Celebrating Good Times for a Great Cause at Sir Elton John’s Oscar Bash

Even a torrential downpour couldn’t dampen the spirits at the 23rd annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party hosted by Sir Elton John and David Furnish. In spectacular fashion, the event raised nearly $6 million for AIDS research.

With all those funds raised for a good cause, the glitzy celebration marks the grand finale to awards season, beginning with cocktails before the Oscars followed by a festive five-course dinner, a rousing musical performance and then a rollicking afterparty that goes into the wee hours.

The crowd went crazy when Sir Elton joined Nile Rodgers and Chic for the end of their set that featured classic hits including “Le Freak,” “We Are Family,” “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsa, Yowsa, Yowsa),” “Everybody Dance,” and “Good Times.”

Held again at a specially designed tent set up at the City of West Hollywood Park across from the Pacific Design Center, guests watched the ceremony and later, the musical performance in a glamorous ballroom set with purple tablecloths and beautiful floral centerpieces.

For the third consecutive year, Chef Gordon Ramsay designed the menu, assisted by Chef Wayne Elias of Crumble Catering. It featured Hamachi crudo, curried cauliflower soup, pan seared sea bass or rosemary crusted filet and a mixed green salad of butter lettuce, radicchio and watercress, dressed with white balsamic vinaigrette. For dessert, a delicious concoction of meringue, lemon zest, strawberries and vanilla Chantilly.

Famous faces in the crowd ran the spectrum of entertainment, fashion and music and included Heidi Klum, Miley Cyrus, Alec Baldwin, Robert Duvall, Tim Allen, Aaron Paul, John Stamos, Chris Colfer, Beck, Lil’ Kim, Ryan Kwanten, Cloris Leachman, Judith Light, Rob Lowe, Moby, Lydia Hearst, Ozzy, Jack, Kelly and Sharon Osbourne, Petra Nemcova, Cody Simpson, Gigi Hadid, Dita VonTeese, Brittany Snow, Lisa Rinna and Harry Hamlin, Alessandra Ambrosio, Camilla Belle, Nina Dobrev, Sandra Lee, Jane Seymour, Sia, Russell Simmons, Bellamy Young, Sarah Hyland, The Band Perry, Julianne Hough, Maggie Grace, Peter Fonda, JC Chavez, Dermot Mulroney, Jonathan Groff, Chris Hardwick,Jared Harris, Eric McCormack, Giovani Ribisi, and Bryshere Y. Gray, among others.

The auction is always a big part of the event, which is cosponsored by Chopard, Neuro Drinks and Wells Fargo. This year sought after items included two tickets to the Vanity Fair Oscar Party later that night, the Alex Prager photograph Sheryl: 2009, the Jeurgen Teller photograph of Joan Didion for the Céline Campaign Spring Summer 2015, a Stephen Somerstein print of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking to marchers at the end of the famous trek from Montgomery to Selma, Alabama in 1965, a Greg Gorman photograph and portrait sitting, an all-inclusive, four-night stay for four people at the Clayoquot Wilderness Resort and a five-day stay for four people at Steven Tyler’s Hawaiian Retreat.

Throughout the evening, guests were able to make donations to the Elton John AIDS Foundation by using their cell phones and were urged to give as much as they could via video messages from long-time EJAF supporters Matt Lauer and 87th Annual Oscars host Neil Patrick Harris, as well as live messages from EJAF friends Alec Baldwin and Mike Myers.

Even though it’s considered one of the year’s most fun and freewheeling parties, the serious message of fundraising was underscored by Sir Elton.

“What we’re able to do in just one evening continues to amaze me,” he told the crowd.  “Because of your generosity last year, we helped nearly 70,000 people across the U.S. and the Caribbean to receive regular HIV testing services. Because you cared, an additional 15,000 people were able to stay in continuous medical care, and nearly 12,000 achieved complete viral suppression. That’s an amazing achievement. And this year, we’re poised to do even more.”

He ended on an extremely positive and hopeful note: “Together, we’re making real progress against this epidemic by helping one person, one community, at a time. And it is not at all unrealistic to think that together we can end AIDS in our lifetime.”

