Red Carpet Tales from the 2011 Oscars

- Rick Stevenson,

9:00 AM.

It all started when my 12 year old daughter Maddy asked me if I’d take her to the Oscars. As a proud independent filmmaker, I told her that despite being a member of the Academy, I would absolutely not go until I was nominated.  She replied that she could not wait that long. Ouch. Okay. That was ten years ago and I’ve been to the Oscars every year since. Sadly not in that special section for nominees. Clearly my daughter was clairvoyant. Though my ‘daddy stock” did dramatically rise when a rather harried looking Hugh Grant picked me out of the Red Carpet crowd and said, “Hi Rick, it’s such a relief to see someone I know” (we had made our first film together at Oxford University).

Having been privileged to work with lots of great talent—Robert Redford, Meg Ryan, Patrick Dempsey, etc.—I have always prided myself on not being too wowed by celebrity. Of course, at the Oscars, that all goes out the window. Walking the Red Carpet you are suddenly surrounded by everyone famous. And the great thing about it is that no one is looking at you so you just get to have fun being a gawker.

Of course it all starts with the arrival. I am too indie to rent a limo, so I always arrive in my crappy little rental car at the edge of the red carpet. Luckily, this year, my son Max and I are staying at THE HUNTLEY in Santa Monica, so I’m going to strategically leave the valet ticket on the windshield so that the crowd knows I have at least a modicum of taste. Okay…time to get ready.

4:35 PM.

We’ve arrived on the red carpet. “We” includes my friend Ned Hosford, who is standing in for my son, Max, who has come down with a 24 hour flu and is back in bed at the Huntley (when you’re sick, there is nothing better than staying in a nice hotel).

This is Ned’s first Oscars and as a brilliant young actor, I predict he may be here in another capacity in the near future. That said, at this point, his mouth is hanging open as we are suddenly surrounded by celebrity. I pull out my camera quickly to grab some shots before I have to surrender it and I almost inadvertently smack an innocent Robert Downey Jr. in the face. I say innocent because he didn’t deserve the near smack. I suppose there are some people who feel like he deserves it, but I am not one of them. I actually think he’s one of the most talented people working today.

Then there’s Natalie Portman, Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg, and I actually get a chance to say hi to Helena Bonham Carter who is an old friend from my Oxford/London days. She’s up for Supporting Actress. The highlight of the RED CARPET however is seeing an awkward and shy-looking Tim Burton (husband of Helen) standing off in the corner loyally waiting for his wife. I felt like giving him a hug, but spared him that extra degree of awkwardness.

9:30 PM.

The 83rd Academy Awards are now history and I can honestly say that it was a wonderful show. Ned is glowing with the possibilities, inspired to go to another 500 auditions… whatever it takes.

It’s often said that the difference between good and bad shows have to do with the hosts. That’s true but I think the real difference is whether or not there are authentic, unscripted moments. Thanks to the lack of an orchestra playing awardees off the stage, this Oscars was full of those moments—Melissa Leo, Tom Hooper, Colin Firth, Randy Newman.  There’s something to be said for us all just being patient, listening and letting someone have their moment in the sun.

Now it’s off to my favorite post-Oscars party—the one happening at In-N-Out Burger on Sunset where famished attendees go to score the best deal in town. Until next time….

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