Quentin Tarantino breezed through the star-packed crowd, taking daytime formal into uncharted territory in a black-and-orange bowling shirt. Greta Gerwig chatted with Cynthia Erivo. Charlize Theron sat between her proudly beaming mother on one side and Taika Waititi on the other.
In all, 162 of this year's Oscar contenders gathered on Monday afternoon at the annual nominees luncheon to celebrate their achievements — and smile for what is perhaps Hollywood's most exclusive group photo.
With this year's compressed awards season hurtling toward its climax at the Academy Awards on Feb. 9, the luncheon at the Hollywood & Highland's Dolby Ballroom offered the chance for those who might otherwise never cross paths to rub elbows. There, just days before the Oscar voting period began on Thursday, Marc du Pontavice, nominated for the animated feature "I Lost My Body," could geek out over "Parasite" director Bong Joon-ho, and "Jojo Rabbit" costume designer Mayes Rubeo could surreptitiously snap a photo of "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood" star Leonardo DiCaprio.
Despite the otherwise festive atmosphere, the event began on a somber note with a moment of silence in memory of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and the seven others who died in a helicopter crash Sunday. Just two years ago, Bryant had attended the luncheon as a nominee for producing and writing the animated short film "Dear Basketball," posing for selfies with star-struck fans such as Steven Spielberg and Timothée Chalamet. Bryant's film went on to win the Oscar.
With the 92nd Academy Awards coming earlier than ever, this year's campaign circuit has been unusually hectic and dizzying, with events stacked practically on top of one another. Perhaps owing to that relentless schedule, a handful of prominent contenders, including Joaquin Phoenix ("Joker"), Saoirse Ronan ("Little Women"), "The Irishman" director Martin Scorsese and "Marriage Story" stars Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, were no-shows.
Hot off Saturday's Directors Guild Awards when Sam Mendes won the feature film prize for "1917," a number of nominees will attend the BAFTAs this weekend; others will attend the Writers Guild Awards.
Noah Baumbach, who wrote and directed the divorce drama "Marriage Story," said he would actually be going to both back-to-back. "We fly to New York for the Writers Guild Awards and then go straight to the BAFTAs," he said with a slight note of weariness.
The producers of this year's Oscar telecast, Stephanie Allain and Lynette Howell Taylor, are facing their own time pressures. For the second year in a row, the academy has pledged to keep the show to a strict three-hour time limit. Without a formal host, they noted, the spotlight will be that much brighter on the awards themselves.
Allain and Howell Taylor urged nominees to keep their acceptance speeches short. "Get to the stage quickly," Howell Taylor said. "When you have 45 seconds remaining, you will see a countdown, and we don't want to play you off."
As the nominees were called to arrange themselves on risers for the group photo, Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos — whose streaming giant easily outpaced the competition with 24 total nominations — snapped photos of the talent from his company's releases like a proud dad.
For one of those Netflix nominees, Steven Bognar, who co-directed the documentary feature "American Factory" with his partner Julia Reichert, the luncheon was just the latest in a series of pinch-me experiences.
"It's been an intense few months but it's been great to get to know a lot of the nominees," said Bognar, who was thrilled to have met "1917" cinematographer Roger Deakins that afternoon. "Leonardo DiCaprio just told me, 'I love your movie, man.' That was sweet."