In a town obsessed with VIP status, it is a refreshingly meritocratic event.
At the Motion Picture Academy's annual Oscar nominees luncheon Monday at the Beverly Hilton, A-list stars such as Bono,
"I guess at the Oscar luncheon we all mix and mash together like a giant gumbo," said DiCaprio, nominated for lead actor for
More than 150 of this year's nominees attended, with the notable exception of
For some, the luncheon was a chance to forge new and unlikely connections.
Across the bread basket, Leonardo DiCaprio spotted indie rock vocalist Karen O, nominated for original song for "The Moon Song" from
"Huge fan!" DiCaprio said.
"No, I'm a huge fan!" O replied, before the two launched into a conversation about one of her performances.
"This is just surreal," said their tablemate Daniel Sousa, director of "Feral," an animated short film, who had flown in from Rhode Island for the event. "It's like a pop-up book."
Beside them, former academy president Sid Ganis talked with
As the nominees kibitzed, the producers of this year's Oscar telecast, Neil Meron and Craig Zadan, took to the podium to offer some advice on speeches. Whether anyone will listen is another story.
"The show is successful if the pacing of the evening feels brisk," Zadan said, pausing for effect. "You understand? The words should be spoken from your heart and not from a list on a piece of paper."
He warned that winners would have 45 seconds to speak before the orchestra started, and that group winners should select a spokesperson.
"I was told not to remind you there will be over 1 billion people watching from more than 225 territories throughout the world," Zadan said. "Don't be nervous."
Meron told the group that the theme for the evening would be a "celebration of movie heroes."
The day wasn't all air kisses and well wishes, however.
Shortly before the cocktail hour got underway, a group representing the Service Employees International Union took to the valet line of the Beverly Hilton chanting, "
After lunch, as the nominees lined up on risers for their class photo, with best song nominee Pharrell Williams and his signature tall hat stationed wisely at the back, there was time for more inter-movie bonding.
"Everybody's happy to be here," Ganis said. "On the red carpet, there's no time for this gabbing around."
Academy members will cast their votes for the Oscars between Feb. 14-25. The 86th Academy Awards will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on March 2.