‘Virtuoso’ actors discuss Oscars, strike

from The Associated Press / by Michael Cidoni

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – All of hot young Hollywood is not in this room, but it sure feels that way. Posing for photos on an antique sofa are Casey Affleck, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Amy Ryan, and James McAvoy: four first-time Oscar-nominated actors, and the leading man of an Oscar-nominated Best Picture contender.

They gathered here Wednesday night for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s first-annual celebration of “Virtuosos,” these rising stars of “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” (Affleck), “La Vie en rose” (Cotillard), “Juno” (Page), “Gone Baby Gone” (Ryan) and “Atonement” (McAvoy).

In an exclusive sit-down interview, AP Television spoke with the five before they received their fest honors.

AP: So, what was your first reaction when they said, ‘You’re one of The Virtuosos! Come to Santa Barbara?’


Affleck: I said, ‘Where’s Santa Barbara?’

McAvoy: Like the soap opera? Excellent! I wondered, ‘Can there only be five (virtuosos) in the entire world? Wow, that’s incredible.’ (Turning to Ryan) How did you feel?

Ryan: I was very excited, too. I was very excited by the other four virtuosos, as well. Very good company.

AP: You all seem quite familiar with each other. Do you hang? (More laughter from all.)

McAvoy: We all go WAY back, don’t we? (Laughs.) It’s kind of like The Brat Pack that never was.

Page: We met in October. Octoberish.

Ryan: Marion and I met on the airplane from Chicago. Casey? Just met.

(More laughs, as the two starred together in “Gone Baby Gone.”)

AP: How has the writers strike affected your take on awards season? Has it taken the edge off?

Ryan: It’s added to the excitement. It’s still a nail-biter, if it’s gonna happen or not. But it’s also put it in perspective for me. I feel like, at the end of the day, people’s livelihoods are more important than dressing up, or maybe or maybe not getting an award. So, I just hope it settles and the writers get their due, and we all get to enjoy a big night. So, I kind of want it both ways. Is that too bad?

Page: And like you said the other night, you were like, ‘Yeah. A lot of people get nominated for Oscars, but a lot of Oscars you kind of forget. But we’ll always be THAT year.’

Ryan: Right. We’re in the year where it almost didn’t happen. Or it didn’t happen.

AP: What’s the worst part of working the awards circuit?

McAvoy: I was speaking to an actor who has been though this entire thing this year … he said that when you make films that you’re proud of, like, I think, everybody here, at the moment. And you have an incredible experience. You have an adventure. And you come away with all these incredible stories. But at the end of (awards season), it seems the only reason you had those adventure was so you were able to tell the stories in situations like this. And it just cancels the whole point. It feels like you have reversed the whole point of doing it.

AP: Now, c’mon. Isn’t anyone loving getting dressed up and having their picture taken? Ellen?

Page: If I had say what my top five favorite things are in the world to do, (walking the carpet) might … it may just miss out on the list. But just by a little. (Laughs from the other four actors.) So, but, I understand that that’s a part of it, that it’s a part of being a part of this, and it’s a huge gift to be a part of this. And it’s something that people really strive for. And we’ve all really gotten a role that has lead to, basically, this moment.

AP: And what do you think you’ll most remember about this time of your life?

Cotillard: I would say all the people I’ve met, and all the people I’ve talked with to share that work you’re talking about. In France, we’re not used to meeting so many people because there’s not such a sha-bah-dah about this.

Page: I’ve gotta say, it’s kind of the same (for me). It’s extremely humbling to find yourself in situations where it’s run of the mill to see Daniel Day-Lewis, you know? What’s going on in your life when THAT happens?

Ryan: I would also add, one thing about the awards circuit is that you’re kept so busy there’s not really a chance to take a breath, and really take it in and wonder how you do feel. So I’ve been enjoying watching my family for the first time, take it in. It’s the first time that, you know … they’ve celebrated things for my career. But this is as much for the home team.

Affleck: (It’s all made me) feel a little more part of a group of people, more connected to everyone who’s in the same industry. It can be so alienating when you’re just in your house and with the people you know and you don’t get to meet all these people.


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