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Months of Meryl: THE RIVER WILD

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Live Blogging: THR's Actress Roundtable

HAPPY THANKSGIVING! Today I am thankful for... actresses.

In other words it's a Thursday. Well, listen, I'm always thankful for actresses but now I finally have a tiny bit of time to say so. Can you believe I've held out until now to watch The Hollywood Report's Actress Roundtable? If you've already moved on I forgive you but I wanted to do it in one sitting and finally had the time. As you read this I'm probably on my way to feast with my besties but right now as I write, I'm pretending I'm settling in for a Thanksgiving dinner with (drumroll please) two-time Oscar winning ham Emma Thompson (who I just had cocktails with!), Julia Brockovich-Roberts who brought fish ("eat your fish, bitch!"), Lupita Nyong'o who provides the appetizer (to what we hope is an overflowing career o' plenty), Amy Adams who brought stuffing (she's in everything!), Oprah Winfrey (who paid all the grocery bills) and Octavia Spencer (who brought choc... no, too obvious! abort. abort.)

So let's begin...

00:01 THR, obviously proud of its successful newish Oscar tradition, tells us who they got this year. I love reading too much into copywriting on these things. For instance, in the montage introducing their performances, Oprah's character in The Butler gets two adjectives "disatisfied" and "proud" and Unofficial Roundtable Mascot Amy Adams in American Hustle gets "seductive" and Lupita is "sexually abused" but the other three are defined solely by their function:  daughter, mother, author. 

01:19 Scenes from a photoshoot -everyone robotically beautiful/composed. The sole significant movement is Julia Robert's hair magically lifting from the breeze of adulation.

01:42 All the actresses are introduced and do tiny little nods of there head ("yes, I am she") except Oprah who widens her eyes cartoonishly.

01:47 Best/Worst Piece of Advice. This shoud be fun.

02:51 Emma starts talking and suddenly everyone else goes out of focus behind her, which is basically how it always should be. She brings up her godfather - a multihyphenate writer/philosopher/gay man/director inspiration -- The Brit goddess gets the first laugh, incorporating a noise offstage into her bit. Seriously THR staff. They're recording in there! 

To Recap:

Octavia: [mock shouting] "if it sounds like you're DOING A SCENE you're DOING A SCENE"
Emma: "imagine there's a fire in your dressing room. it takes your mind of Acting"
Oprah: "give yourself over to the character" (Amy & Lupita steal this one, repeat.)

It's worth noting that Oprah, who is an entertaining raconteu, does not take Octavia's advice and DOES A SCENE whenever she addresses the others veritably shouting at them. Years of Courting the Back All Rows as Ringleader have paid off but also: calm down, Oprah!

06:57 Julia bitches about the bitchy director Herbert Ross (who infamously hated her on Steel Magnolias) without naming him. Herbert to Julia during the middle of a scene:

Stop! Stop! Put me out of my misery. If you have any acting talent at all, now is the time to use it."

08:40 I wanna know what they just edited out by cutting to a photo montage again. Julia is shown placing her hand on Lupita shoulder. This is EXTREMELY awkward looking like something that would happen during a family portrait session at Olan Mills. 

09:15 Oprah Enthusiasmic Interruptus Part Infinity. Emma Thompson name drops Sense & Sensibility and Oprah suddenly remembers her  trivia. "You wrote! and won the Oscar for. I know I have the script on my..." (You're what? night stand? Kindle?) Octavia starts talking Fruitvale Station and Fangirl attacks again.

You werked that hospital, girl. You did it. You did it."

10:06 Octavia says she sometimes forgets that she won the Oscar. Oh pleez, girl. You did not. You did not. 

11:29 Things you won't play? Emma "apart from the muff shot". Hee. Even her follow up serious answer is awesome. She talks about trope bland supporting wife characters and their sole function in the script being 'Please don't do that brave thing. Stay at home. The children need you!' I feel bad for the actresses seated at the table who've played stock characters when she says "I said no to all of them" And also I (and apparently Oprah) will be quoting Emma's next bit forever:

What the ding dong heck is going on?!?"

14:16 Amy wants women to support other womezzzzzzzzzzzzz. (Seriously, she's a good actress but why does she get invited to these things every year?)

15:01 Oprah says she put her face in a bowl of macaroni and cheese after Beloved's failure. What does this even mean? I have never heard this idiom before. WHAT THE DING DONG HECK IS GOING ON? 

