Backstage at the 16th Hollywood Film Awards, First Awards Show of the Season

Dustin Hoffman
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

As the 16th Hollywood Film Awards, the first awards show of the Oscar season, took place in the ballroom of the Beverly Hilton, this reporter was weaving back-and-forth between the backstage wings and green room, having been granted exclusive permission by the event's organizers to quietly document the sights and sounds of the star-studded evening. Here, in no particular order, are a few highlights...

From the moment that she arrived at the foot of the indoor red carpet with a guardian, all eyes seemed to turn to adorable nine-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild), who could become the youngest best actress Oscar winner in history for her big-screen debut in the indie from Sundance, and who was on hand at what she confirmed was "my first awards show" to collect the New Hollywood Award.

Standing in the green room waiting for her category to come up, she came upon a TV broadcasting a closed-caption clip of The Avengers, peered up at the screen and said to herself, "Wow." I complimented her on her intricate ballerina-style dress and asked her if she knew who made it. She twirled around, pulled down the back a bit to show me the label, and said, "Un Deux Trois, like one, two, three!"

She then visited Oscar winner Susan Sarandon, who would present her with her award, and told her, "It's good to get this over with early in the evening 'cause then you don't have to worry about it for the rest of the night!" But, when Wallis' moment finally arrived and she was waiting in the wings, she seemed anything but nervous. She yawned, then started dancing as the Beasts score fired up and then ran up on stage and hopped onto a pedestal so that she could reach the mic.

Robert De Niro, a possible best supporting actor Oscar contender for Silver Linings Playbook, was sitting in a corner in the green room, killing time on his Blackberry before it was time to collect the Hollywood Supporting Actor Award, when fellow veteran Dustin Hoffman, who was to be honored with the Hollywood Breakthrough Director Award for his feature directorial debut Quartet, walked in. When they spotted each other, the Wag the Dog (1997) co-stars lit up, hugged, laughed and pinched each other's cheeks. (Another person in the room could be overheard saying, "Now that is a moment.") De Niro then showed Hoffman photos of his baby, who is 11 months old, on his phone.

Eventually, De Niro was called to give his speech, and Hoffman ventured over to the food table, where he was cornered by a fan and the fan's wife who insisted that they had similar noses. Hoffman good-naturedly posed nose-to-nose for a photo with the man and then chatted with Argo's Bryan Cranston and John Goodman, who had entered to await the presentation of the Hollywood Ensemble Cast Award. Hoffman was in the wings as De Niro delivered a very funny acceptance speech, and, as he exited, Hoffman, still laughing, grabbed him and said, "That was very good!"

Moments later, Hoffman gave a very funny speech of his own, after which he headed backstage for a quick interview with the much taller entertainment reporter/host of the evening Nancy O'Dell and cheekily wrapped his arm around her waist as she posed her questions to him.

Marion Cotillard, who is vying for her second best actress Oscar for Rust and Bone, looked gorgeous, as always, but also a bit nervous as she waited to collect the Hollywood Actress Award, apparently reading and re-reading her acceptance speech to herself. This might be because the Frenchwoman is still not totally at ease with English, although she has come an incredibly long way since she first started mastering the language five years ago during her march to a best actress Oscar win for La Vie En Rose, which began when she was awarded this same prize at this same event.

Some were surprised to see in attendance DreamWorks Animation CEO, and recently-announced Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award recipient, Jeffrey Katzenberg, figuring that, as one of President Barack Obama's biggest donors, he would probably be at home watching the final presidential debate. But Katzenberg, who was hanging out in the green room with Peter Ramsey, the director of DWA's big contender Rise of the Guardians, made it very clear that it was also very important to him to support his film as it received its first awards recognition of the season, the Hollywood Animation Award. Indeed, he personally presented the award to Ramsey.

Finally, speaking of the presidential debate, I had just been introduced to actor Seth Rogen and writer-director Judd Apatow - the former would moments later present the Hollywood Comedy Award to the latter, his mentor and a best director and best original screenplay Oscar and Globes hopeful this year for This Is 40 - when I received THR's email news blast reporting that a CBS poll had shown that Obama had handily won the debate. I handed over my phone to them and their associates to take a look. All seemed quite pleased, after which Apatow cracked, "Now I'm not nervous about my speech!"

For the record, Rogen's intro and Apatow's acceptance - though politically-incorrect, to be sure, and a little unkind to O'Dell and Hollywood Film Awards organizer Carlos de Abreu - garnered the biggest laughs of the night.