The Awards Class of 2012: Nominees Forge Friendships On Road to Oscar

Hollywood's Awards Season is a marathon, as the same herd of nominees rush from one party to another. After two months cocktailing and dining together, friendships old and new are strengthened. As members of this year’s Awards Season Class of 2012 tell PopcornBiz, you suddenly find yourself bonding – sometimes unexpectedly – with the fellow nominees while sharing eight weeks of surreal celebration.

George Clooney says he gets a kick out of actually socializing with his colleagues in a way he thinks the public imagines he does all the time.

“A lot of people at home think we all just hang out together,” chuckles Clooney, who’s been nominated for a slew of trophies, including an Academy Award for Best Actor for “The Descendants.” “I think that they think we're always at the Beverly Hilton drinking champagne, and the truth is that I hadn't seen Brad Pitt in about a year when I saw him at Globes, or in Palm Springs before that. So it's fun to catch up and it's fun to see people that I like and that I haven't seen in a long time, and get to meet people. I've gotten to spend some time with Gary Oldman, who I've really enjoyed spending time with.”

Pitt agrees with his friend and fellow nominee's assessment, especially when it comes to forging new relationships.

“I've made some great friends with Jean Dujardin and Demian Bichir,” the Oscar-nominated “Money Ball” star explains. “It's been a pleasure. Both gave extremely different and strong performances, and it is a nice time of the year for us when we get to get together and pay respect.”

“I had a chance to talk to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie at the SAG Awards and they were really, really nice,” adds Bichir, nominated for his starring role in “A Better Life.” “They were really moved by the film. They liked it a lot and they just wanted to talk about that.”

“I met Patton Oswalt a couple of times and I've gotten on ever so well with him, and I bumped into Alexander Payne on a plane flight,” says Kenneth Branagh when asked to name-drop some colleagues-turned-chums in this year’s awards scrum. “Then the other week I was sitting next to Meryl Streep, I've had a lovely chat with the wondrous Glenn Close…”

“The chance to catch up with people and enjoy this moment that's away from the sometimes dark days of raising money, trying to get an idea past people – and actually being in the celebration business,” adds Branagh, “that's fun.”

“You start meeting different actors, like Octavia Spencer – you see them at each event,” says Jean Dujardin, the French-born Oscar-nominated star of “The Artist” who says he’s enjoyed getting to know the Alabama-bred star of “The Help. “She's very natural and she's enjoying the process. She's very warm and welcoming.”

“I've met a lot of people on this wonderful circuit,” agrees Spencer, though she’s happy to retain a little awe in her encounters. “It's just a bunch of really normal people who happen to be named Glenn Close and George Clooney and Brad Pitt. And sometimes you just find yourself kind of ogling them – and I still do. But they've been very gracious throughout this whole thing. I think I've kind of mauled everyone thus far.”

Sometimes encounters with the stars you revere go swimmingly, as in “Descendants” director Alexander Payne’s scenario: “I was at the Golden Globes a couple weeks ago and met Meryl Streep, and it was a thrill for 45 seconds to have those laughing eyes look at me,” Payne recalls. “And I did tell her 'Many people in this room tonight are slinging around versions of this phrase, but I'd love to get my mitts on you someday.' And she laughed and she took it in the spirit in which I offered it. That was a thrill for me. I do get star-struck from time to time. And I had 45 seconds of being star-struck meeting Meryl Streep.”

And sometimes the celebrity encounters bring you back down to earth, as “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” actor Andy Serkis points out. “At the Golden Globe Awards Morgan Freeman's son Alfonso, came running up to me and he said, 'Are you Andy Serkis?'’ he remembers. “I said, 'Yeah,' and he said, 'Oh, my God – come with me!' And he dragged me kind of into the pit where all the top guys are, all the way to the front to meet Morgan. He dragged me up to me Morgan. And Alfonso goes, 'Dad, Dad – this is Andy Serkis! This is Andy Serkis!' And Morgan just looked at me and said 'And what do you do?'”

“Everyone I've met has blown me away,” says “Young Adult” star Oswalt. “I got to talk to Paul Schrader. I'm as excited to talk to him as I am Lee Majors. Robert Loggia, I got to talk to him; Al Pacino – meeting all those people is amazing…I'm a big film nerd, and so you go to these parties and like Catherine O'Hara is there and I talked to her for an hour and nerded out about 'SCTV,' and then you get to talk to people that meant something to you growing up about their work and about their films. That to me has been the best part of the process.”

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