,” he said in a very brief — four minutes total — phone interview.
Mr. Chazelle was up for best screenplay for “Whiplash” two years ago, and on Tuesday he received his first directing nomination in addition to one for screenplay. But he was less excited about his individual success than about the nods for the whole “La La Land” ensemble, including best acting spots for Mr. Gosling and Emma Stone, and two song nominations for the composer Justin Hurwitz and the lyricists Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.
“When you’re making a musical, you learn you’re only as good as every member of the team you’re working with,” he said, citing “the amount of passion and inventiveness they brought every day to the job.”
By the time the interview took place, less than an hour after the nominations had been announced, Mr. Chazelle had already connected with many of his nominated collaborators. “It’s been a lot of frantic calling,” he said. “I called my producers right away. Ryan got Emma on the phone — so we were talking to Emma as well. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Could “La La Land” match the record number of wins — 11, held by “Titanic,” “Ben Hur” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”? Mr. Chazelle laughed. “I’m not trying to think even about that right now,” he said. “At the end of the day, I don’t think it matters who wins. The one other thing I’m really excited by is, it’s not just to get this kind or recognition — it’s to be part of the conversation this way in such a phenomenal year for film. As a movie lover, I’ve gotten to see so many incredible films this year and meet filmmakers who I’ve admired forever.”
— ANDREW R. CHOW
Naomie Harris, co-star, ‘Moonlight’
She plays a downtrodden, crack-addicted mother in “Moonlight,” but on Tuesday the British actress Naomie Harris was ecstatic about her Oscar nomination for best supporting actress.
Calling from London, Ms. Harris said that she was with her own mother when the nominations were being announced and that she was nervous.
“I was watching, but then I just couldn’t cope with the anticipation any longer and I switched the whole thing off,” she said. “And then my brother called and told me I’d been nominated.”
Ms. Harris has been a frequent nominee on the awards circuit this season for her wrenching performance, garnering Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations, but she said it was still hard for the Oscar news to sink in.
“I was preparing myself for not being nominated because I didn’t want to be let down if I wasn’t,” she said.
She is also one of six black performers to get nods this year, after two years in a row of #OscarsSoWhite. Asked about Tuesday’s diverse slate, she said, “I think it’s unfortunate that we still have to focus on color. What the Oscars are about and what the awards should be about is a recognition of talent and incredible hard work, irrespective of color. What’s also important for me are the diverse voices being heard and the diverse stories being told. That’s really exciting.”
— MEKADO MURPHY
Michelle Williams, co-star, ‘Manchester by the Sea’
When your mom calls early in the morning, “screamingly unintelligible,” the news is either amazing or devastating. Michelle Williams quickly realized it was the former.
“I was at work,” Ms. Williams said, when she learned of her Oscar nomination for best supporting actress for her performance in “Manchester by the Sea.” She plays a woman who shares a tragic past with her ex-husband (Casey Affleck). Mr. Affleck was also nominated on Tuesday, for best actor, and the film wound up in with a total of six nods, including best picture, best director and best original screenplay (Kenneth Lonergan), and best supporting actor (Lucas Hedges).
This is Ms. Williams’s fourth nomination over all (no wins yet), and she’s philosophical about the process. “It’s a really special and amazing thing when it happens,” she said. “It happens some years; it doesn’t happen other years. It’s good not to get too attached and wrap up too much identity in it.”
“For such a small movie, this is the last thing in the world that you think is going to come of it,” Ms. Williams said. “So that deserves a celebration for everyone who worked on a movie with no fame or glory, at the end to be here for Lucas, for Kenny, for Casey — that’s a really beautiful thing.”
Ms. Williams was calling from Brooklyn, where she’s working on the new musical “The Greatest Showman,” and said she would momentarily pause to celebrate.
“I think it’s nice to celebrate when good things happen because life can be rocky,” she said, adding, “But the best way to really celebrate it is to be in the middle of the rest of your life. I’m just happy to be where I am.”
— TAMARA BEST
Isabelle Huppert, star, ‘Elle’
Isabelle Huppert, by now practically a French icon, was doing what she does best — portraying yet another psychologically complex, potentially lethal woman — when she received word of her first best actress Oscar nomination, for “Elle,” Paul Verhoeven’s darkly comedic thriller.
