Awards season isn’t always about the flashy Academy screening, huge cocktail party or one pseudo film festival honor after another. A good deal of the awards circuit takes place on a much more low key, but significantly inpactful level. If you can imagine it, sometimes it’s actually about the movies (perish the thought). This past week, a number of potential contenders flew key talent to Los Angeles for all important SAG nominating committee Q&A screenings. In particular, Sony Classics brought former best supporting actor winner Jim Broadbent and best actress contender Leslie Manville in from London to push Mike Leigh’s “Another Year” and Focus Features recruited New Yorker’s Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffall to join co-star Annette Bening and director Lisa Cholodenko to provide some love for last summer’s indie hit “The Kids Are All Right.’
The latter became a personal favorite ever since I attended its premiere at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Beyond a fantastic script and impressive performances, “Kids” is a powerful drama with rich characters that spotlight the changing nuclear family in the 21st Century. It also happens to be one of the best spot on films about living in Los Angeles in quite some time and, as you might have guessed, a legitimate contender in the best picture race.
The “Kids” crew, including Bening, Moore, Ruffalo and Cholodenko, had a busy schedule this week attending a packed SAG nom com screening with a follow up Q&A that went on for over an hour (30 min is the norm) as well as similarly popular screenings staged by Variety and The Envelope (both of which are open to all guild members). That’s pretty remarkable for a film that has been in theaters since July and is just came out on DVD. Before the crew fulfilled their duties, Moore, Ruffalo and Cholodenko took the time to attend an intimate llunch today with some very select members of the press including yours truly.
Moore, looking as stunning as ever at 49, clearly loved the picture and talked about what a shame it was that some of the funnier shots of her “sex scenes” with Ruffalo had to be cut for ratings reasons. The four-time Oscar nominee recently returned from doing press for “Kids” overseas and mentioned how the reception for the decidedly American tale played so well globally with both critics and audiences. She’ll soon be seen alongside Steve Carell, Kevin Bacon and Ryan Gosling in Warner Bros.’ “Crazy, Stupid, Love” this April. She hasn’t seen a rough cut yet, but revealed her character has an interesting love triangle with Carell and Bacon.
Ruffalo, on the other hand, marvels that his part consisted of only six days of work. Now, if you’ve seen the film that’s pretty remarkable considering how significant his role is (even more so is that Cholodenko shot the picture in just 24 days). Ruffalo credits the polish and superb work overall to a tight script saying most of the work had been done before he got to set by Cholodenko and her co-screenwriter Stuart Blumberg.
The “Shutter Island” star has always been candid and some of the most spirited talk at the table was about Ruffalo’s experience at Comic-Con last summer where he was introduced as the new Bruce Banner (ie, the Hulk). After Marvel Studios decided not to move forward with Edward Norton in the role after he starred in “The Incredible Hulk,” Ruffalo was offered and took the part. He was then set up as for a surprise intro during Marvel’s Comic-Con ending “Avengers” panel. Ruffalo referred to it as one of the most bizarre moments in his career and is still concerned about the moment someone in the audience came up and asked Marvel president Kevin Feige why Norton was let go. As someone who was there, I can tell you Ruffalo’s eventual intro by Robert Downey, Jr. was full of applause, but the actor still laughs thinking it was very awkward when he came on stage and that he might not have the hardcore fans’ support yet. What’s most surprising is that if it weren’t for “Kids” he probably wouldn’t be acting in “Avengers” or at all.
According to Ruffalo, it was his experience shooting “Kids” and then seeing it debut to rapturous response at Sundance that got him energized about acting again. At the time, he was considering retiring from in front of the camera and pursuing his directing career. In fact, he still hasn’t shot anything in 16 months and it appears “Avengers” will be his first film after “Kids.” And, of course, the irony is that Ruffalo is now looking like a strong contender for what would be his first best supporting actor nomination in the interim. And that folks, is why there will always be a “Kids Are Alright”/”Avengers” connection.
If you haven’t seen “Kids” yet, it was released on DVD and Blu-ray just this week. Don’t miss it.