In an awards season that’s been markedly ramped down due to the ongoing writers’ strike, the inaugural presentation of the Virtuoso awards allowed a convergence of some of Hollywood’s most noteworthy young talent on Wednesday night. The ceremony honored five breakout performances by Casey Affleck, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard, James McAvoy and Amy Ryan through interviews with an editor from the Hollywood Reporter.
Walking down the red carpet, one of the most shocking things to behold was how young Ellen Page looks in person. Sure, she plays a teenager in “Juno,” but it is easy to forget that an actress with such an accomplished resume is only 20 years old – a fact that made Page the only honoree too young to attend the event’s after party.
The ceremony began with individual interviews and clips from the recipients’ bodies of work, beginning with Affleck. Though Affleck was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of assassin Robert Ford in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” many thought he stole the screen from quintessential leading man Brad Pitt, who played the film’s titular outlaw. In true virtuoso fashion, Affleck also turned in a strong performance in “Gone Baby Gone” in 2007.
Marion Cotillard was almost unrecognizable onstage to anybody who’s only familiar with her performance in the Edith Piaf biopic, “La Vie En Rose.” While the film itself left some critics a bit cold, there is no denying Cotillard’s powerful transformation as she plays the French singer; Cotillard convincingly portrays Piaf from age 19 to age 49 as she grows progressively more insane. The film’s biggest challenge, in Cotillard’s opinion? Learning to lip-synch effectively.
The charismatic James McAvoy entertained the crowd by recounting, in his thick Scottish accent, just how terrible it was to film his notorious “Atonement” sex scene with costar Kiera Knightley – just awful, I’m sure. His humorous stories were a hit with the audience, and were punctuated periodically with screams from the adoring young female fans in attendance.
Ellen Page played the sarcastic and outspoken heroine of “Juno” this year, but in person, she was just as articulate but much more soft-spoken than one would imagine. Page, dressed semi-casually in black pants and boots, discussed how she deals with questions that some of her movies invite, stating that after making a film like “Hard Candy,” “Juno” wasn’t all that controversial.
“I feel a little overdressed,” Amy Ryan remarked shortly after making her way to the stage, but the 38-year-old actress deserved a little pampering after her gritty role in last year’s Ben Affleck-helmed film, “Gone Baby Gone.” After a lengthy career working in theater, television and the big screen, Ryan has finally received the accolades she deserves, and a Best Supporting Actress nomination to boot.
One of the event’s weakest sections was the portion when all of the actors returned to the stage to engage in a panel-style interview. There was not much rapport between the actors, who acknowledged that this was this first time most of them had met. Hopefully a deal will be reached so that these five stars will meet again on the red carpet for the Oscar ceremony next month, but in any case, they are all sure to be seeing more of each other in following years.