‘Banshees’ executive producer Daniel Battsek talks Oscars with Montclair Film’s Tom Hall
When perfectly groomed, glittering movie stars make their way down the red carpet this Sunday at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, they may appear to be excited and spontaneous. But the presentation of the Oscars is the culmination of an exhausting, expensive slog to campaign for the films and people who have been nominated.
That’s what Daniel Battsek, executive producer of the nominated films “The Banshees of Inisherin” and “Living,” told Montclair Film members on Friday, March 3, at Cinema505.
“The amount of money that is spent on chasing awards, I mean, absolutely ridiculous,” said Battsek, who is a founding director of Montclair Film. “But nobody stops us doing it, and we don't stop doing it.”
In a conversation called “All Things Oscars” with Tom Hall, co-head/artistic director of Montclair Film, Battsek said the campaigning begins early in the year with film festivals, like Sundance in February, Berlin in February and Cannes in May. In later months come Venice, Telluride, Toronto, New York and London. A good showing at a major film festival can launch a movie onto the track to Oscar nominations.
For “The Banshees of Inisherin,” the Venice Film Festival was where it gained altitude.
“This famous film festival was all about the length of the standing ovations, if anyone was timing,” Battsek said. “And we won with 13 minutes. We didn’t get any prizes for that. But Colin Farrell, I think, actually did win best actor.”
Greenlighting a film is often a leap of faith, said Battsek, chairman of the U.K.-based Film4. “When a script first appears on your desk, you just don't know,” he said. “Is this going to do really, really well?”
Once a movie shows promise for the Academy Awards, the campaigning is intense.
“That little gold Oscar man has a magnetic field around him,” Battsek said. “So there’s the glory of it. And then there is the finance of it. I know from running campaigns.
“‘No Country for Old Men,” I think we took an extra $25 million after winning Best Picture and one, two or three other awards that night, which was great. We spent way too much money chasing it, but we got most of it back. If it hadn’t won, I might not be sitting here.”
The process involves attending screenings for various groups, including the Directors Guild of America and other industry groups. In addition, screenings are done for tastemakers. Battsek called it a “cottage industry” before correcting himself and calling it more like a “mansion industry.”
The campaign can be grueling for the actors.
“If ever you want to feel sympathetic toward an actor who complains about being exhausted, you would if you followed one of these campaigns,” Battsek said. “Night after night after night, week after week, month after month – once you get into this period, they are zigzagging across the country and often between countries attending Q&As, answering the same questions, trying to liven it up, with consultants constantly feeding information into their ear about what academy members want to hear.”
The day of the Academy Awards is not as glamorous as some may envision. He will have to be there by 4 p.m. Pacific time, he said. “There's this massive limo traffic jam from about 2 o'clock in the afternoon that sort of circles the whole of L.A. And L.A. being L.A., half the route there are people with placards shouting at you from the side about how you are Satan and Hollywood is killing the world and you should be ashamed of yourself.
“And you have to keep winding down the windows because there’s security checking, so it’s not like you can ignore these people.”
He added: “So it’s an early day. You have breakfast, get into your tux and wait for your limo.”
Battsek and Hall concluded their conversation by indicating who they thought should win and would win in the major categories.
For best supporting actress, Battsek got a chuckle from the audience when he said Kerry Condon from “The Banshees of Inisherin” should win. Then he paused for a moment on “would win” and said, “I’m just going to say Kerry Condon and keep saying it.”
Hall said that Jamie Lee Curtis from “Everything Everywhere All at Once” has momentum and would win. For should win, he said, “I’m going to say Kerry Condon.”
For best supporting actor, Battsek said it wasn’t good to have two actors from his film – Brendan Gleeson and Barry Keoghan – in the category. He added that Ke Huy Quan would win “if nothing else because his acceptance speeches are so great and everyone just wants to see another one of those.”
For actress in a leading role, both Battsek and Hall said Cate Blanchett should win but that Michelle Yeoh would win.
For actor in a leading role, Battsek said he would like to see Colin Farrell from “The Banshees of Inisherin” share the Oscar with Bill Nighy from his film “Living.” But he said that Brendan Fraser from “The Whale” would win.
In the directing category, Battsek stuck with his films and said Martin McDonagh should win but that Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (known as the Daniels) would win for “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”
And although Battsek has a nominee for best picture, he said: “I think ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ will win this. I think the only thing that can stop it is ‘All Quiet on the Western Front.’”