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Oscars 2012 Behind the Scenes: Casting 'The Help' nominees Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, and Jessica Chastain

Each year, the Oscars recognize A-list talent we regularly see on screen, on the red carpet, and in tabloids. But the Academy Awards also reward those who work behind the scenes: the writers, editors, costume designers, and others who help create trophy-worthy movie magic. This Oscars season, we’ll be toasting those off-screen artists by delving into the hidden secrets that helped create the on-screen magic that we — and the Academy — fell in love with. For more access backstage during this Oscars season, click here for’s Oscars Behind the Scenes coverage.

Only one film has three acting Oscar nominations this year: Tate Taylor’s The Help. We asked the movie’s casting directors, Kerry Barden and Paul Schnee, to tell us how Best Actress nominee Viola Davis and Supporting Actress nominees Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain each landed their roles. READ FULL STORY

'The Help' looks to be a sure-fire winner at NAACP Image Awards

The Help will likely add to its bevvy of Hollywood honors at Friday night’sImage Awards.

The film about black maids who speak out against their white employers during the civil rights era leads all nominees with eight bids, including best picture. Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer, Cicely Tyson, and Bryce Dallas Howard are up for acting awards, and Tate Taylor is nominated for outstanding writing and directing.

The medical drama Grey’s Anatomy and football sitcom The Game dominate the TV categories with six nominations each. Beyoncé and Jill Scott rule the recording category with four nods apiece.

Sanaa Lathan and Anthony Mackie are set to host this year’s Image Awards, presented by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Image Awards to honor diversity in the arts. The ceremony will be broadcast live from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on NBC.

Read more:
Inside the Best Picture Nominees: A deep dive into ‘The Help’ 

All 20 Oscar acting nominees pose for official Oscar 'school' portraits. Which is your favorite?

For this year’s Oscars, the 20 acting nominees have posed for photographer Douglas Kirkland in what the Academy calls “Out of Character: Portraits of This Year’s Acting Nominees.” Clicking through them, two things quickly become clear: One, with rare exception, the men weren’t too keen on being creative with their poses. And two, with rare exception, the women were keen on doing anything but a straight-forward pose.

Basically, they’re like the fanciest school portraits ever. Here are my four favorites from the acting categories, starting with Best Supporting Actor (all credits to Douglas Kirkland and AMPAS):  READ FULL STORY

The Academy Awards have undergone a sea change: They're no longer about the audience

A couple of weeks ago, based on the fact that The Artist, as it began to open across the country, didn’t exactly seem to be setting the box office aflame (I don’t mean when compared to Thor — I mean on the traditional indie-crossover circuit), I made an Academy Awards prediction. It had much in common with a lot of the Academy Awards predictions that people have been making recently, in that it was fearlessly wrong. I said that I thought The Artist had peaked, and that The Help would win Best Picture. That could still happen, of course, but at this point I wouldn’t bet the farm on it, or even a nice steak dinner. Despite its less-than-Richter-scale-rattling performance thus far, The Artist, as it racks up wins (the Golden Globes, the Producers Guild, the Directors Guild), is looking more and more like a classic Oscar juggernaut, a runaway awards train fueled by the metaphysics of the entertainment-media echo chamber, in which the relentless chatter about the “inevitability” of one movie winning becomes a big part of the reason that it inevitably wins. (It’s Access Hollywood meets the doctrine of predestination. Or maybe just the doctrine of Harvey.) READ FULL STORY

Viola Davis talks Oscar nomination, why she's not thinking about the competition: 'I need my sanity'

a singular affect. That’s what we did. It was truly an ensemble.”

Perhaps that’s why the actress isn’t stacking herself up against her competition, which includes Doubt costar Meryl Streep, nominated for The Iron Lady.  “It would drive me crazy to think about that on a day-to-day basis,” she says. “Especially when you have a life — a husband, a kid, a life — to fill every day with. Who is going to win, how many votes will we get, and what do the pundits say, and where are we right now…  I can’t do it. I need my sanity.”

Like costar Octavia Spencer, Davis is disappointed that director Tate Taylor wasn’t nominated (“I’m a little surprised… [But] that’s the nature of competition, you know? [This is] different from football or baseball where it’s absolutely and exact science. This? It’s so subjective”), but is still proud of the team effort behind The Help. “We all knew it was really an important piece,” she says. “If you look at the landscape of what’s out there, there’s no other movie like it or looks like it. It truly is, I always say, an American movie.”

