Behind-the-Scenes of the Oscar Nominations: 'Mad Max,' Leonardo DiCaprio, Lady Gaga and Too Little Sleep
By John Boone
Photo: Getty Images
We all know where 2016's awards season will end -- at the Dolby Theatre for the 88th Academy Awards, the most glamorous night of the year. But here's where that night begins: In an unassuming high-rise in Beverly Hills at 3:30 in the morning.
I was on hand for Thursday morning's Oscars Nominations Announcement at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater. Here is my sleep-deprived, Leonardo DiCaprio-filled, minute-by-minute recap of what goes on behind-the-scenes.
2:35 a.m. I'm up. I wonder how many of the actors who, in a few short hours, may add Academy Award Nominee to their name are awake. Not many, I think. Maybe some set an alarm for 5:15, but whenever a nominated actor releases a statement, it’s always along the lines of, "I was asleep, and I woke up to all these calls and I thought someone died, but golly! It's an honor just to be nominated!" Leonardo DiCaprio is definitely awake. This is his "I'mtooexcitedtosleep" moment. Jacob Tremblay is definitely not awake.
3:45 a.m. I arrive at the parking structure down the street from the theater 15 minutes (sorta) late. I'm not actually late, but when I picked up my press credential, the woman who checked me in asked how many times I'd covered these nominations. I tell her this is my first time, and she coos, "Then you have to do it all! You have to get here at 3:30 and do the breakfast and everything!" Now I'm here and ready to do it all, the breakfast and everything. I think Kate Winslet is probably not awake yet. Why would she be?
3:52 a.m. I'm horrified to notice that people dressed up for this. I'm wearing khakis and a button down, but others are wearing full suits! And dresses with heels! I did not know this was a black tie event. I still do not understand why. I guess if the event has Oscars in the name, you wear a suit.
4:06 a.m. After getting through TSA-level security, I am relieved to see other people are in sweatshirts. Have they never done this before and didn't know? Or have they done it so many times that they just don't care?
4:08 a.m. The aforementioned breakfast spread is a sight to behold. There's a juice bar and a cereal bar and a burrito bar. There are two types of bottled water and organic eggs and "Organic Charred Pepper and Manchego Cheese Served With Salsa Verde Frittata." There are mini pastries and mini muffins and the cutest mini bagels you've ever seen. There are baskets of fruit, but I'm not sure if the fruit is meant to be eaten or just for decoration. If you would like my personal review of each food that I tried, please contact me on social media.
4:16 a.m. A panicked waitress whisper-screams into her earpiece, "Did we eighty-six the muffins?!" A moment later, she repeats it, more panicked. Then I watch as she maneuvers the remaining muffins on the plate so they are spread out and...look like there are more muffins than there are? I'm not positive, but this was my favorite moment of the morning.
4:34 a.m. A wave of sleepiness hits me and I realize there is still another hour before the nominations are announced. Someone near me yawns, and it's instantly contagious. Yawn. Yawn. Yawn. A man sits with his head propped in his hands, just waiting. Not exerting energy. I wonder what Cate Blanchett's sleep schedule is like. For all I know, she might be awake right now, because she never went to sleep. Matt Damon is probably still asleep.
4:39 a.m. The Oscar statue has a weirdly angular butt.
4:45 a.m. I don't realize that I haven't heard anyone talking about the nominations until I do. "I haven't seen The Revenant, but I just tell people I have. I mean, I got the gist of it," I overhear. "This is his year," another says. "I dunno?" the first responds, though it's clear it is inevitable.
4:55 a.m. The doors to the theater are opened. From the seated section, you can barely see the stage. There are too many camera crews and lights in the way. The whole setup is smaller than it looks on TV too, but isn't that always the case? I have to assume Brie Larson is awake by now. It doesn't seem so ridiculous anymore, to be awake. She seems like the type that would set an alarm and get dressed for this. She seems like a nice girl.
5:01 a.m. "Is it possible Inside Out could get nominated for Best Picture?" someone asks their seatmate. "Best Picture?" the seatmate responds and for some reason neither decide to discuss the topic further.
5:13 a.m. Hosts pre-record their stand ups, allowing for any number of potential outcomes. The woman nearest to me looks into the camera and teases, "Plus, the nomination no one saw coming!" She says it six times in a row with different inflections. The woman next to her asks the camera, "And will Leo finally take home an Oscar?" She repeats, changing her voice from excited to skeptical to serious. After hearing the same pre-predicted soundbites on loop, I wouldn't mind a nomination no one saw coming.
5:25 a.m. A producer gives the five-minute warning. I wonder what time John Krasinski got here. I can't imagine he woke up at 2:30. For some reason, I also wonder if he Ubered here. (Uber Black, obviously.) Wouldn't it be cute if Emily Blunt dropped him off? Then came back to pick him up later? Emily Blunt is probably not awake though, and the Academy probably sent a car for him.
5:29 a.m. With one minute to go, everything gets eerily quiet. No one told anyone to be quiet, but quiet everyone became.
5:30 a.m. Polite applause when Guillermo del Toro announces "Earned It" from Fifty Shades of Grey is nominated for Best Original Song. (For those keeping track at home, Fifty Shades of Grey earned a Razzie nomination and Oscar nomination in the same week!) The man next to me lets up a huffed "Hm" for Sam Smith's Spectre theme song.
