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The champagne carpet being set up. Aoife Barry
hollywood report

Oscars countdown: Champagne carpets and behind the scenes of the winners' press room

As rain arrives in LA, the Irish Oscar hopefuls are on a two-day countdown.

Aoife Barry reports from LA.

THE COUNTDOWN IS on: two days (LA time) to go until the 2023 Oscars take place and we find out if Ireland will take any statuettes home.

It’s a busy time for the nominees, and for the people putting the whole Oscars shebang together. Tight schedules are being kept to. A champagne carpet (no red carpet this year) is being rolled out while tourists mill around Hollywood Boulevard and watch on. There are many industry events to attend.

Last night, the big event for Irish nominees was the annual Oscar Wilde Awards. Traversing its ‘green carpet’ were figures from in front of and behind the camera – a smorgasbord of film industry stars and powerhouses amongst the up-and-comers.

JJ Abrams was there (his company, Bad Robot, hosts the event at its impressive Santa Monica HQ), holding what looked like a glass of whiskey and telling us about how much he loves Irish film.

Hollywood veteran Patrick Crowley (producer of the Bourne films) and his wife, actress Cathleen Summers, were there too. To what do they put down the current Irish success? 

“I think it’s that no one tells stories like the Irish do, and movies are just storytelling. So when you see something like Banshees, there’s not much going on there they’re not getting along, and audiences are captivated by it and completely involved in it – there must be something coming out of those Irish writers, those Irish creators.

“And the movie looks as professional and incredible as any Hollywood movie. So then you begin to say ‘I’m more interested in Irish projects, it’s stuff I don’t know about’ – and that will continue to grow,” said Crowley.

The Irish Goodbye and An Cailín Ciúin teams were also on the green carpet, and their take on it all has been consistent – they’re there to enjoy the process. They all told The Journal that they’re focused on enjoying the nomination, rather than focusing on the big prize. It’s an attitude that will surely stand to them.

The biggest stars of the night – Kerry Condon and Jessie Buckley – didn’t spend as much time on the green carpet, but were awarded alongside Eve Hewson at the Oscar Wilde Awards. Inside, Condon told the crowd about the support she’d received from people like director Martin McDonagh, Dearbhla Molloy and Marie Mullen after moving to pursue her career in the US.

Buckley, meanwhile, punctured the Hollywood glam by admitting she finds the awards process “a bit bewildering”, saying “I usually get kind of squashed like some kind of sausage into a dress and I can’t wait to get home and have chips and tequila, and put my pyjamas on.” Hewson received her award for rising talent, and said the TV series Bad Sisters made her feel “proud to be an Irish woman”. 

Also there was Samantha Mumba, who told us she’s been in the studio and is planning on releasing a new single in a few months. Based in LA, she said that when it comes to Irish confidence, “we’ve always had it – in the grand scheme of things Ireland is a very small country, but mighty, and I feel like it’s time. There’s so much talent – the crews in Ireland are the best crews I worked with, and I think it’s great they’re getting recognition.”

Director Lee Cronin (A Hole in the Ground) pointed out that a year like 2023 isn’t an overnight thing: “I think one of the interesting things is it’s actually many years of work it takes to have a fantastic year. I think it’s brilliant to see all the talent on show internationally making such waves.” 

In terms of what the nominations say about Irish film, he said it shows “that there’s great storytellers in Ireland and irrelevant of where they come from, how they tell that story, they are able to tell stories that connect with international audiences.” Next up for him is the film The Evil Dead Rise, which comes out on 21 April.

LA stalwart Roma Downey said this year “put us on the map”. “I have to say, I cried me eyes out at the Quiet Girl,” she told us, describing Catherine Clinch as a “stunning” actress.

Champagne carpet

Before heading to the Oscar Wilde Awards, The Journal took a trip down to Hollywood Boulevard to take a look at the red carpet set up. Only it’s not a red carpet this year – it’s champagne.

It’s the first time since 1961 that it hasn’t been red, and at an unveiling on Tuesday, Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel joked: “I think the decision to go with a champagne carpet over a red carpet shows how confident we are that no blood will be shed.”

IMG_7398 The champagne carpet Aoife Barry Aoife Barry

The Dolby Theatre is in the heart of tourist-trap Hollywood, and you’re able to mill around part of where it’s being set up. As you walk, you’ll spot people selling hot dogs, stores crammed with Hollywood merchandise like fake Oscar statuettes, the many theatres that dot the boulevard, and tourist trap shops.

Every few steps you’ll also notice the stars that make up the Hollywood Walk of Fame – some in less glamorous locations than others.

IMG_7387

This year, there is a covered area over the Oscars entrance, so that it will feel like a glamorous night time event when the celebs arrive. At the moment, though, it’s not glam at all – it’s a work site.

Still, the big billboard photo of Jimmy Kimmel hanging over the site gives a hint of the glamour to come. 

IMG_7385

After taking in the site, we went to the nearby Loews Hollywood hotel, to pick up our credentials for the Sunday event. We’ll be sitting in the winners’ press room as they arrive in holding their statuettes. 

The Oscars is a machine – impeccably organised (emails have arrived almost daily the past few weeks with updates for media), and with extremely friendly staff. 

At a walk through yesterday, us media got to take in the press room before Sunday and get a sense of what is to come. For security reasons, we can’t take any pictures or video inside the building, but we can say the press room itself is a small hotel conference room kitted out with a stage, TV monitors, cameras, and rows of tables at which the reporters will sit.

There will be a sign language interpreter, and stenographers taking down every word out of the winners’ mouths. This year, there’ll also be a virtual component, with reporters able to ask questions virtually. 

It was a surreal feeling to be welcomed to the ‘Oscars family’. Some of the reporters in the room have been reporting on the awards for decades. 

Sunday is set to be a long but fascinating day – and hopefully with a bit of glamour too. 

Join our liveblog on Sunday as we follow the Oscars from red carpet right through to the final award and reactions.

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