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If you’re an Academy Award nominee this year and you live outside the U.S., getting to L.A. to attend the Oscars in person has been a major hassle.
COVID-19 travel restrictions and California’s 10-day quarantine rule for anyone arriving from outside the country has meant many of the international contenders for the 2021 awards will be watching from home, or from studio hubs set up by the Academy with broadcast affiliates around the world.
But not everyone is willing to give up the in-person experience of the Oscars.
Contenders from around the globe — from South Korea to Denmark, Italy, the U.K., Romania and beyond — have braved the trials of travel, tests and quarantine to have their once-in-a-lifetime moment.
“It should have been impossible, there wasn’t even enough time for me to get a visa to come,” a jet-lagged Jasmila Zbanic, the director of Bosnian international film contender Quo Vadis, Aida? tells The Hollywood Reporter from her hotel in Santa Monica, a day after arriving from Sarajevo. “We only made it because of the intervention of the U.S. Ambassador [to Bosnia and Herzegovina] who put us — me and my producer [Damir Ibrahimovich] — at the head of the visa queue.”
Zbanic says she tried to get Quo Vadis, Aida? star Jasna Djuricic added to the Oscar guest list, but the Academy was firm. “It was nominees only, no exceptions,” said Zbanic.
Not that she’s complaining.
“I’m just happy to be here. I’ve spent all my life looking at the Oscar ceremony from away, I didn’t want to pass up the chance to be there in person,” she says. “It makes the whole thing seem real.”
For Zbanic and producer Ibrahimovich, the ceremony on April 25 will also be the first opportunity they’ve had to celebrate their film’s nomination.
“Both my producer and I caught COVID the day Quo Vadis, Aida? was nominated,” she recalled. “It was two weeks in bed, sick. So this [Oscar] night is very important to us. After spending five years making this movie, to finally have a chance to celebrate it is a great thing. And coming here in person is also a way to thank the Academy for having looked at our film and to everyone for having voted for us.”
“This pandemic has been difficult for everyone, and traveling during the pandemic to the Oscars has been no different. The testings, quarantines, etc. are definitely necessary so that we can all be safe,” said South Korean star Youn Yuh-jung, a best-supporting actress nominee for her performance in Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari, in an email to The Hollywood Reporter.
“I was in Vancouver shooting [AppleTV+ series] Pachinko, and I just returned to Seoul to quarantine for 14 days. I was not even home for an hour when I found out I had been nominated for an Oscar,” Youn writes. “When I got out of quarantine, I had about one week to do everything before I had to come to L.A. Now I am back in quarantine in L.A., in advance of the Oscars. I have literally not left the house since arriving. So to me, this experience has been one big quarantine!”
But the veteran performer is taking it all in stride and says her main feeling ahead of Sunday’s ceremony is one of gratitude.
“I never imagined that a Korean actress would be nominated, and cannot believe it’s me. Being nominated alongside these other incredible actresses, Glenn [Close], Olivia [Coleman], Maria [Bakalova] and Amanda [Seyfried] I feel that I have already won.”
Youn says she’s not also bothered by the fact she’ll face yet another quarantine when she returns to Korea.
“No one can bother me. I can’t wait!” she quipped.
Romanian director Alexander Nanau, a double Oscar nominee for Collective, which is a contender for best documentary and best international feature, was also happy he is able to travel from Bucharest to Hollywood and has had no problem dealing with the COVID restrictions. Speaking to ABC Eyewitness news in California, Nanau said he was looking forward to meeting in person with the other nominees.
“It was a year where we couldn’t meet face to face and there are great films and incredible talents. I can’t wait to meet them,” he said.
Speaking later to THR, Nanau said that it was actually easier traveling from Romania to the U.S. than to London, where the Academy is setting up a remote operation.
“London made no sense for us as traveling to the U.S. and back isn’t restricted, while Britain is actually on a quarantine list in Romania,” he said.
London-based filmmaker Farah Nabulsi — nominated in the best live-action short film category for The Present, which won the short film BAFTA earlier this month — has also made the trip, and dealt with the required hassles, including the “10-day quarantine on arrival” and the testing.
Like all attendees — in person or via one of the Academy’s international remote locations — she is required to have three negative PCR COVID-19 tests taken through this week and an additional three tests on the big day itself. Nabulsi would also face another 10-day quarantine when she returns to the U.K., though, speaking to THR, she said she’ll be heading elsewhere first.