(Reporting by Sara Vilkomerson)

Read more:
Oscars 2012: Watch videos for this year’s nominees 
Oscars 2012: And the nominees are…
Oscars 2012: EW’s special coverage

Oscar nominee Octavia Spencer on who she thinks was snubbed, and why she's not drinking tonight

Thank GOD I hadn’t deluded myself.”

While Spencer is thrilled about her nomination for Best Supporting Actress, she still has a bone to pick with the Academy. Good friend and The Help director Tate Taylor was snubbed, despite the film’s nod for Best Picture. “It’s a bittersweet morning,” she says. “I would have loved to have Tate Taylor nominated as writer or director but… it’s bittersweet.” READ FULL STORY

Octavia Spencer on her first Sundance film, and her Oscar nomination slumber party -- VIDEO

If you’re looking for Octavia Spencer tonight — the night before the Academy Award nominations are announced in the wee hours of the morning tomorrow — you’ll probably find her hanging in her PJs with The Help director Tate Taylor. That’s what the best supporting actress front-runner told EW’s Dave Karger yesterday at the Sundance Film Festival, while discussing Spencer’s role as an alcohol addiction counselor in the dramedy Smashed. Karger also talked with Spencer about why Michael Fassbender is stalking her, and what her favorite thing has been about riding the wave of The Help‘s wild success. Check out their interview below:  READ FULL STORY

Brad Pitt talks collaborating with 'The Help' director Tate Taylor

It was back in August when news broke that The Help director Tate Taylor was circling an adaptation of the 2002 novel Peace Like a River, about an 11-year-old asthmatic boy who goes on a cross-country search with his sister and father for his older brother who has been charged with murder, to be produced by Brad Pitt’s Plan B. But Pitt’s been waiting longer than that to bring the story to the screen. Peace Like a River was the second project Pitt bought when he started Plan B in 2002. “The first one was The Departed. The second one was this one, and it’s just taken awhile for it to gestate and find the right guy to tell it,” Pitt told us at the Producers Guild Awards on Saturday.

Any chance will be seeing Pitt take the director’s chair anytime soon? “Hell no. Not interested. Not my thing,” he said.

Read more:
Producers Guild Awards red carpet: Angelina Jolie, Jessica Chastain go black to basics — PHOTOS
‘The Artist,’ ‘Tintin’ win Producers Guild Awards

Owen's awards-movie scorecard: Who said all this stuff gets to be decided before the movies even come out?

A few weeks ago, the holiday movie season — or, at least, the conventional wisdom on it — went a little nutty. The media decreed the following things: that Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, with a $39.6 million opening weekend gross, was a disappointment; that Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, with a $23 million opening-weekend gross, was also a disappointment; and that The Descendants (closing in on $30 million) was underperforming. These weren’t opinions — they were incontrovertible movie-industry facts, delivered with the requisite tut-tutting of sky-is-falling doom. As for the awards season, that had all been sorted out, thank you, even though most of the relevant films had barely even begun to be seen by audiences. The Artist, mopping up critics’ awards, had Harvey Weinstein behind it, going into full-court-press Oscar mode, so of course it was foregone that that was going to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Best Actor looked like a runoff between George Clooney and The Artist‘s Jean Dujardin. And The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo? Sorry, not even in the running. Not an “awards film.” (Too violent! Too pulpy!) READ FULL STORY

'My Week With Marilyn', 'Tinker Tailor' lead BAFTA longlists

With 16 inclusions each, My Week With Marilyn and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy are leading the pack in the longlists for the 2012 British Academy Film Awards, which were announced today. In addition to making the cut for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay, both films have their stars in contention. (Marilyn‘s Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Redmayne, Judi Dench, and Zoe Wanamaker, as well as Tinker Tailor‘s Gary Oldman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, John Hurt, and Kathy Burke, are all on the acting longlists.)

Following Marilyn and Tinker Tailor for the most entries on the BAFTA longlists were The Iron Lady (14), The Artist, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Midnight in Paris, War Horse (13 each),  The Help, Hugo, Drive (12 each), and The Ides of March and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2 (11 each.) Notable exclusions from the BAFTA longlist include Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Melancholia, and Martha Marcy May Marlene, while major Oscar contender The Tree of Life earned just one mention in the cinematography category.

The longlist kicks off the first round of voting for the BAFTAs, which includes 15 entries in most categories. The five nominees will be chosen from these longlists in the second round. However, there are only five for animation and documentary in the first round of voting.  Nominations in all categories, including the shortlist for the Rising Star Award, will be announced on Jan. 17. Check out the entire BAFTAs 2012 longlist, including Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay, Documentary, Foreign Language Film, and Outstanding British Film here.  (Note: * marks  the five chapter picks.) READ FULL STORY

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