Legendary actress Ruby Dee has been starring in films—including Raisin in the Sun and Do the Right Thing—for more than 60 years. Her long list of accolades includes an Emmy® win and a Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award®. Now at age 83, she has earned her first Oscar® nomination. In American Gangster, Ruby plays Mama Lucas, the mother of Harlem drug lord Frank Lucas, played by Oscar-winner Denzel Washington.
"One of my granddaughters called me to say, 'You know, Grandma, you're being nominated.' I said, 'Yes, I've been nominated for a SAG award, an NAACP award, an AARP award.' Which is quite an accomplishment," Ruby says. "'And now Oscar.' I said, 'You mean, like the Oscar?' I was very excited."
Does Ruby think there's some lesson about getting her first nomination at age 83? "If you can just keep on breathing, anything is liable to happen," she jokes.
Though her screen time is short—only about 10 minutes—her performance was memorable enough for the Academy to take notice. "If you blink you might miss me," she jokes.
Ruby says the experience of working on American Gangster was an amazing one. "It came right out of the bowels of where I grew up, and in myself, too. This whole thing, the character Denzel plays, Frank Lucas, and these kinds of men I grew up with and have known in Harlem who didn't have the opportunity, couldn't get the money to go into business—that whole racist ghetto thing. The banks, can't get money. But still, that doesn't mean you've got to go and shoot people's heads off. And that's where I come in, I think, as a relief. Somebody at least spanked the boy."
Ruby says part of her nomination belongs to her late husband,
acclaimed actor and activist Ossie Davis.
"He's up there working on it," she says. "Do you realize, Oprah, since he's been gone I have done what I've never done in my whole career. And that is, I've done about seven projects one right after the other—and I've never done that. It's been like a year or two years maybe between things.
"He knows about these things
You may know him best for his role as one of the bumbling Malloy brothers in the star-studded Ocean's caper films, but Casey Affleck has finally earned his first Oscar® nomination after years of honing his skills with small, yet memorable, roles in movies like To Die For and Good Will Hunting.
Casey's nomination comes for the Western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. His turn as Robert Ford, a resentful member of Jesse James's outlaw gang, is being called a breakthrough performance.
The film was also a chance for Casey to reunite with his Ocean's co-star Brad Pitt. "Brad is so fantastic," he says. "I knew him pretty well, and I knew that he's a very charming, easygoing, kind of disarming guy, so I wasn't too intimidated."
In 2007, Casey also starred as a troubled private investigator in his brother Ben's directing debut, Gone Baby Gone. "He did such a good job, I was really proud of him. It was nice to see him kind of blossom in this new way," Casey says.
Casey and his wife, Summer Phoenix, just had their second child in January 2008, and Casey says his family has always stood behind him. Casey's been quoted as saying his family would be supportive if he said he wanted to be a Martian, wear only banana skins, make love to ashtrays and eat tree bark! "It's certainly true," Casey says. "I think my family, they've always been very supportive and put up with all kinds of things. So if I was eating tree bark and making love to ashtrays, they might be okay with it."
When the calls started coming in the morning the Oscar® nominations were
announced, Casey says he couldn't bring himself to pick up the phone. "I sort of
knew if the phone started ringing at 5 a.m. that I'd probably been nominated,
and if I didn't, then I didn't. But it started ringing," he says. "I have two
kids, and if they're not jumping on my face, I usually don't get out of bed. I
just kind of let the phone ring and checked my messages a little while
When it comes to the
big night, Casey says he's not sure what to expect. "I have to say I'm not so
much looking forward to it. It's kind of a weird, daunting…just the idea of
going to this thing is a little bit strange," he says. "I've been to some things
like that. They're always a little bit overwhelming for me, and I think this is
probably going to be the monster of all red carpets."
In Gone Baby Gone, Tony Award® winner and Best Supporting Actress nominee Amy Ryan is utterly believable as Helene McCready, the drug-addicted single mother in Boston who hires two private investigators after her 4-year-old daughter is abducted.
Although she's acted on stage and on television, Gone Baby Gone is Amy's first major role in a motion picture. "It's insane," she says. "It's a roller coaster ride, but it's the first hill that you're excited. Then it's the dizzying, nauseating turns, and you didn't tell me there's going to be a corkscrew and a loop and a tunnel! But it's fun."
Accents are a challenge for any actress, and director Ben Affleck told Amy he needed a flawless Boston brogue for the film. "Ben said, 'I want people at the end of the day to ask me where I pulled that actor off of the street,'" Amy says. "So there's a lot of pressure to get it right."
So how did a girl from Queens master Boston's difficult dialect? "Well, I had [co-star Casey Affleck] and Ben on both shoulders, and Ben cast a lot of nonactors and local actors in the films," she says. "Mostly it's by listening. I think that the best lesson as an actress is just to observe as much as you can. So I would just keep an ear out to anything authentic."
Amy said maintaining the accent could be tricky, but she always stayed in it on set. "I didn't want to stick out. I prefer to hide away into roles and let the character play through me rather than move in," she says.
Amy says the search is already on for the perfect red carpet dress. "Thank
goodness there are professionals helping, I can barely pick out jeans and a
T-shirt!" she says. "But I think it's like anything, when you see it, you know
it, it feels right."
lose, Amy can't wait for her Oscar® night experience. "I'm most looking forward
to that moment of stepping out on the carpet. I think that's fun," she says.
"Everything else is golden. I got a beautiful e-mail from Ben yesterday that
said it doesn't matter. It's over. It's finished. It doesn't matter who wins, it
doesn't matter who loses. Because the point is, even not to get it, look at the
company I would keep of the ones who also didn't get it. That's not too bad. I'm
just over the moon about that."
A first-time nominee for Best Actress, Marion Cotillard thrilled Hollywood in her role as French singer Edith Piaf in the French language biopic La Vie En Rose.
Marion's transformation into the legendary performer—from her teen years spent begging on the street to her final days as a morphine addict—has earned her critical raves and a Golden Globe® win.
This year, the Golden Globes traditional ceremony was canceled because of the writer's strike, so Marion says her award was delivered in an unconventional way—to her hotel room by room service! Still, she says she wasn't disappointed with the way things turned out. "I have so many things to enjoy that I can't be disappointed," she says. "What is happening to me right now is something unique—it's huge."
Oprah calls Marion's performance in La Vie en Rose transformative. "It's like you opened yourself up and poured her in," Oprah says.
From the moment she read the script, Marion says she knew she couldn't pass up this role. "You don't have the opportunity being a 30-year-old to play a whole life," she says. "I saw right away it was something unique that I would have so much fun."
Marion says that, in some ways, she's been preparing for this role her entire life. "When I was young, I loved to play the old lady, the old man. That was back when I was in 9 on stage in vacation camp," she says.
Marion says she spent a lot of time watching and listening to Edith. "I chose a way to work which is not a very classical way. I decided not to experience the voice or the body language until I was on set," she says. "I would say I fed myself with her."
What's Marion most looking forward to on Oscar® night? Everything!
"I'm a French actress with a
French movie. I would never have imagined that I would be here with you Oprah,
to have a [Golden Globe®]," she says. "It's a whole dream, so I will definitely
enjoy every single second of it."
It's the Super Bowl of the theater world! The 80th Annual Academy Awards®
will take place on Sunday, February 24, at 7p.m. CT.
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