news At the Oscar Nominees Luncheon: Big Stars, Camaraderie Among Nominees — and Another Slap Apology

While this year’s Oscars are finally back on a regular schedule, and the 2023 Nominees Luncheon was back at the Beverly Hilton after a hiatus that even predated the pandemic, certain changes still abound.

In her welcome speech, newly-elected President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Janet Yang congratulated the 182 of this year’s nominees in attendance, and said, “I feel it’s important to take this rare opportunity while we’re gathered here together to address some of the Academy’s recent challenges. Last year, as I’m sure you all remember, we experienced an unprecedented event at the Oscars. What happened on stage was unacceptable, and the response from the organization was inadequate.”

Yang continued, “We learned from this that the Academy must be fully transparent and accountable in our actions, and particularly insist on acting quickly, compassionately, and decisively, for ourselves and for our industry, you should and can expect no less from us going forward.”

Though her speech received applause, some guests would later admit privately that they did not even realize Yang was referencing the infamous slap incident, where Best Actor winner Will Smith stormed the stage to strike presenter Chris Rock for a joke he had made at wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s expense.

Upon returning to the podium to introduce producer and governor-at-large Devon Franklin, who did an impeccable roll call of all the nominees present for the annual class photo, Yang received the biggest applause when she said, “We have worked really hard to present all awards live on the show this year.” Quite the relief for the short film nominees in attendance, who were among the categories last year that got moved to a pre-taped ceremony shown in clips throughout the 94th Oscars telecast.

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 13: (L-R) Joshua Seftel, Malala Yousafzai, Daniel Rohr, Shane Boris, Daniel Kwan, guest, and Daniel Scheinert attend the 95th Annual Oscars Nominees Luncheon at The Beverly Hilton on February 13, 2023 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Joshua Seftel, Malala Yousafzai, Daniel Rohr, Shane Boris, Daniel Kwan, guest, and Daniel Scheinert attend the 95th Annual Oscars Nominees Luncheon

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Hearing each name called, the game always becomes “Who is getting the most applause?” The answer: “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” From Best Supporting Actress nominee Jamie Lee Curtis being the very first name called up to the risers, to Best Actress Michelle Yeoh, and even producer Jonathan Wang, the room kept the most energy for the filmmakers behind A24’s multiversal dramedy, an unexpected frontrunner.

Still, the claps gave little indication of who exactly is the favorite among Oscar voters in attendance, but Best Actor nominees Colin Farrell (“The Banshees of Inisherin”) and Austin Butler (“Elvis”) both received a spirited response when called to the stage. Meanwhile, the attendees who seemed to receive a huge applause just by virtue of it being a surprise they came to the event were artist Nan Goldin, subject of Best Documentary contender “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” and “Top Gun: Maverick” producer/star Tom Cruise.

Nominees for the 95th Oscars® were celebrated at a luncheon held at the Beverly Hilton, Monday, February 13, 2023. The 95th Oscars will air on Sunday, March 12, live on ABC.

Nominees for the 95th Oscars® were celebrated at a luncheon held at the Beverly Hilton, Monday, February 13, 2023

Richard Harbaugh / ©A.M.P.A.S.

The actor has not been on the award circuit due to various upcoming projects, like two new “Mission: Impossible” sequels, so when he entered the hotel’s International Ballroom, he could barely make it a couple yards inside before everyone from Best Supporting Actor frontrunner Ke Huy Quan (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”) to Best Supporting Actress frontrunner Angela Bassett (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”) stopped by his side to say hello and take photos.

Opting to go straight to the tables, rather than be crushed up in the main mingling area was filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, nominated for Best Animated Feature for “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio”). He first chatted with “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” director Ryan Coogler, nominated this year for co-writing Best Original Song contender “Lift Me Up,” but his fellow animation nominee Domee Shi (“Turning Red”) was right in tow.

Though some nominees had to rush out as soon as the camera stopped clicking for the class photo, many stuck right by the stage, continuing to chat with the mix of colleagues that were around. Best Supporting Actress Stephanie Hsu (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”) said hello to Best Animated Short nominee Pamela Ribon (“My Year of Dicks”), who in turn suggested their two films complement each other well. Hsu, who stands just under five feet tall, also admitted that she had talked to Best Supporting Actor nominee Brian Tyree Henry (“Causeway”), who was standing next to her on the top riser, about the possibility of needing a boost when the photographer was ready to take the picture.

Diane Warren, also on the top riser, and coincidentally placed next to “Top Gun: Maverick” producer Jerry Bruckheimer, said she reminded the mogul that she is all in on collaborating with him again on a sequel to “Coyote Ugly.”

Ultimately, the event had a spirit of camaraderie that was very palpable. After a private conversation in the corner with fellow Best Actor nominee Brendan Fraser (“The Whale”), Butler shared that much of the award season events he attends are focused on his one film, so it is nice to be in a place where he can talk to the people from the other nominated projects. For example, he just had a quick chat with Best Adapted Screenplay nominee Kazuo Ishiguro (“Living”), where he told the Nobel laureate how affected he was by one of his podcast interviews. Butler also noted that he had a nice moment with Farrell on the carpet, which falls in line with how “The Banshees of Inisherin” star was seen exiting the bathroom, excitedly asking event staff where he could find fellow Irishman and Best Actor nominee Paul Mescal (“Aftersun”).

After a couple weeks post-nominations that were so focused on the horse race of it all, and what snubs and surprises occurred — Best Actress nominees Ana de Armas (“Blonde”) and Andrea Riseborough (“To Leslie”) were notably not in attendance — this year’s Nominees Luncheon served as a reminder that the Oscars is there for all the artists to celebrate each other, even if only a select few get to walk away with a statue come March 12.