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Oscar battle fatigue season

March 02, 2009|Rachel Abramowitz
  • "There's always some postpartum depression that sets in" after the Oscars, said "Milk" producer Bruce Cohen, whose film took home the best actor award for Sean Penn. "You're back to the real world after this whole whirlwind of award shows and parties."
"There's always some postpartum depression that sets in"… (Kevork Djansezian / Getty…)

It was only after the champagne had been drunk, the diamonds returned and the statuettes flown home that the invitations went out.

The event? The first Awards Consultants, Publicists & Studio Execs Wrap-Up Party, a 200-person gala for the legion of BlackBerrying worker bees who've been toiling 24/7 for the last several months to make sure that Kate, Penelope and the "Slumdog Millionaire" team went home with gold in their hands.

It's an opportunity for the "stars behind the stars to get together and chitchat," said Hollywood Film Festival founder Carlos de Abreu, whose festival is sponsoring the upcoming fete.

Drinks (and lots of them) will probably be in order. It was a particularly stressful and intense awards season, given the proliferation of the online press devoted to Oscar minutiae and an increased focus on the backstage campaign machinations in the consumer media. And the economy had its toll too, because there was added pressure to make up in old-fashioned sweat equity -- human toil -- what the studios were reluctant to spend on ads and media buys.

The week after the Oscars had an air of sweet liberation for many of the behind-the-scenes skirmishers who worked countless weekends and evenings, slogging through the endless sushi-caviar-steak dinners, strategizing appearances with the precision of military campaigns, planting strategic publicity leaks, shadowing stars on the red carpet, and soothing the nerves of lots and lots of very important people.

The end of awards season is an "utter relief," sighed one publicist who declined to be named because of company policy but who spent the weeks leading to Feb. 22 longing for the Oscars to be over. "I'm glad we won, but I don't even feel celebratory."

Indeed, the sense of the circus leaving town was palpable the day after the Oscars at the Four Seasons Hotel, traditionally an outpost for Oscar attendees. Irrfan Khan, who plays the police inspector in "Slumdog Millionaire," loped through, stopping to say goodbye to various well wishers. David Kross, the young German actor who stars opposite Kate Winslet in "The Reader," huddled with his director, Stephen Daldry, studiously ignoring the scrum of paparazzi outside the hotel screaming his name.

Oscar consultant Tony Angelotti was at the hotel that Monday morning -- working, of course -- after partying late at the Four Seasons bar with his clients, the Pixar team, which won the animated feature Oscar for "Wall-E." But instead of award strategizing, he was monitoring a news conference for the upcoming film "Duplicity" held by Julia Roberts, who was speaking to the indefatigable members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., who will hand out next year's Golden Globes.

Angelotti looked pale and tired. "It's now the adrenaline drop," he said of post-Oscar season. "It usually leads to depression. It's the way movie people experience being off a movie. For three months, it's intense, intense, intense, and your body goes through a chemical change."

This said, for those in the trenches, the outcome was all but predetermined. "This year was such a steamroller -- the 'Slumdog' of it all -- almost nobody else ever had a chance to win," Angelotti explained. "It was mostly about doing the job you needed to do."

"There's always some postpartum depression that sets in" after the Oscars, said "Milk" producer Bruce Cohen, whose film took home the best actor award for Sean Penn. "You're back to the real world after this whole whirlwind of award shows and parties."

For some trophy winners, getting back to work isn't actually on the agenda for the moment. "I tried. I'm doing a second draft of 'Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test' for Gus [director Van Sant]," said Oscar-winning "Milk" screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who said he had received several thousand e-mails from strangers who were touched by his Oscar speech. "I don't think this is the week to be focused. That little gold man takes up a lot of your head space. There's a lot to process."

After an orgy of media on Oscar night and the next day, the "Slumdog" team -- director Danny Boyle, screenwriter Simon Beaufoy and producer Christian Colson -- and some of the children in the film went to Fox to thank the team from the studio's Searchlight division. By Friday morning, Colson was home in London, "still in the process of transitioning," he said, explaining that he essentially had been on the road promoting the movie since August's Telluride festival. "It felt like a really long time not to be working. What everyone is doing is coming back and tending to a lot of business which was being neglected."

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