There was muted glamour and subtle cheer at Monday's Oscar nominee luncheon. The otherwise official tone of the affair -- underscored with weapons detectors and a very involved credentialing process -- was lightened by the small things: Julie Christie's faux leopard skin ensemble, Julian Schnabel's purple pajamas, Diablo Cody's loud hoots and the conspiratorial chuckles coming from Javier Bardem's table where George Clooney had planted himself.
"I think it's in the studios' best interest to have writers stay in the game," said "Ratatouille" writer Brad Bird. The more time a writer works, the better his or her chances of creating a moneymaking hit, he added.
Naturally, the nominees had lots of nice things to say about each other. "Michael Clayton" writer-director Tony Gilroy said of his star George Clooney: "He's better at the job of being a movie star than anyone who's ever done it -- working the ropes, maintaining his dignity, having a political view that doesn't get too preachy. He really is the Michael Jordan of movie stars."
Clooney himself sang the praises of "There Will Be Blood" star Daniel Day-Lewis, while "Juno" director Jason Reitman doted on his leading lady Ellen Page: "I'm in love with her, and my wife knows it. And she's cool with it. ... She's an actress incapable of a dishonest moment."
Clooney said of Page that "she's too smart" for him to even consider offering advice on how to manage her newfound fame.
As for his own coping skills during awards season, Clooney said the cocktail chatter at these affairs doesn't usually get too dry.
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"A lot of stars are star-struck," he said. "It's not like you go out and have drinks with these famous people all the time. ... Mostly, it's just exciting."
Not everyone was quite as cheery. Schnabel grumbled a bit about his film "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" being left out of the best picture nominations.
"It's interesting to be nominated for best direction, best editing, best cinematography, best screenplay, but not best picture," he said. "I don't know what else you have to do to make a picture."
-- Gina Piccalo