It was her second day of shooting Benoît Jacquot’s “Eva,” on the outskirts of Paris, when the call came and her colleagues cheered. “You hope, you anticipate,” she said, “but it’s a surprise because it’s a French-speaking film with subtitles, and not only that, but it’s also a difficult film. It’s something special. It’s a roller coaster.”
Indeed it is. Ms. Huppert is mesmerizing as Michèle Leblanc, a video-game executive (and, perhaps not incidentally, the daughter of a serial killer) who is brutally raped and then turns the table on her attacker as he returns, again and again.
“Ms. Huppert has the unrivaled ability to fuse contradictory traits and actions into a singular, complex and endlessly interesting personality,” A. O. Scott wrote in The Times. (The role has already earned her Golden Globe and Gotham Awards.)
Any brouhaha stirred up by “Elle’s” rape-revenge-fantasy has been minimal, she said.
“I think the reason people relate to the film is because there is integrity,” she said. “The film dares to say something about the truthfulness of that woman, the honestly of her feelings. Not everything is easy to say, to confess, and in a way that’s what you have onscreen. We give access to something that’s very uncomfortable.”
Ms. Huppert, who has 15 Cesar nominations but is a novice navigator of the American awards circuit, likened herself to “a little ship in the big ocean — but a strong ship,” she said. “I feel great. It’s an extraordinary celebration of what we fight for and what we love as an actor and as a spectator.”
And while her résumé is already peppered with collaborations with American directors like Michael Cimino (“Heaven’s Gate”) and David O. Russell (“I Heart Huckabees”), “I’m ready to work with many more,” she said eagerly, naming Barry Jenkins’s “Moonlight” and Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” as films she admires in a season where her viewing time has been limited. “It is difficult. You either act or you watch.”
Or maybe protest. “If I’d been in America, I would have done the women’s march recently,” Ms. Huppert said, sounding as formidable as her characters. “I think it’s really important to fight for our rights and issues. I wish I could have done it.”
— KATHRYN SHATTUCK
Constanza Romero Wilson, widow of August Wilson, ‘Fences’ playwright
Constanza Romero Wilson’s alarm went off at 4:45 a.m., Seattle time, but she fell back to sleep before waking with a start in time to learn that her husband, the playwright August Wilson, who died in 2005, had received a best adapted screenplay Oscar nomination for “Fences.”
Then she rang their daughter, Azula, a sleepy N.Y.U. student, with the good news — “Daddy got nominated” — only to be chastened later that Mom had forgotten to mention the film’s other three nominations: best actor for Denzel Washington (who also directed), best supporting actress for Viola Davis and best picture.
Since then, Ms. Wilson’s morning was a blur of phone calls, emails and texts, leaving her little time to reflect. “I still have to stop and take it all in,” she said.
The nomination had been a long time coming — almost 30 years since Paramount Pictures paid more than $1 million for the movie rights to Mr. Wilson’s Pulitzer- and Tony-winning drama about an embittered Negro League baseball player turned Pittsburgh trash collector who refuses to allow his son to accept a college football scholarship.
And then the “screenplay sort of stalled in people’s drawers,” as producers waited for the right black director — something her husband felt was necessary, she said, to bring respect and attention to cultural specificities. “I think all in all, it was just waiting for Denzel to roll up his sleeves.”
Mr. Washington wanted to try the play onstage before committing to the film. He joined the 2010 Broadway revival of “Fences,” which won Tonys for best revival, best actor (Mr. Washington) and best actress (Ms. Davis).
Then two years ago, “I got a call from Denzel and he’s ready to do the film, and the only thing he wanted was to make August proud,” she said. “The main adjective I’ve used for the movie is uncompromising. It really is an incredible film version of the script.”
Although Ms. Wilson, a theater designer, had no actual involvement as the estate’s executor, Mr. Washington nevertheless invited her to the set, where she sat in the producers’ tent for several days, inhaling the richness of her husband’s words as they were transferred to the screen.
She will be collaborating with Mr. Washington as a co-producer on a forthcoming HBO project that will turn the remaining nine plays of Mr. Wilson’s “American Century Cycle” into movies. “Every single one of these plays is a different jewel and will require different treatments and different types of directors and different adaptations,” she said.
Recently, Ms. Wilson has been captivated by Barry Jenkins’s “Moonlight,” But on Tuesday night, she plans to keep her thoughts closer to home. “I may just go and see ‘Fences’ on the big screen and add to the joy surrounding everything,” she said.
— KATHRYN SHATTUCK