16:00 Oprah says she did 52 interviews in one day at The Butler junket and it was her goal to make each one more interesting. (I wish ______ who I recently interviewed had had that goal.)

18:53 My least favorite subject: Actresses talking about abandoning their art to have kids and a life. Don't they know that WE OWN THEM. (kidding... sort of

20:08 Says she's never been away from her children and talks about how hard it was to decide to August: Osage County. Oh pleeze, girl. Oklahoma is not Romania. It's a 2 hour flight.

But props where props are due. Julia is really awesome in this Roundtable, every story being interesting. I love that she describes watching August: Osage County the play as 'watching surgery it was so exacting and precise'. Yes, that!

22:38 Julia on what she found comforting about finally working with Meryl Streep.

She works her ass off. It is not a magic trick. She does not just show up and be brilliant. 

23:22 Lupita has to be addressed before she'll speak in this roundtable. That's what you get by shaming her and making her sit on the floor when everyone else gets a seat, THR! "It felt ordained. Like it was supposed to happen. And it was supposed to happen then" Lupita mentions Patricia Norris (Costume Designer) and wearing real slave garb. The last ingredient to a performance is magic. You have to let go...

Emma listens intently to this.

26:00 Octavia talks about her big circle of friends from The Help. Since today is Thanksgiving it's worth noting that she spent her 2011 turkey day with Viola and her 2012 turkey day with Emma (Stone). The actresses seem enthused about Octavia's next role as "Aunt Honey" in a James Brown biopic.

28:22 Really cute moment when Lupita talks about being a PA on The Constant Gardener and escorting Ralph Fiennes around. Julia talks about the beautiful girl that's always on a set somewhere on a walkie talkie . "You were that girl!" 

29:00 Octavia talks about CAA. She was so green when she arrived in LA she pronounced it "caw". Octavia talks about not having children. I do find this topic fascinating with actresses because the ones who don't have children rarely speak about this decision.

31:45 Emma Thompson is so perfect. She skewers the whole question about personal sacrifices calls it obscene given the lives these six actresses are living. So true. A Voice of (Hilarious) Reason.

34:00 Oprah talks about fear of being "rusty" from not having acted in so long.

36:00 Awkward edit -- perhaps to include more of Lupita -- talking about the capacity for joy for people who've experienced great sorrow.

37:00 Another awkward edit. I think they're cutting a lot out to equalize the conversation. This is the most interesting thing Amy Adams has said that "David O. Russell is the only method director" and absorbs the mood of the picture he's working on. After working with him on The Fighter "I can act in a hurricane now"... I'm seeing American Hustle this weekend and this bit has me excited for it since she's saying it's "the worst I've ever felt playing a character" Hmmm. 


Oprah: You are the woman to have at a dinner party.
Emma: You can hire me for a small fee."


40:30 They told Emma Thompson her new hair for Saving Mr Banks would make her look like Annette Bening so she was excited because The Bening always looks great but then she ended up looking like a sheep. "Now that was a personal sacrifice!" she riffs, bringing it back around to the earlier question to peels of laughter.

41:00 Any roles they still want to play?

To Recap:

Emma Thompson pretending to do Manically Happy Musical Theater. This needs a gif in the worst way

Julia: I'm good. I don't want to be greedy.
Amy: Wants to do a musical on Broadway.

I love this question so much but the actresses get so into warning Amy away from theater (!) that the question derails.

45:34 GAYLE REFERENCE (!) from Oprah. Whenever she name-drops Gayle I think of Kathy Griffin mocking her shouting out "Gayyyy--yyyyle!"

47:35 Octavia talks about loving mystery and detective stuff hence "Murder She Wrote"

49:35 Talking about diversity in art and literature and film and the question sort of shifts to the African-American representation without actually naming it as so. Oprah gets thanked for her contributions. Lupita gets tearful talking about feeling humbled to be considered a peer and talks about how influential The Color Purple was and what it meant to her as a child.

Does she want to emulate any specific career? No. 

My path along everyone else's.

The actresses get super tearful at this! Beautiful ending! 


If you aren't already talked out on this topic (which everyone seems to have watched instantly -- where do y'all find these empty full hours in your day?) sound off in the comments. 

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Reader Comments (30)

Overall it was a fun roundtable. I do like that it has become a tradition. I thought Oprah was on her best behavior, which means she was still a little annoying. Emma, Lupita, and Octavia were unsurprisingly charming and Julia Roberts surprisingly was charming. I think it's weird that Amy Adams was there when her movie wasn't even seen yet. The fact that they started wrangling the stars for a seat at the roundtable in the summer(not surprising given schedules) does make this seem more like a campaign stop than it used to.

