US National Board of Review Awards Gala, part 2

Terence Winter, Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Lee Daniels, Morgan Neville and David Heyman on films and fairy tales.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Sarah Polley, National Board of Review Award winner Best Documentary for Stories We Tell.
Sarah Polley, National Board of Review Award winner Best Documentary for Stories We Tell. Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

More on fairy tales from the 2014 National Board of Review Awards Gala during a magically cold evening with The Wolf Of Wall Street screenwriter Terence Winter, Lee Daniels' The Butler director, Lee Daniels, who presented the Best Directorial Debut award to Ryan Coogler for Fruitvale Station, Creative Innovation in Filmmaking Award winning producer David Heyman for Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity and Oscar documentary short-listed 20 Feet From Stardom director Morgan Neville.

The Wolf Of Wall Street screenwriter Terence Winter: "…if you find that glorifying or glamorous, then so be it."
The Wolf Of Wall Street screenwriter Terence Winter: "…if you find that glorifying or glamorous, then so be it." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Sarah Polley was presented with her Best Documentary award by Academy Award winner Olympia Dukakis. Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio did a standup routine trading lines as they accepted their Spotlight Award for career collaboration.

Jessica Chastain, last year's National Board of Review Best Actress winner presented this year's Best Supporting Actress to Fruitvale Station star Octavia Spencer – the two actresses had co-starred in Tate Taylor's The Help.

Fairy tales are much older than the Disney versions most are familiar with. On the red carpet, before Meryl Streep presented the award for best actress to Emma Thompson and spoke about Walt Disney’s bias, I found out from some of the filmmakers about their favorite tales.

Steve Buscemi and Edie Falco presented the Best Adapted Screenplay award to Terence Winter on an appropriately very wintry night. The presenters worked together on Winter's Sopranos and Buscemi currently stars in his Boardwalk Empire.

This is how you destroy people's dignity and make them yours, Martin Scorsese seems to say with every act of ruthlessness that leads us into the abyss of self-loathing sadistic bastards in The Wolf Of Wall Street.

Anne-Katrin Titze: Do you have a favorite fairy tale? The Wolf Of Wall Street is not exactly a Cinderella story.

Lee Daniels on Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler: "His lens will be the lens of the minority."
Lee Daniels on Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler: "His lens will be the lens of the minority." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Terence Winter: No it isn't. Favorite fairy tale? Yes, Hansel and Gretel is, I guess. I find it really disturbing and scary. I always keep going back to that in my head. I can't believe that's a children's story.

AKT: Maybe a version of it could be your next project?

TW: It could be, yeah. It's disturbing on so many different levels.

AKT: So is The Wolf Of Wall Street. It is far too disturbing to be seen as glorifying, I’d say.

Issues of being in and out of control command the movements of the script by Winter. The film targets the pleasures of immediate gratification. Nothing changes, Scorsese does not budge. Without mercy he piles shouting on top of shouting. Riches upon riches. No taste, no subtlety. All is blurred because the pursuit of more wealth and more drugs and more women to degrade does not go with a clear head.

TW: To be addicted to drugs and have your family unravel and go to jail - if you find that glorifying or glamorous, then so be it. But again, it's sort of a head scratcher.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Spotlight Award winner with Martin Scorsese for their career collaboration.
Leonardo DiCaprio, Spotlight Award winner with Martin Scorsese for their career collaboration. Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Jonah Hill as side-kick Donnie Azoff is a most dangerous creature in this morally bankrupt world. Hill said he was "thrilled" to be at the gala with his co-star, director, and screenwriter being honored. DiCaprio’s attempt to go back to 1896 (the day that last matched the single digit temperatures of January 7, 2014) was preempted by Scorsese during their acceptance speeches.

Leonardo DiCaprio: There are directors, and then there are auteurs. When one speaks about Martin Scorsese’s relationship to the world of cinema, one must reflect upon its entire history. You can’t just talk about one film. So in commemoration of tonight, I’ve decided to talk about his entire knowledge of the history of cinema. So if you’d just take a moment and go back to 1896, the Lumière Brothers [Auguste and Louis] and Thomas Edison… Or we can skip ahead even to D. W. Griffith, with his small hand-crank camera. You know, they’d even have the same perforation on the film stock that we’ve taken for granted today, but...

Martin Scorsese: I think they get the picture. We don’t need to go back that far, to the perforation of film stock, for God’s sake.

DiCaprio: But I have, like, another 15 minutes.

Scorsese: No, no, no. I think the whole point, the natural point is 1909, the early history of cinema.

