NBR Red Carpet: Oscar Hopefuls Happy to Be in the Conversation

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
J.C. Chandor and Jessica Chastain at Tuesday's National Board of Review awards ceremony

The directors and producers of 'The Imitation Game,' 'The Lego Movie' and 'A Most Violent Year' reveal their mindset as awards season heats up

Awards season is just ramping up, with the Golden Globes set to take place this Sunday and an array of other nominations set to be announced before the 2015 Oscar nominations are unveiled on Jan. 15.

So for several of the Oscar hopefuls on hand at Tuesday night's National Board of Review awards ceremony, where prizes were handed out to winners that were announced last month, they're just excited to be part of the awards conversation.

"We're just happy to be here," LEGO Movie writer-director Christopher Miller, on hand to accept the best original screenplay prize he won with the film's co-writer/director and his creative partner Phil Lord, told The Hollywood Reporter of his mindset at this time in awards season.

Read more 'Lego Movie' Filmmakers Reveal Fib Told to Warner Bros.

Lord added that he particularly enjoys being able to interact with other filmmakers at the January and February ceremonies. "We're all off making our own individual things, and in this season, everybody bumps into each other and you get to congratulate other folks you admired," Lord told THR on the black carpet ahead of the ceremony. "To me, that's the most fun."

Miller was also still marveling at how they won best original screenplay for a film based on a hit toy line.

"The fact that our whole goal was to be able to take the idea that was the least original idea for a movie and make it the most original thing we could and have it get original screenplay, that's pretty special," he said.

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Meanwhile, Dean DeBlois, the writer-director of best animated feature winner How to Train Your Dragon 2, hoped that his film's win would make people give more consideration to the DreamWorks Animation movie.

"I think to receive best animated film really helps to bolster our position out there and really makes people pay attention," DeBlois told THR of the film's NBR honor. "Anyone who might have disregarded the movie or for whatever reason hasn't seen it yet, I think it really makes people make an effort to go out and see it now."

In addition to the specific honorees, a number of individuals affiliated with Oscar hopefuls that were just named to the NBR's top 10 films and top 5 documentaries list, were also on hand for Tuesday night's ceremony.

First-time filmmaker Alan Hicks, who directed documentary frontrunner Keep on Keepin' On said he was enjoying the whirlwind ride of having his film premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, where it was acquired by Radius-TWC, be released and be an Oscar hopeful in less than a year.

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"Every step that the film takes through the season, I see it as a way to get the story out a little bit more," Hicks told THR. "More people have been becoming aware of the movie and the story and Clark Terry, the main character, so I'm thrilled every little step that the movie takes."

Director Morten Tyldum, whose Imitation Game is a frontrunner for an Oscar nomination in several categories, said he was thrilled to be part of the awards conversation.

"I'm trying to enjoy some of this, a little bit," Tyldum said of his mindset at this point in the race. "It's already I feel like I've won sort of by being part of the film, which is being nominated and being talked about this year. But of course it's exciting. The Oscar nominations are the 15th and you never know, but we're all hoping and it's exciting and … you have to remember, this is a small movie, a $14 million movie that was under the radar for everybody, and you are in a bubble while making a movie like this and you don't know what the reaction's going to be. We sent it into the world and it exploded, and I think everything I could dream of happened."

The film's producer, Teddy Schwarzman, added that he was happy the film was being acknowledged.

See more The Making of 'The Imitation Game'

"I'm thrilled that Alan Turing's story hasn't been looked over," he said. "I'm incredibly appreciative that people seem to be responding to the film, and I'm hopeful that the film can have a life well beyond this year, and people can look back on someone who contributed so much that we have to be thankful for that people didn't previously know about."

Like several other hopefuls based on true stories, The Imitation Game has been criticized for possible inaccuracies. But Schwarzman didn't seem to be sweating the annual practice of film fact-checking.

"I think that that's sort of the game du jour that comes around each year, of figuring out what sort of historical inaccuracies can you find in films that are based on fact," he told THR. "I think it's a game that will continue to be played. I think there's some merit to it. From our standpoint, we tried to deviate from fact only when necessary to capture the spirit of Alan Turing and capture the stakes that were at play. … You'll never make a movie that people are 100 percent happy with. I think we made a movie that best captured his spirit, his accomplishments and the terrible tragedy that he faced, and that's the best we can do."

Read more Who Got a Boost from the National Board of Review Nominations?

The NBR's big winner was J.C. Chandor's A Most Violent Year, which won three awards, including being named best film, but the writer-director whose past movies Margin Call and All is Lost have been nominated for but haven't won Oscars, said he wasn't letting himself get too preoccupied by the race.

"I'm in the middle of writing something right now so my mindset is trying to launch [A Most Violent Year] and get people to go to theaters to go see it and then kind of working on this next story," he said. "So at this point, the best thing I've learned about all of this is embrace it, enjoy it, but not let it take over your brain power."

A number of the other honorees also had other projects to take their mind off the awards competition. How to Train Your Dragon 2 producer Bonnie Arnold was recently named co-president of feature animation at DreamWorks Animation and was looking forward to being able to help shepherd other animated films to completion in her new role.

"I'm excited because not only does it mean that I'll be working with Dean on How to Train Your Dragon 3, which is the love of my life, but I will actually get to work with some of the other great filmmakers at DreamWorks and see them through the task of making [their movies[, which in animation can sometimes take 3 to 4 years and a lot of work, and I feel like I know that marathon, I've run that marathon," Arnold said. "It's sort of like being the coach from the sidelines. I know the pitfalls and I know how to get there and I'll help them to get to the finish line, and we have a lot of great filmmakers and storytellers, and I'm excited to have the chance to work with them."

Lord and Miller, meanwhile, confirmed that an early version of a follow-up to their other 2014 hit, 22 Jump Street, is in the works, saying that writer Rodney Rothman is "writing something very crazy" for 23 Jump Street.

"You cannot imagine what it is about," Lord said.

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