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JAN
6
7 MOS

Liza Minnelli to Matthew McConaughey: 'If You Don't Win the Academy Award, I'm Giving You Mine'

With the Oscar nomination voting period winding down, Focus Features gathered several dozen East Coast voters for a lunch in celebration of its primary Oscar contender, "Dallas Buyers Club."

Matthew McConaughey
Matthew McConaughey

On Monday afternoon, with the Oscar nomination voting period winding down -- voting ends at 5 p.m. PT on Wednesday, Jan. 8 -- Focus Features threw a Peggy Siegal-coordinated luncheon for East Coast Academy members at New York City's Monkey Bar restaurant to celebrate its primary Oscar contender, Dallas Buyers Club, and its stars Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, who were in attendance. The gathering was hosted by legendary Oscar winner Liza Minnelli, who welcomed guests -- including several dozen voters from across the branches of the Academy, among them actress Dana Ivey, animator Jimmy Picker, casting director Bonnie Timmermann, writer Alfred Uhry, publicist Susan Senk, documentary filmmaker Barbara Kopple and producer/former Focus chief James Schamus -- with a rousing endorsement of the film. Noting that she has "nothing to do with this film except that I am a fan," she cheered its performances and generated considerable applause when she told McConaughey, "Honey, if you don't win the Academy Award, I'm giving you mine!"

The luncheon was intended to help continue the low-budget drama's strong momentum of late. Thus far, it has outperformed even the most optimistic of expectations by scoring a Critics' Choice nom for best picture, a SAG nom for best ensemble, a PGA nom for best produced film and a WGA nom for best original screenplay to go with best actor and best supporting actor Critics' Choice, SAG and Golden Globe noms for McConaughey and Leto, respectively.

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Minnelli made her off-the-cuff remarks before lunch was served and McConaughey and Leto were dispatched for visits with the members at each table. The legendary Oscar winner's full remarks are as follows:

"I have nothing to do with this film except that I am a fan of how it was done, of the insight and the way they played these characters. And the fact that you were watching something that wasn't necessarily comfortable but you could not stop watching. It drew you in, whether you wanted it to or not, and that's magic. That's magic. I mean, the last one [that did that for me] was On the Waterfront! [laughs] You, crazy Matthew, losing all of that weight [pats her stomach] -- it's one thing to lose all of that weight and to look like that -- that's harrowing enough -- but then to run like you did, with a body like that? And Jared, I mean, everything that you did -- all of the placements, every single second -- I felt wonderful for you, proud of you and sorry for you all at the same time, which I think one only feels for your friends. And Jennifer [Garner] was great -- she was just f---ing great! (Laughs.) I don't know what else to say. I haven't seen a movie like that in so long, and I'm so proud to be able to tell everybody. And honey [addressing McConaughey], if you don't win the Academy Award, I'm giving you mine!"

Other topics of conversation that I overheard at the event: the largely unacknowledged support for Dallas Buyers Club's supporting actress, Jennifer Garner, which could propel her to a nomination in a thin category; the difference that campaigning has made in the awards prospects of best actor contenders Bruce Dern (Nebraska) and Robert Redford (All Is Lost); and the massive amount of awards materials pertaining to Inside Llewyn Davis that has been sent to voters, charming some and turning off others.

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg