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Oscar nominations have been revealed, venues have been secured and the date, April 25, has long been reserved on the 2021 calendar to host Hollywood’s biggest night. But one of the lingering questions yet to be answered is: What is Vanity Fair planning for its Oscar week celebrations?
The magazine has long hosted the most celebrities per square inch of carpet inside its annual Oscar party, not to mention a slew of VIP events in the week leading up. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Radhika Jones confirms that due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the magazine is taking its act online to host a charity event series that will benefit the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s coronavirus relief efforts.
It’s happening a week before the Oscar telecast and will feature a slew of A-listers including Michael B. Jordan in conversation with Serena Williams, Gal Gadot in conversation with Vanity Fair’s Anthony Breznican, card games with Jon Hamm, Laura Dern in conversation with Jones, a closet tour with Glenn Close, “Never Have I Ever” with Jessica Alba and Kelly Sawyer, Amanda Seyfried in conversation, Shaka King in conversation with Ziwe, Paris Hilton chatting with Vanity Fair’s Emily Jane Fox, a trivia challenge featuring Haim versus the Lonely Island bandmates, and a Grey Goose Essences cocktail class with Vanity Fair’s Britt Hennemuth and Grey Goose ambassador Selena Donovan.
Hours after the nominations announcement on Monday, Jones spoke with THR about programming a virtual event (“We want to have a lot of fun”), keys to navigating a pandemic (“a little yoga first thing in the morning”), and returning to the Oscar weekend party scene in 2022 (“with bells on”).
Happy Oscar nomination day! What do you have planned for this unprecedented year?
First of all, it is wonderful to feel the excitement of Oscar nomination day. It’s one of those things that not even a pandemic can take away from us. It’s been an exciting morning in the newsroom and it’s great to see all of this talent celebrated. We have some exciting stuff planned. We have been thinking a lot about the events of the past year and the challenges that the film and entertainment industry have faced, as well as the community of L.A, all of which have given us so much and are so core to Vanity Fair.
We are going to host an award season virtual charity event, taking place April 13-15. Our plan is to bring together the Hollywood community to celebrate excellence in film and television and address all the change and exciting new developments happening in the industry. A portion of the ticket proceeds will be donated to the Motion Picture & Television Fund to help support COVID-19 relief efforts. We are very excited and we’ll have more news to come in terms of specifics.
As you finalize specifics, I’m wondering if you could talk in broad strokes about the programming and what you plan to offer?
It will be a mix of interviews, one-on-one conversations, special performances, cast reunions, panel discussions. We are naming it Cocktail Hour Live after one of our signature newsletters, Cocktail Hour. We will be integrating some cocktails because we want to hit that note of celebration. What we’re hoping to do is to bring to the programming an extension of our journalistic coverage, which is to say, tapping the incredible talent of Hollywood, the traditions of the town, the exciting anniversaries, and the achievements while having conversations about where the world of film is now and where it’s headed. Looking at the nominations that came out today, there are so many truly inspiring people whose work is being celebrated and those are the themes and conversations that we want to be having. How is the industry changing? Who were its guiding lights and what do things look like from here? And we want to have a lot of fun doing it.
I wanted to go back to the charity element, with a portion of ticket sales supporting MPTF. How did you settle in on that organization as a partner?
We wanted to focus on the industry, and in particular, on the factions of the industry that might not necessarily have been able to work steadily over the past year. That has been heavily on my mind, especially at this time last year when everything shut down. Joy Press reported and wrote a story for us about the week production shut down. It was TV-focused but was largely about entertainment industry production overall. Even at that time, there was rightly so much concern and anxiety about how the people who work in the industry — the production crews, assistants, and the writers, all of whom are dependent on active production cycles for their livelihoods — how would the pandemic affect them? As the pandemic has gone on as long as it has, we have continued to be concerned about the ability of those people to work, to support themselves and support each other during this crisis. Because the Motion Picture & Television Fund has been administering funds specifically to COVID-19 relief during the pandemic, it seemed to us that they would be the right beneficiary of our proceeds.
Looking ahead to the Vanity Fair Oscar Party 2022, just to let people know, you will be back with a party?
We will be back with bells on. We cannot wait to celebrate in person.
Where will you watch this year’s Oscars? Will you be at home?
I’m going to have to think about that. Probably at home, yes. If I have a more exciting answer to come back to you with, I will. Of course, it all depends on what one can do safely, but I am very excited to watch this year.
It’s been such a tough year for Hollywood, but in your most recent editor’s letter, you praised creativity for leading folks to accomplish things they might not have imagined possible. When you look back on the year that was, what has most inspired you?
There are so many things. I’ve been so glad and grateful to have had the opportunity to watch and spend time with so many terrific films and to be able to do it in ways that are safe. I miss going to the movies. I make popcorn at home, but it’s not the same. It has felt like a gift to be able to lose myself for a couple of hours at a time in movies like Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom or Nomadland. I feel grateful that we are at a point with technology that it has been possible for work to be shared. Even though there have been so many constraints in terms of the cinema experience, it has also been possible to connect with those performances and with that work. Things would have been a lot bleaker if we hadn’t had those opportunities.
What have you learned about yourself during the pandemic?
I have learned that if I do a little yoga or take a walk first thing in the morning, I am a better person and I make better decisions. That is a very elemental answer but it is something that I hope to keep in my life even when we are back to work in more traditional ways.
More information can be found at vf.com/live.
March 25, 9:16 a.m.: Updated to include more names from the official lineup.
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