November 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTy

it's also a tradition to read this on thanksgiving day before the festivities..... and i'm thankful for that

Emma and Lupita won the battle - it is a battle of charm and eloquence isn't it?

Oprah was not happy to be upstaged, hence "dinner party" comment.

And for the most part Amy behaved and actually gave one interesting anecdote. And Amy we know you didn't work for a long time but give it up - you've working consistently for a decade now.

November 28, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermurtada

I love these roundtables, and I think is a particularly interesting set of people they've assembled here, but doesn't it feel like Amy Adams is in one of these every year?

November 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterConrado

I read a recap on another site and their observation was interesting: Oprah, while being the richest and most established person, is also the most insecure at this table because she doesn't truly feel like an actress... and yet she seems to want to be one that is respected so badly.

On another note, yeah, the editing! I don't remember that in any other previous year. Usually they just went on for an hour or so and left it uncut. That's what made these great because certain conversations would break off from questions and you always had a natural entertainer. I think the best one was the year Helena Bonham Carter was there with Kidman and Bening and Natalie Portman.

November 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBia

Conrado -- it doesn't just feel like that, SHE IS.

November 28, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I wasn't too excited to watch this because even though I don't dislike any of these actresses I really don't care too much about what Oprah or Julia have to say. And I'm sick of Amy in these. But it was still good, no one was terribly annoying or dull. Lupita was wonderful but Emma steals the show. Just hilarious.

November 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

Nathaniel I think you should make Beloved priority viewing. Of course you'll procrastinate and one of your minions will take over duties and I won't give two shits what they have to say on it. If you have to watch something non-current make sure it's Beloved. It is a beautiful miscalculation and an art film people would champion if it weren't black and weren't Oprah.

November 28, 2013 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

I think Oprah was legitimately moved to learn from Lupita she was inspired to act from The Color Purple. And who knew that what happened to Beloved still hurts her to even mention?

I think my favorite detail was Julia noting that she was a major fan of Tracy Letts' Killer Joe, though not sure the movie, the play itself, or both.

Amy and Oprah saying they were both helped by Spielberg and all I could think about is Julia's very public fall-out with Spielberg during the making of Hook. That was not during the best period of her life and she was isolated from the rest of the film because with exception to one scene in Hook, it is all just her alone in front of blue screen.

I liked Amy in this one more than most. Not about her getting crazy eyes over paps but her noting DOR's directorial style and also that her character is not nearly as fun as the ad campaign is suggesting. I honestly want to hear those things to keep expectations in check.

I hate the interviewers for THR if just because some of their questions are so leading that they expect a certain answer it seems, like the disastrous screenwriters one from last year where they seemed to expect Haneke to like movies about Hitler. Anyway, here they asked a weird question about the Chinese market having an effect that we see Chinese movies in America. Is that really the right question in a room of actresses? Why not ask this in the Producers Roundtable (Which by the way was also good and I was impressed by Mark Wahlberg's presence in that one)? If you have Oprah there, leave it to her.

November 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

"It is a beautiful miscalculation and an art film people would champion if it weren't black and weren't Oprah."

Wait. How can Beloved not be a movie about black people? Beloved the book is completely tied to the African-American experience.

November 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

I am thankful for this roundtable tradition and Nathaniel's enjoyable commentary.

But.. I can't say I enjoyed it much. I don't think that besides Emma there was anyone who said something really interesting or funny. Julia thinks she is reeeeally sophisticated and she (yes, including the comment re: A:OC) said things I expected from her.

Oprah always feels that she has to say something and support people for doing something good. Condescending, if you ask me.

Will we ever see Streep, Dench or Winslet in one of these? I'm sure they belong there more than others. (Sorry Amy..)

November 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

Amy Adams came off way better here than she did in the last one, so even though it's weird that she's ALWAYS there, I'm glad she managed to muster up some likability and I like her as an actress so I'm hoping American Hustle is something special for her.

More and more I'm convinced that the Oscar is Lupita's to lose. She wins people over so easily with her eloquence and I wouldn't be surprised if other voters were as in awe of her as her peers in this roundtable seem to be. Add that to the fact that people love the film and her performance and it's pretty hard for me to imagine her losing.

