This was Awards Daily’s second year as guests of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and my first year attending anything of this magnitude. Perhaps I should have tried a Screen Actors Guild or a Critics Choice ceremony. Something that, I would imagine, would emerge slightly more manageable. However, looking back on it with tired feet and a brain that can’t exactly remember what day or time it is, it was a fun way to break my awards show cherry.
Go big or go home I guess.
Thanks to advice from former colleague Jazz Tangcay, I arrived at the venue incredibly early. It’s important to stake out a claim to a seat close to the interview platform to get decent pictures and to ask questions. So, I did get their early… About 3 hours ahead of any competition for seats in the press room. You can see here my sole competitor. I could take him. Around 3pm, the staff at the Beverly Hilton unveiled the catered dinner for the press. As with the meal in the ballroom, it was an entirely vegan spread, albeit much less fancy that what was served in the main ballroom. Totally fine with me. I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between this food and traditional entrees containing meat. Makes me think the vegan food I’ve had historically has been bad vegan food. (Note to self: find good vegan food back home.)
The show kicked off at 5pm promptly, and the room seemed to greet host Ricky Gervais’ monologue and salacious jokes with a quiet air. That is until the Judi Dench Cats joke. There was one voice loudly guffawing at that one, and it was mine. In case you missed it:
“But Dame Judy Dench defended the film, saying it was the role she was born to play. Because she — I can’t do this next joke… Because she loves nothing better than plunking herself down on the carpet, lifting her leg, and licking her own minge.”
Do I take pride in being nearly the only person in a room of 100 people to laugh openly at that joke? You bet your ass I do. It was funny. It wasn’t even the joke that was that funny. It was Gervais’ hesitancy to even tell it initially. Like he knew he was going too far. Like he realized that something sounding good in the writers’ room would all of a sudden not play with the larger audience. Also, I discovered an added benefit of being in the press room watching the official HFPA feed of the telecast that no one at home has: I got to her all the live curse words. It was glorious.
Once the ceremony started, winners slowly wound their way through a series of rooms. First up was the HFPA and Instagram exclusive room. Then they were paraded through the traditional photographer firing squad. Then finally into the press room for 3-4 questions from the press corps. After that, I have no idea where they went.
As I give my rundown of the best comments of the evening, I’m going to categorize them into groups for ease of reporting. Some winners didn’t attend until their films were represented. Some winners didn’t attend at all. More on that in a minute.
1917 won and won big here at the Golden Globes. A lot of people will tell you they saw it coming. That’s probably very true. I did not trust the common consensus, though, unfortunately. I thought the film had lost its steam, and using last year’s crazy left-field win for Bohemian Rhapsody, I thought Joker would win. I was wrong. You can all point and laugh at me now. I’ll wait.
When Best Director winner Sam Mendes finally came back into the press room, he came with the assembled team of 1917 to represent their Best Drama win. Mendes was asked about the difficulty in getting the film made and would streaming hurt or improve that experience. He commented that, thanks to the prevalence of streaming services, filmmakers are no longer guaranteed to receive a theatrical release for their films. Mendes indicated that filmmakers wanting to continue to work in the theatrical experience should be ambitious and use available technology – 4K, IMAX, 3D – to make bigger stories for big screens. Fortunately for 1917, they had the added power of Steven Spielberg, Amblin and Universal Pictures behind it.
“He manages to be both a huge movie fan and a genius at the same time which is an impossible balancing act,” Mendes explained.
Screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns was asked how she was going to celebrate the win, and her answer involved a lot of drinking and dancing. It was refreshing to get an honest answer out of someone not accustomed to the limelight.
The Best Foreign Film trophy for Parasite went to director Bong Joon-ho. Even though he didn’t win director, he still received a trophy in the end. Working through a translator (who was, in my opinion, the heroine of the night given how fast she had to write his answers down), Joon-ho remarked that he was surprised at America’s embracing of his film but ultimately considered it inevitable. The film is about capitalism and the great divide between the rich and poor, he remarked. He considers these topics at the very core of the American experience, so it naturally and organically led to such an explosive response.
