Why So Many Oscar Nominees Are Competing for Spirit Awards

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Film Independent chief Dawn Hudson tells THR it takes “a different breed of actor” to take indie roles, plus, why the show moved back to the beach after only a year in downtown L.A.

The Hollywood Reporter: There is more crossover between the Indie Spirits and Oscars in 2011 than ever before. Obviously 10 best picture nominees is one factor, but is there a bigger trend at play?

Dawn Hudson: The audience’s appetite for original stories is growing. You also have really smart marketing people and journalists devoted to selling and writing about indie films. It’s all proof that audiences are hungry for it.

THR: Five of the six best female lead Spirit nominees encompass the entire best actress Oscar category. To what extent do you agree that the best roles for women exist in independent film?

Hudson: All actors embrace indie film for its rich characters. That happens in studio films, too, but it’s certainly the bread and butter of indie films. It’s a different breed of actor who charts his or her career to include these types of films. Nicole Kidman is a great example. She’s always been the quintessential indie artist.

THR: What’s special to you about this year’s show?

Hudson: We get to bring attention to films like Daddy Longlegs and Tiny Furniture, movies that are new to the awards table. It’s also exciting to see previous nominees like Lisa Cholodenko, Darren Aronofsky and Nicole Holofcener all back this year — great filmmakers getting better at their craft and influencing pop culture so heavily in the process.

THR: Do you have any favorite Indie Spirit memories from your 20-year tenure?

Hudson: I was really proud when Richard Farnsworth received a nomination for The Straight Story because he died not long after that. It was also incredible when Muhammad Ali was present for When We Were Kings. I also loved when Bill Murray won for Lost in Translation and said, “I’d thank the people who made this film, but their heads are too big already.” The speeches are always great.

THR: How meaningful is it for the Indie Spirits to be back at the beach?

Hudson: Very meaningful. When you open your car door and see that ocean, it just puts you in a totally different state of mind.