November 28, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterthefilmjunkie

Someone stole my comment about Amy Adams being in it every damn year , and she is never that enlightening or interesting , baffling. Why can't we get Meryl Streep to do one of these? Glad there is more than one actress of colour represented this year

November 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRami

totally OT: what happened your banner? usually there is a banner in the top of the blog

November 28, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterfrench girl

It's interesting how different people get completely different vibes from the same thing. I enjoyed Octavia Spencer and Amy Adams here and that's about it, and cringed my way through the rest of it.

I will give THR props, though: they learned from their biggest mistake last year and dropped the annoying fashion shoot element they had going. They actually put them on a roundtable the same as the other groups this time round.

November 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPitry

When is your next time hanging out with Emma? Can I come and tag along :P?

November 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMM

Beloved crushed Oprah. You want to know why she's not comfortable identifying as an actor? That film. For all of her experience in the entertainment industry, she was incredibly naive about film and felt betrayed when the film basically got dropped after a week in theaters.

November 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

Nathaniel, if it was up to you who would you invite to the Actresses Roundtable this year?

November 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

Sad man - since u need a mix of fame levels, types, ages and also entertaining people I approve of the Oprah. Emma and Lupita choices but I would hav subbed out Octavia and Amy for sure and maybe Julia for some combo from:

Streep, Louis-Dreyfus, Gerwig, Martndale or Seydoux

November 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

Meryl always gives great interview, but if she were in one of these roundtables, the other actresses might want to/feel obligated to bow down to her the whole hour, which wouldn't be very interesting.

Then again, they should rather take that chance than ask Amy back for the FOURTH time. I like her a lot, but enough is enough.

November 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJan

why is Amy Adam in this every year? What has she done right?

November 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmyNot Adma

in defence of amy, her quip about being in the chorus teaching you to be a good listener, directing attention to the star is a more perceptive remark about acting than a lot of the other stuff

if oprah really wanted to be taken seriously as an actor maybe she should've skipped those decades of fawning to celebrities and endorsing spurious "actualisations"

November 28, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterpar3182

It's nice to know Amy actually said something interesting in the roundtable, she goes to one every year so one of the years she must eventually find something to say. I hope there is a break from seeing her next year.

Emma was hilarious and Lupita was charming, all in all it was a good roundtable interview, even if my favourite wasn't there.

November 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterM

Why there's no Cate Blanchett and Sandra Bullock considering both are major contenders?

November 29, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterfxcool

The editing is weird. In a Variety article Emma Thompson talks about "snogging" Meryl Streep, but they cut that bit out.

As much as I like Oprah, I think she wasn't very interesting. All the other actresses (even Amy) shared interesting anecdotes and experiences, and then there is Oprah talking about The Color Purple and The Beloved again. I understand that the two movies pretty much comprise her acting experience, but I just wish she could look elsewhere. We get it--you learned a lot on The Color Purple. She is always so eager to divulge the details of her process. While the likes of Emma and Meryl always deflect with humor any probing inquiries into their process.

Viola Davis should be the one getting an invite every year instead of Adams. She has the most eloquent way of addressing the most serious issues.

November 29, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdela

par - this is true on amy. she was better this year. I just think with the very concept of these roundtables it shouldn't be the same people every time.

November 29, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

This year's just felt too polished and manufactured. In previous years, the group seemed more natural and relaxed. The best gathering was 2011 with Bening, Portman, Kidman, Bonham-Carter

November 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRichard

Well, I got a cold so this was the best part of my day! Can we get one like this every month?

November 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

peggy sue -- yeah, wouldn't a monthly event, not tied so obviously to campaigning but just chit-chatting, be divine? rotating cast of actresses but at least one hilarious life of the party person has to show up each time (Emma, Helena, Streep, etcetera) to keep it popping.

November 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

I like the actresses roundtable because I really don't think too many lack the awareness that dominating the room could go against them in the eyes of others. Meanwhile, the actors roundtable often does feel like oneupsmanship in winning the room the most. This gets a little more obvious when, I believe the Newsweek one does/did this, have a unisex roundtable of actors.

November 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

Loved everything about this panel discussion. Lupita Nyong'o is a STAR, people! Luminous, sensual, intelligent, devastatingly gorgeous, and extremely humble. Watch out for her in the coming years! Dream panel with Julia, Oprah, and Emma there. Octavia Spencer and Amy Adams had their moments, but they were more reserved than the rest. Amy Adams is in so many of these panel discussions b/c she's working in so many Oscar-bait films! Maybe not by conscious choice, but that is what it is. Wish she wasn't such a cold fish, but you can't have it all, baby. Looking forward to more of these!

December 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterReynolds

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