All international Oscar attendees and anyone traveling to L.A. from outside California will have to comply with the Academy’s COVID safety protocols, which include a strict testing regimen and enforced quarantine, although the length of enforced isolation will vary from nominee to nominee depending on numerous factors, including their country of origin and whether or not they have been vaccinated.
“We have found nominees and their guests are deeply committed to doing whatever it takes to adhere to this protocol to keep people safe,” a spokesperson for the Academy told The Hollywood Reporter, speaking on background.
Many of the nominees for the British title Promising Young Woman are U.S.-based, including producers Ben Browning, Ashley Fox and Josey McNamara, all nominated in the best picture category for the revenge thriller. THR has been told that both lead star Carey Mulligan (best actress) and writer-director Emerald Fennell (best director, best original screenplay) will be at the ceremony. Given that Fennell was in London for the BAFTA awards (accepting her wins from a comically plush room in Claridge’s Hotel), one can only assume she’s also had to quarantine in the U.S.
Another major British film in contention is The Father, up for six Oscars, including best picture. But THR has learned that none of the nominees — including Anthony Hopkins (best actor), Olivia Colman (best-supporting actress), and writer-director Florian Zeller (best-adapted screenplay) — will be at the ceremony, but instead will be split between remote events in London and Paris (Zeller is based in France). Reps for Riz Ahmed, however, tell THR the Brit, nominated alongside Hopkins for best actor for his role in Sound of Metal, has been in L.A. throughout COVID-19 lockdown and will attend the Oscar ceremony in person.
Similarly, most of the nominees for the Italian live-action drama Pinocchio — including Dalia Colli and Francesco Pegoretti (makeup and hairstyle), and Massimo Cantini Parrini (costume design) — will join the awards from the Academy’s local hub in Rome. Only colleague Mark Coulier, nominated together with Colli and Pegoretti for the best makeup and hairstyle Oscar, has flown in from the U.K.
On the animation front, the Wolfwalkers team — based in Ireland — won’t be making it to the Oscars, while A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmaggedon will have one of three nominees in the U.S. Richard Phelan and Will Becher, the U.K. based co-directors for Aardman’s claymation feature, will be at the London event, with Paul Kewley, who lives in L.A., attending the main ceremony.
Norwegian director Anders Hammer and producer Charlotte Cook, however, will not make it to Union Station in downtown L.A., the venue for the 2021 Oscars show. Nominated in the best documentary short subject category for their film Do Not Split on the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, Hammer will take part in the ceremony via a remote hook-up at a TV studio in Oslo, while Cook will watch from home.
“It wasn’t possible to attend in person, but I’m not disappointed, not in any way,” Hammer tells THR. “We’ve known the reality of this pandemic as long as anyone. We were in Hong Kong in December 2019 when the first rumors hit about this new virus. This is just the situation we all are living in now.”
Even from a distance, Hammer says he’s participating in the ceremony seriously. “I brought my suit to the cleaners, I’ll be all dressed up, it’s just the right thing to do,” he says. “It will be really late in Norway, early Monday morning actually, but I’m looking forward to it.” Hammer will take part with Martin Horntveth, a long-time friend and collaborator, who composed the music to Do Not Split. “[We’ve] known each other since high school so it will be a beautiful thing to experience this together.”
Just next door, Savan Kotecha and Fatmax Gsus — two of the Oscar-nominated songwriters behind the power ballad “Husavik” from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga — will be tuning in from Sweden, where they’re based, as travel restrictions prevent them from flying to the U.S. or U.K. However, THR understands they plan to “put a satellite trailer in front of Kotecha’s country home” so they can both attend from there. Their co-writer Rickard Göransson is based in L.A. so he will be attending the ceremony.
But for fellow Scandinavian nominee Thomas Vinterberg, there was never a question whether or not he would attend in person.
The Danish filmmaker, nominated for best director and in the best international film category for his drinking dramedy Another Round, is currently sitting out his quarantine in L.A. with his wife, Helene Reingaard Neumann, who also appears in the film.
When asked if it was tough enduring the hassle of travel, testing and quarantine in order to attend a three-hour awards show, the Danish director brushed it off.
“We are Vikings,” he quipped. “We sailed to America before anyone knew what America was.”
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