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In their opening (and hilarious) remarks while hosting Saturday afternoon’s Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, newbie hosts Saturday Night Live star Kate McKinnon joined Silicon Valley’s Kumail Nanjiani and poked fun at the lesser-known indie film nominees. “The Spirit Awards honor the year’s best movies you’ve … been meaning to see,” Nanjiani joked.
Viewers who meant to check out all the action onstage could do so on TV via IFC, but just in case your intentions are to know what happened off-camera inside the big white tent on the beach, here’s a rundown:
1. On the blue carpet, Oscar winner and Spirit Awards presenter Patricia Arquette was on a mission to spread the word about the Equal Rights Amendment and her hopes that it passes. Following a passionate speech to one particular reporter, the actress clarifies her point, “I am not angry with you guys! I am just angry at the situation.”
2. Popular party guest? Andre Royo. The actor, best known as “Bubbles” on HBO’s The Wire and for his recent turn on Fox’s Empire, is spotted in an jovial conversation with popular multihyphenate Phil Lord. Moments later, Royo is catching up with a dapper Idris Elba.
3. Popular party guest, part two? Ted Sarandos. He’s name-checked several times on stage, during Elba and Abraham Attah’s wins for best supporting male and best male lead wins, respectively. Before the first award is handed out, he tells The Hollywood Reporter that he’s stoked to be inside the Spirit Awards tent, one of his favorite events of the year. Accompanied by his date for the day — 21-year-old daughter Sarah (making her third trip to the Spirit Awards) — Sarandos loves “the relaxed atmosphere. It doesn’t feel as cut-throat,” he explains. “Between the documentary and independent film communities, this is where I cut my teeth, so it always feels like being home with friends.”
4. The first person to take the stage before the live telecast? Transparent star and Tangerine executive producer Jay Duplass, who gives the audience a quick rundown of what’s about to go down when he and Marisa Tomei come out to present the first (non-televised) award for best editing. But first, he tries to encourage the audience to partake in a drinking game. “Hello, drunk people,” he says. Things quickly get sober and heartfelt. The Spirit Award for editing goes to Tom McArdle, who dedicated the award to his father who died while he was editing the film. “He loved movies and he would’ve loved this,” he said.
5. During the show, Arquette was all smiles while presenting the first award of the live telecast. She took a moment to acknowledge the fact that the 2016 Spirit Awards honored two transgender actresses, Tangerine stars Mya Taylor and Kiki Kitana Rodriguez, in two categories, best supporting female and best female lead, respectively. Taylor ended up winning in her category while Rodriguez was a no-show. (Oscar favorite Brie Larson triumphed in that category.) Rodriguez was not expected to attend as the actress has been absent from the awards-season push for Sean Baker’s crowd-pleasing hit. Taylor told THR that she spoke to Rodriguez in the morning and she couldn’t make it because she’s sidelined “with a cold” today.
6. She’s not the only one. Another best female lead nominee, Rooney Mara, was overheard on the blue carpet revealing, “I’m on a lot of cold medicine right now.”
7. During the first commercial break, breakout star Nate Parker, who wrote, directed and stars in the Sundance phenomenon The Birth of a Nation, gets out of his seat and is the first to head backstage to get in line to present an award later in the show alongside Emilia Clarke.
8. Following her best lead actress nod for Room, Brie Larson left the podium and before she could walk to the press room, her co-star Jacob Tremblay — whom she called her “spirit animal” during her speech — waited at the foot of the stage to ensure he was the first person that got to hug her in a very sweet Spirit Awards moment.
9. Sean Penn had the honor of presenting the final award of the day — the best picture Spirit Award, which went to Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight. However, it was his first moment of major eye contact with the crew from the Open Road Films release because he missed them onstage during another big award presentation Saturday afternoon, the Robert Altman Award presentation honoring the best ensemble cast, because he was outside smoking. “He chain-smoked during a big chunk of the show,” tattled one attendee. But Penn did find time to catch up with actor Liev Schreiber.
10. Speaking of Spotlight, following the Altman award presentation, they exited the stage in the wrong direction and got lost on the way to the press room. “The whole cast went the wrong way!” a flack gasped backstage.
11. Even if they got caught in a mixed-up moment, the cast, crew and team behind the true-life-tale (including the actual Boston Globe journalists that uncovered the clerical sex abuse that had been covered up by the Catholic Church) proved to be the center of attention inside the tent. They won a total of five awards on Saturday and the well-wishers flocked to their table to offer congratulations. Fox Searchlight’s Nancy Utley dropped by to say hello to her Birdman star Michael Keaton; producer John Lesher shook a bunch of hands; and Spotlight producers Steve Golin and Michael Sugar and Open Road’s Tom Ortenberg were spotted accepting hugs and handshakes during every commercial break. Later Sugar explains his emotional state: “My wife can tell you, it’s getting a little overwhelming, especially this weekend, because it’s like 100 dreams coming true all at once,” he says of the film’s success, which also includes a best picture Oscar nomination.
12. “I’m always nervous! Always nervous!” Josh Singer proclaims to Rachel McAdams, who is clutching a Fiji Water, during one of the commercial breaks. He shouldn’t be. The writer is a winner alongside McCarthy for best screenplay for Spotlight.
13. Tremblay may have been waiting at the bottom of the stairs for Larson when she won, but he spent a big chunk of his time eating ice cream backstage in the Breyers Gelato Indulgences Hospitality Lounge.The young actor posted up on a couch with his father, Jason, while eating Breyers Gelato Peanut Butter Chocolate. “We can sit on the couch and watch the show just like we were at home!” Jason says to his son. And they did just that, courtesy of the live feed.
14. UTA literary agent David Flynn is overheard meeting producer Stephanie Allain for the first time. The producer tells him that her son, Jesse Allain-Marcus, just signed with his agency on the heels of his film French Dirty. She says his agent is Mikey Schwartz Wright, and Flynn’s face lights up. “He’s my protege,” he tells her. “He started on my desk. He’s great.”
15. Flynn also reps Son of Saul director Laszlo Nemes, who picked up a Spirit Award for best international feature. Following the show, Nemes keeps good company in the valet line waiting for his chaffeured car to come, chatting closely with Cate Blanchett. Perhaps a new indie collaboration in the works?
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