As awards season trudges forward, the two weeks surrounding AFI Fest have easily been more packed with fetes and soirees than ever before. And on Sunday afternoon, it was Universal and Focus holding events for Oscar hopefuls “Rush” and “Dallas Buyers Club” respectively.
The “Rush” event took place at the Chateau Marmont and was packed to the gills. Academy and press members held small plates loaded with brunch goodies while standing and hoping for others to vacate their seats, but to no avail. The occasion was to toast the film’s Best Supporting Actor player Daniel Brühl, and the size of the crowd was just evidence of the love the film is registering in a few circles. That’s particularly the case with the HFPA; watch out for a potential surprise Best Picture – Drama nomination if “American Hustle” fails to land with the group.
Nevertheless, it was too crowded for comfort in a notoriously cramped space (Paramount throws an equally dense shindig there every season to honor the studio’s Golden Globe nominees). A few miles west, though, Focus Features was honoring “Dallas” with stars Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto and Jennifer Garner, as well as screenwriters Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack with a lunch in the shadow of CAA at the airy Craft restaurant. Producers Robbie Brenner and Rachel Winter were also on hand.
The sense with this film is that it’s a last hurrah for Focus (as we’ve known it) on the awards circuit, and everyone agrees that it’s very much a “Focus movie” – a perfect inclusion among the studio’s illustrious and high brow portfolio of films to date. Leto, who is in the midst of a UK tour with his band 30 Seconds to Mars (he just flew in from London and is heading right back out to finish the leg), expressed to me a hope that the new regime won’t tarnish that legacy.
“I hope they don’t screw with it too much, as ‘they’ tend to do,” he told me. “They’ve got a good thing going.” Nevertheless, the writing is on the wall as the Focus/FilmDistrict merger pretty much screams a departure from the breed of art house selectivity James Schamus and his team have cultivated over the last decade.
McConaughey said he was certainly registering the feeling that, for a company that found such success in the past with films like “Brokeback Mountain” and “Milk,” everyone involved with “Dallas” is looking at this as an opportunity to let loose a final salvo on the circuit. “They seem to have that extra incentive to let this be their send-off,” he said.
By the way, the actor is far from letting all of this go to his head. He remains pragmatic but excited at every turn, to be in full stride, a proud steward of the film. “The reputation of the film is preceding me,” he told me. “So I don’t feel like I’m selling something…Last night I was talking to Chiwetel [Ejiofor, at the Governors Awards], and he said, ‘If I can’t have a good time with this, then something’s wrong with me.”
Indeed. As I like to say, it beats working.