The evening ended backstage with Joaquin Phoenix being tossed in front of the press corps unexpectedly. As soon as he took the stage, he said he was told this was another photo opportunity and was not expecting to answer questions. I don’t think this was a gimmick either. One of the downsides of being back stage is that you’re often interviewing previous winners as others are announced, so as of this article, I have not heard Phoenix’s allegedly wacky and profanity-laden acceptance speech. I can say that his commentary backstage was indeed wacky and weirdly aggressive. So, it is my opinion that someone possibly mislead him, knowing that he would not have done press. In the end, it may have been the wrong choice.
The first question lobbied at Phoenix dealt with an exploration of how he studied to create the character. What did he draw upon? What kind of research did he do? Well, Phoenix apparently had answered that question once before, so he berated the journalist who posed it.
“I feel like I’ve already answered that before. Have you not heard me? I feel like I’ve talked about this for six months,” Phoenix remarked before recalibrating a response that included detail on researching medication the character of Arthur Fleck may have taken and reading books about political assassins.
Another question dealt with whether or not there would be a continuation of the Joker storyline.
“I don’t think I’ve ever done too many predictable things. The only reason to do a sequel would be if there was something additional to explore,” Phoenix said flatly.
Finally, someone asked him a question about the much publicized menu during the ceremony. Phoenix is a renown vegan and expressed heartfelt gratitude and pleasure at the options available to him. This was the first time he’d ever eaten at the ceremony, and he challenged future awards shows like SAG or Critics Choice to follow suit. It was the only time he’d expressed real passion backstage, and you can tell he truly cares about our planet, our environment, and the impact of agriculture on it.
Earlier, Renee Zellweger took the stage in a much more collected manner than seen on camera during her official acceptance speech. She seemed aware of it too and blamed a momentary mental lapse on the meandering speech. She talked about her family in Australia (a running theme of the evening backstage) and said she and others in her family were trying to do everything they could to push the conversation forward to make positive changes in our environment.
What’s next for Zellweger? Finding a place for her Golden Globe.
Supporting winner Laura Dern gave a variation on the same talking points I’ve heard her mention throughout the season. She’s very polished at these kinds of things, comes (in full Renata Klein fashion) prepared and does not veer from the script. She talked about Marriage Story in terms of writer/director’s screenplay, which she consistently refers to as one of the best scripts she’d ever read, and about his intent to redefine what love looks like outside of the traditional marriage structure. She referenced her own and her own parents’ divorces as opportunities to continue working together to raise a family with as much love as would exist in a traditional nuclear family. She also thought back to being the 1982 Miss Golden Globe and talked about how tiny everything was back then in comparison to the grandeur and spectacle of the modern era Golden Globes.
Finally, she was asked if people quoted back to her the famous Renata Klein quote from Big Little Lies Season 2 “I will not not be rich.”
“Almost daily,” her response.
Brad Pitt received a Golden Globe for his supporting role in Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood. When his name was called, the entire press room lit up in a moment of sheer joy. Apparently, the same thing happened in the ballroom with an unexpected standing ovation for the future Oscar winner. Unfortunately, Pitt did not come backstage to share in the joy.
Elton John was also a no-show, but Hildur Guðnadóttir (Best Original Score for Joker – the first female to win the award solo in Golden Globe history) and the Missing Link director and producer were thrilled with their wins. Especially since few predicted the film to beat studio competition with much larger budgets.
“I feel privileged. We are in very very good company. It’s great to be acknowledged. It’s great to have a movie not as big as the others seen and appreciated,” director Chris Butler said.
Also very excited were Taron Egerton (who stopped to kiss Renee Zellweger on the cheek before taking the press stage) and Awkwafina, celebrating their wins for Actor/Actress in a Comedy or Musical Motion Picture. Egerton talked about learning to play Elton John through studying video, absorbing his music, and listening directly to the man himself.
“A lot of what Elton says you can’t actually repeat,” Egerton admitted. “It’s often quite lewd.”