5:32 a.m. "Wo-woo!" A woman in the back calls out when Mad Max: Fury Road gets nominated for Best Cinematography. "YES!" someone yells over Amy's Best Documentary nomination. "YAS!" someone else screams for What Happened, Miss Simone?
5:33 a.m. The crowd seems extremely invested in the Achievement in Costume Design category. ("Yes! Cinderella!") The same woman "woo-woo!"s for Mad Max's next nomination. And the next. I look back to visually ID Woo-Woo Woman and I am not alone. Someone snaps, "Shut up."
5:33 a.m. When Mad Max gets nominated for Sound Mixing, there is no "woo-woo!"
5:35 a.m. Someone *gasps* when Boy and the World is nominated for Best Animated Feature. I've not heard of Boy and the World, so I can't decipher if it's a controversial gasp or an excited gasp. Shaun the Sheep Movie is nominated and someone whispers, "Shaaaaaaaun." There is no reaction to Inside Out.
5:37 a.m. A man two rows back rants about Lady Gaga getting nominated instead of Furious 7. The way he keeps phrasing though -- "Lady Gaga?! But not Furious 7?!" -- kill me. Once he finishes, his seatmate says something and the man responds, "Oh yeah, I guess Sam Smith did get nominated. Lady Gaga is fine. He shouldn't have, then."
5:38 a.m. John Krasinski looks taller in person. That is not always the case.
5:39 a.m. "Oh! Whoa!" a woman, arguably shaken to her core, says when Tom Hardy is nominated for Best Supporting actor for The Revenant. She looks around, frantically, for a similar reaction. The room erupts in applause for Sylvester Stallone. "Oh my god!!!" someone calls for Rachel McAdams.
5:40 a.m. Director George Miller is nominated and Woo-Hoo Woman is back.
5:42 a.m. "OOOOooo!" The crowd reacts to Straight Outta Compton's nomination before Cheryl Boone Isaacs can even finish saying the title. That's how snubbed it’s been this awards season. People get *this* excited over Best Original Screenplay.
5:43 a.m. Someone laughs when Jennifer Lawrence is nominated. (Interpret as you will. I do not know.) When the Best Actor nominations appear on screen, someone smugly mutters, "Five out of five on that one."
I'm suddenly devastated for Jacob Tremblay. He delivered one of the best performances of the year and he is nine years old. I hope he did not wake up for this. His parents will have a few more hours to figure out how to break the news to him. (If he cares? He's nine.)
5:44 a.m. Everyone in the room "WOO-WOO!"s for Mad Max's Best Picture nomination. None of the other nominees -- aside from Brooklyn, which is announced to a spattering of enthusiastic applause -- are met with much of a reaction. Maybe they were all nominations we saw coming.
5:45 a.m. Most of the people in the back of the room clear out. No one talks. Everyone walks with their head down and I see they are all on Twitter. "It's the best movie of the year," one person does say as he passes by, though I honestly have no idea which movie he is talking about, and he says it in such a bored tone that I don't know if he's excited about a nomination or objecting to a snub.
5:46 a.m. The first statement from a nominated actor comes through almost immediately. It says, "I was not expecting this!" but, based on how quickly the statement was released, I'm guessing he was.
5:50 a.m. I overhear two prominent people -- I believe them to be Academy members -- talking about The Revenant. "Have you seen it?" she asks. "No. Have you?" he replies. "No...I guess I should." That's as much as they have to say about it. Instead, they talk about Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
5:54 a.m. "Did you count how many that was for Mad Max? Oh my god!" an overly excited woman cries as she runs up to two friends. Could this be Woo-Woo Woman? They pull up the nominations and, as her friend reads each off, she counts on her fingers. "It's 10! Oh my god!" she cries. Thankfully, only 10. She would have run out of fingers. Is this the nomination no one saw coming? It's a pleasant surprise, but we could have seen it coming. We did see it coming.
6:02 a.m. "After a career of being snubbed by the Academy Awards, is this finally the year that Leonardo DiCaprio wins?" Hosts are back to their standups, with renewed vigor now that we know for certain that DiCaprio has been nominated. And as much as it seems like a forgone conclusion -- even if it's not *his* year, he will win -- I'm suddenly stricken with panic. Oh my god, what if they give it to Bryan Cranston?!
6:13 a.m. Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs rolls with a legitimate posse. When she walks across the theater, from one interview to the next, a mob of at least 20 -- what? Assistants? Reporters? Fans? -- follow in her wake. I have no idea where John Krasinski is. Perhaps he already went home, to wake up Emily Blunt. Or maybe he starts his day and lets her sleep in. It's only 6:13. Maybe Emily Blunt wakes up at 10:30 on weekdays.
6:25 a.m. It's still dark when I leave, but at least there is life now. People are on their way to work. The buses are running. I ask for parking validation at the front desk and the man asks if I got here before or after midnight. "After," I say, suddenly realizing I could have had it much worse.
As I join the river of people flowing out of the building and onto the street, I overhear a man in front of me say, with such solemn sincerity, "I really thought The Minions was going to be nominated." Maybe, just maybe, we needed that nomination no one saw coming more than we thought.
Now, check out a few sweet surprises from the 2016 Oscar nominations: