Governors Awards: Oscar Hopefuls Return in Huge Numbers as Academy Event Turns 13

One season ago, the Omicron surge of COVID forced the Academy’s Governors Awards to be postponed until the Friday before Oscars Sunday, outside of the pre-Oscar nomination voting window in which it traditionally is held, and virtually nobody but the honorees and their table guests were in attendance.

The ceremony at which special Oscars are presented returned to that window on Saturday night for its 13th edition, and — surprise, surprise! — just about every person who has a prayer of landing a nom found their way to the Fairmount Century Plaza’s ballroom — to celebrate honorees Michael J. Fox, Diane Warren, Peter Weir and Euzhan Palcy, to be sure, but not incidentally to pose for photos beside the Oscar logo on the red carpet and to rub shoulders with Academy members and awards press inside.

Studios pay a pretty penny to procure tables at the Governors Awards so that they can then offer seats at them to their ponies in the Oscar derby, and they clearly had no problem filling them this year. Indeed, I have been covering this Hollywood award ceremonies for many years now, and I have rarely seen a room as star-studded. One couldn’t turn around without bumping into, say, Adam Sandler (Hustle) or Jennifer Lawrence (Causeway) or Tom Hanks (Elvis) or Cate Blanchett (Tár).

Some big names were there to play an official role in the proceedings. Thirteen-time best original song Oscar bridesmaid Warren was not only a guest of honor, but is also a contender for a 14th nom for “Applause” from Tell It Like a Woman. Plus, Woody Harrelson (Triangle of Sadness) presented to Fox, Viola Davis (The Woman King) presented to Palcy and was seated at her table, as was Ruth E. Carter (Academy governor and costume designer of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever) and both Keke Palmer and Jordan Peele (Nope). But most were not.

And I think that attendance was surely boosted by the fact that this year’s picture and acting categories still seem so wide open. Everyone is still in the game, so to speak — even people from projects that might not seem like traditional Oscar bait, such as a cannibal movie (e.g. Bones and All’s lead actress Taylor Russell), an R-rated comedy (e.g. Bros’s co-writer/star Billy Eichner) and non-English-language blockbusters (RRR’s co-writer/director S.S. Rajamouli) — so it was worth it to show up, even if one couldn’t stay in town for long.

For instance, Ana de Armas (Blonde) told me that she’s shooting a movie in Europe and won’t be able to return to L.A. until February, but she made sure to be in town for this. Florence Pugh (Wonder) has also been abroad shooting Dune: Part Two, but she was in the room hanging with Emma Corrin (Lady Chatterley’s Lover). And Eddie Redmayne (The Good Nurse) jetted in from London. And that’s just talent from Netflix projects!

It certainly doesn’t discourage attendance that many high-profile media opportunities — THR’s acting roundtables, Variety’s Actors on Actors, Deadline’s Contenders, etc., not to mention guild Q&As and the like — are now scheduled around Governors Awards weekend.

Many of this year’s attendees were first-timers who were genuinely excited to be there. For instance, earlier on Saturday, I was chatting about the event with best actor candidates Austin Butler (Elvis), Colin Farrell (The Banshees of Inisherin), Brendan Fraser (The Whale), Jeremy Pope (The Inspection) and Ke Huy Quan (Everything Everywhere All at Once), who made plans with Sandler (a past attendee for Uncut Gems) to meet up for a drink once there.

As the Governors Awards enters its teens, it has become one of the cooler stops on the campaign trail — and, yes, even more star-studded than the Oscars itself.

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