Ultimately, he said Elton told him not to worry about becoming the famed rock star, and Egerton settled on a performance that evolved as a hybrid of Elton John and Taron Egerton himself.
Awkwafina was particularly thrilled with her win because she considers the film and the win a unique platform to discuss the Asian American experience and the struggle to maintain cultural roots within the dominant American culture. She was also the first Asian American woman to win a major acting award at the Golden Globes. Despite the success of the film and with this award, her acting future as a lead remains in question, according to her.
“I hope I can get some more lead roles,” she admitted. It made me sad to hear, honestly.
Finally, Quentin Tarantino popped backstage with his traditional manic excitement. He represented his win for Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood‘s screenplay and for the film itself in the Comedy Motion Picture category. He spent a great deal of time talking about honoring the legacy of Sharon Tate. He went as far as to visit her sister, Deborah, over a weekend at her Santa Barbara home. Tate was the first person to read the entire script, and Tarantino talked his vision through with her extensively. He clearly relished the idea of returning the focus of the Manson family crimes back to the victims over the perpetrators.
His last question dealt with whether or not he would truly end after 10 films. He did say that he liked the idea of a ten film filmography. It doesn’t not mean that he would quit working. Rather, he might write or direct plays instead.
“The idea is to leave ’em wanting more,” Tarantino said with relish.
The winners of the television awards included a very surprised Ramy Youssef, celebrating his historic win as Comedy Actor (“This is some crazy shit.”). He talked about making a series that, while focusing on his life as a Muslim American man, contained universal themes with which people outside of the Muslim faith could connect. Comedy Actress winner Phoebe Waller-Bridge came with present Fleabag cast to celebrate the series win as well. She announced an upcoming auction of her glamorous Ralph & Russo pants suit to benefit those suffering from the devastating Australian bush fires.
She also continued to downplay the opportunity of Fleabag to continue with a third season, remarking that it still felt like a good place to leave things even as they continuously say goodbye to the series with additional award show wins. Someone did ask a question about whether or not they were feuding with Olivia Colman, who did not join the stage with the rest of the Fleabag cast. She was, in fact, waiting to hear about her own category win for Best Actress in a Drama Series for The Crown.
Finally, Waller-Bridge gave some heartfelt advice for future writers: “Find one friend you love and care about and write for that person. Write like you’re not afraid.”
Speaking of afraid, I’m genuinely afraid of Best Actor in a Drama Series winner Brian Cox. He celebrated his win with a series of profanities backstage that felt very Logan Roy to me. Cox bemoaned the “fucking stairs” and how “fucking heavy” the Globe statue was. A question was asked as to whether or not he was portraying Rupert Murdoch.
“Rupert Murdoch has fuck-all to do with it,” Cox replied.
Later, in the Drama Series panel, someone asked the question about what to expect from Season 3. Jesse Armstrong politely indicated that they were still in the writer’s room, and it was very premature to discuss themes or events. Cox jumped in with “We have that question every fucking season. I’m so bored with it.”
After the show, I attended the Netflix party, which was the major party of the evening apparently given the number of celebs in attendance. On my way out, I saw Brian Cox marching down the red carpet toward the venue with a stern grimace on his face.
I stepped to the other side of the carpet.
Limited Series Actress winner Michelle Williams did not offer much beyond her fantastic acceptance speech which sparked much admiration and derision from opposing sides of the woman’s right to choose argument. She admitted to being a very shy person, and it was painfully evident during her brief time there. She appeared very fragile, which makes her stunning and award-winning turn in Fosse/Verdon as Gwen Verdon even more amazing.
I’ll leave you with an apt quote from TV Supporting Actress winner Patricia Arquette, who is always great for a sound bite. She refers here to her doubts that Quentin Tarantino actually quits the filmmaking business, but it could definitely apply to everyone in the ballroom, at home watching, or in the press room backstage wandering around in a tight circle trying to close a ring on his Apple Watch.
“When you fall in love with making movies there’s nothing like it.”