Oscars: Oprah Winfrey, Jason Blum and More Big Names You Might Not Know Are Nominated
Diane Warren, Scott Rudin and Gene Siskel's nephew Charlie also are up for Academy Awards for their work behind the scenes.
This year's Oscar-nominated actors and directors aren't the only big names up for the coveted statuettes. Several well-known, influential figures are nominated for their work behind the scenes on this year's best picture, documentary, animated feature film and best song contenders.
Successful horror producer Jason Blum is one of the producers of best picture contender Whiplash, where he'll face off against Oprah Winfrey, nominated for her work as a producer on Selma, and Scott Rudin, nominated for his work as a producer on The Grand Budapest Hotel, among others.
In the best documentary category, CitizenFour may be the favorite to win, but fellow contenders The Salt of the Earth, Finding Vivian Maier and Last Days in Vietnam have famous directors in influential German filmmaker Wim Wenders, Gene Siskel's nephew Charlie and Rory Kennedy, respectively.
Newly named DreamWorks Animation executive Bonnie Arnold is an Oscar nominee for her work on How to Train Your Dragon 2. And the woman behind some of the best-known ballads of the '90s — including soundtrack hits and adult-contemporary radio mainstays like "I Don't Want to Miss A Thing" and "How Do I Live" — Diane Warren, is up for her seventh Oscar nomination, for her song from Beyond the Lights.
Read on to learn more about some of the big names you might not know are nominated for Oscars, in alphabetical order.
Bonnie Arnold, nominated for best animated feature film for How to Train Your Dragon 2: DreamWorks Animation's new co-president of feature animation is also an Oscar nominee for her work as the lead producer on How to Train Your Dragon 2. She's nominated with writer-director Dean DeBlois. Arnold talked to The Hollywood Reporter about juggling the two roles at the National Board of Review awards ceremony, where Dragon was awarded the best animated feature prize. "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 three to four years and a lot of work, and I feel like I know that marathon, I've run that marathon," said Arnold. "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. We have a lot of great filmmakers and storytellers, and I'm excited to have the chance to work with them." Arnold's past credits include Pixar's Toy Story, DWA's Over the Hedge and Disney's Tarzan.
Jason Blum, nominated for best picture as one of the producers of Whiplash: Microbudget horror master Jason Blum turned his attention to a different kind of scary movie — one about a frighteningly abusive music teacher and his obsessively dedicated student — in Whiplash. “If there’s a scary-movie version of an art house film, it would be Whiplash,” Blum told W magazine. “I don’t think it’s accidental that I was attracted to this project.” Still, Whiplash isn't the first nonhorror title Blum has produced. The successful producer also worked on 2008's The Reader, 2010's Tooth Fairy, 2012's Lawless and this year's The Boy Next Door, among others. Blum produced Whiplash along with Helen Estabrook and David Lancaster, who are nominated alongside him. It was Whiplash's producers, including executive producer Jason Reitman, who reportedly suggested that writer-director Damien Chazelle make a short-film version of the movie to help the project attract financing.
Rory Kennedy, nominated for best documentary feature for Last Days in Vietnam: Robert and Ethel Kennedy's daughter is also an Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker who has directed and produced more than 25 documentaries, including the Emmy-winning Ghosts of Abu Ghraib and Ethel, about her mother. Last Days in Vietnam focuses on the chaotic final weeks of the Vietnam War, with Kennedy turning her focus to the conflict her father was campaigning to end before he was killed. Kennedy, who directed and produced the film, is nominated with writer-producer Keven McAlester.
Scott Rudin, nominated for best picture as one of the producers of The Grand Budapest Hotel: Powerful producer Scott Rudin has been behind many past best picture contenders, and this year he's part of the team nominated for The Grand Budapest Hotel. He took home an Oscar for his work on No Country for Old Men and was nominated for The Hours, True Grit, The Social Network, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and Captain Phillips — all of which were up for best picture but failed to win the top prize. Rudin became a well-known name outside of Hollywood when his private emails with former Sony boss Amy Pascal were leaked, which could make for some awkward moments at the Dolby Theatre if anyone wants to joke about the Sony hack.
Charlie Siskel, nominated for best documentary feature for Finding Vivian Maier: Gene Siskel's nephew scored his first Oscar nomination for his work co-directing Finding Vivian Maier with John Maloof. (Ironically, Charlie Siskel's recognition came the same morning that Life Itself, the documentary about his uncle's longtime critic partner, Roger Ebert, failed to land an Oscar nomination in the same category.) Siskel's past credits include Tosh.0, Bowling for Columbine and Religulous. Maier, which was executive produced by actor-comedian Jeff Garlin (Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Goldbergs), tells the story of a reclusive Chicago nanny who had a secret life as a talented photographer, but her photographs weren't discovered until after she died.
Diane Warren, nominated for best original song for writing the music and lyrics for "Grateful" from Beyond the Lights: Grammy- and Golden Globe-winning songwriter Diane Warren is behind some of the best-known ballads of the '90s, including soundtrack hits and adult-contemporary radio mainstays "Because You Loved Me," "How Do I Live" and "I Don't Want to Miss A Thing." Warren has received seven Oscar nominations but has yet to win the highly coveted gold man.
Wim Wenders, nominated for best documentary feature for The Salt of the Earth: The Salt of the Earth may be one of the lesser-known contenders in this year's best documentary feature category, but its director, Wim Wenders, is considered one of the most influential German filmmakers. Along with Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Werner Herzog, Wenders is one of the central figures in New German Cinema. He won Cannes' Palme d'Or with 1984's Paris, Texas and took home the festival's best director award for Wings of Desire. His previous documentaries, Buena Vista Social Club and Pina, also were nominated for Oscars. Wenders, who received the Honorary Golden Bear at this year's Berlin Film Festival and is the subject of an upcoming retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, also directed the narrative film Every Thing Will Be Fine, starring James Franco, which also premiered in Berlin. On Salt of the Earth, a profile of Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado, Wenders worked with Salgado's son, Juliano, and writer-producer David Rosier. All three men are nominated for the best documentary feature Oscar. The film previously won the Un Certain Regard special jury prize at Cannes.
Oprah Winfrey, nominated for best picture as one of the producers of Selma: A year after Winfrey was memorably snubbed for an Oscar nomination for her role in The Butler, the media mogul has another shot at Oscar gold, this time as one of the producers of the Martin Luther King Jr. biopic Selma. If the film wins best picture, Winfrey, Christian Colson and Plan B's Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner would all be winners.