David Heyman on Sandra Bullock in Gravity: "I really related to this woman's journey of learning to live very much in the present."
David Heyman on Sandra Bullock in Gravity: "I really related to this woman's journey of learning to live very much in the present." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

DiCaprio: It’s supposed to be about collaboration. We should collaborate on something, do something together.

Scorsese: Collaborating on something, the idea would be to wrap it up. So let’s wrap it up.

On the red carpet, Lee Daniels surrounded by the media talked about people sending him letters about their experiences in the Civil Rights Movement, people being blinded and beaten.

Anne-Katrin Titze: It very much puts the talk of “award season stress” in perspective.

Lee Daniels: People, not only African Americans, but also white Americans actually fought for us to be talking like this right now. That's the wisdom. That's how I live this whole award season.

AKT: You are presenting the Best Directorial Debut award to Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler.

LD: When you're a filmmaker, you're a minority as it is. As filmmakers we are all minorities. We are not looked at as a lawyer, a doctor… But as a black filmmaker you're the minority within the minority. I'm so honored to give him the award tonight. His lens will be the lens of the minority.

AKT: Speaking of overcoming obstacles and the importance of telling a variety of stories and not just one, what’s your favorite fairy tale?

LD (before dashing to present, his last words on the red carpet): My favorite fairy tale is The Little Mermaid!

Morgan Neville and I spoke about his latest documentary 20 Feet From Stardom and sang along at Peggy Siegal's wonderful caroling event a few short weeks ago at the Rum House in the Edison Hotel. Darlene Love performed "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" with Paul Shaffer on the piano with two of the stars of his film Judith Hill and Lisa Fischer shining in the spotlight on that evening.

Jessica Chastain presented Octavia Spencer with the Best Supporting Actress for Fruitvale Station.
Jessica Chastain presented Octavia Spencer with the Best Supporting Actress for Fruitvale Station. Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Anne-Katrin Titze: Do you have a favorite fairy tale?

Morgan Neville: Favorite fairy tale?

AKT: 20 Feet from Stardom has some themes found in classic tales.

MN: There is a kind of Cinderella aspect to it. I've two small kids. I read them books all the time and see all the movies.

AKT: Any favorites your kids have?

MN: We just saw Frozen [directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee], which they loved. Based on the tale.

AKT: The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen.

MN: Andersen, yes. So we got the book and we read that, which was wonderful. Then we actually saw a ballet version of it, too, of the Ice Queen. Now I like it even more.

AKT: An upcoming project?

MN: I will be doing a film with Yo-Yo Ma, shooting all over the Middle East.

The Creative Innovation in Filmmaking Award was presented to Gravity producer David Heyman and visual effects supervisor Tim Webber by Entertainment Weekly editor Jess Cagle. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and director Alfonso Cuarón shared in being honored with this inaugural National Board of Review Award.

Anne-Katrin Titze: How did you get involved with Gravity after producing the Harry Potter films?

David Heyman: With Gravity, I really related to this woman's journey of learning to live very much in the present. I choose projects that emotionally connect with me at the time. It's projects that touch me, that move me, that make me laugh and make me cry or the story of an outsider that we can all relate to.

The Wolf Of Wall Street star Jonah Hill: "I'm thrilled to be here."
The Wolf Of Wall Street star Jonah Hill: "I'm thrilled to be here." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

AKT: Do you have any advice for someone who wanted to become a producer?

DH: Be passionate. Follow your heart, because you are going to be rejected day in and day out. I face rejection on a daily basis, it's inevitable. If you are a producer or an actor or a director, or anyone in the business, you are turned down again and again. You got to be tenacious and you got to be passionate and you got to believe in what you're doing.

AKT: Do you have a favorite fairy tale?

DH: Gosh. That's a really good question. You know, I've never been asked that. It's a brilliant question. I've got a five-year-old and I read a lot of fairy tales to him.

AKT: Does he have a favorite?

DH: He is reading Asterix at the moment. I really relate to the dark ones. If you look at the Grimms' fairy tales, like Rumplestiltskin, in a way what they were doing was preparing children for life. They weren't all sweet.

AKT: That's exactly how you were describing what it means to be a producer, a journey through rejections.

DH: I'm living a fairy tale!

AKT: You mentioned Rumplestiltskin - be careful at the dinner, so that your secret won't be overheard!

David Heyman's life in a fairy tale is likely to continue during the awards season.

The Academy Award nominations will be announced on January 16.

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