–Hillary Atkin





Cheers! Women in Film Celebrates Oscar Contenders with Champagne and Cocktails

There were countless champagne toasts all around as Women in Film feted the femmes—the 44 women nominated for the 87th annual Academy Awards out of a list of more than 200.


And since we’re talking numbers, it was the Eighth Annual Women In Film Pre-Oscar Cocktail Party presented by MaxMara, BMW, Tiffany & Co., M·A·C Cosmetics and Perrier-Jouët– and about 30 of those female contenders came to the party, along with a couple of hundred other VIP guests.


WIF president Cathy Schulman and Oscar-winning actress and recording artist  Jennifer Hudson were the hostesses with the mostest for the soirée, which was held at the lovely new Hyde Sunset Kitchen + Cocktails in Los Angeles on Friday night before the Academy Awards.


“I feel very inspired,” Hudson told the exuberant crowd when she took the stage with Schulman. “So many of these ladies have inspired my life and my career. I come from a very powerful background of women, and this is an extension of that.”


Even in the well-behaved crowd, things got a bit chaotic as Meryl Streep entered the room. Well-wishers and photographers crowded around the woman known as the queen of modern acting. Streep’s nomination for her role in “Into the Woods” was her 19th nod, and she is the most-nominated actor in Academy Awards history. She has three Oscars.

Other acting nominees schmoozing the room included Laura Dern and Rosamond Pike, who talked about their roles in “Wild” and “Gone Girl.” Pike, with a newborn son, talked about the dichotomy of wearing comfortable clothes at home and getting completely glammed up for the series of awards season events culminating in the Oscars

It was a festive night for WIF Board of Director and actress Lake Bell who celebrated the evening with Michelle Monaghan and Kate Flannery.

Other Oscar nominees in attendance included Aneta Kopacz (Documentary – Short Subject, Joanna), Anna Pinnock (Production Design, The Grand Budapest Hotel & Into the Woods), Anna B. Sheppard (Costume Design, Maleficent), Becky Sullivan (Sound Editing, Unbroken), Bonnie Arnold (Animated Feature Film, How to Train Your Dragon 2), Cathleen Sutherland (Best Picture, Boyhood), Charlotte Watts (Production Design, Mr. Turner), Daisy Jacobs (Short Film – Animated, The Bigger Picture), Dana Perry (Documentary – Short Subject, Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1), Danielle Brisebois (Music – Original Song, Begin Again), David Lancaster (Best Picture, Whiplash), Diane Warren (Music – Original Song, Beyond the Lights), Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou (Makeup and Hairstyling, Guardians of the Galaxy), Ellen Gossenberg Kent (Documentary – Short Subject, Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1), Frances Hannon (Makeup and Hairstyling, The Grand Budapest Hotel), Helen Estabrook (Best Picture, Whiplash), Ido Ostrowsky (Best Picture, The Imitation Game), Joanna Natasegara (Documentary Feature, Virunga), Kristina Reed (Short Film – Animated, Feast), Laura Dern (Supporting Actress, Wild), Laura Poitras (Documentary Feature, Citizenfour), Lisa Bruce (Best Picture, The Theory of Everything), Mathilde Bonnefoy (Documentary Feature, Citizenfour), Meryl Streep (Supporting Actress, Into the Woods), Mihal Brezis (Short Film – Live Action, Aya), Nora Grossman (Best Picture, The Imitation Game), Oded Binnun (Short Film – Live Action, Aya), Rory Kennedy (Documentary Feature, Last Days in Vietnam), Rosamund Pike (Leading Actress, Gone Girl), Talkhon Hamzavi (Short Film – Live Action, Parvaneh), and Tatiana Macdonald (Production Design, The Imitation Game).

Others spotted in the crowd included Patty LuPone, Peter Fonda and Elle Fanning.

As a parting gift, guests received a M·A·C Cosmetics box with products curated by Oscar-nominated makeup artists Frances Hannon (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”) and Lizzie Yianni-Georgiou (“Guardians of the Galaxy”).




Spirits Flow Freely at a Speakeasy-Themed Governors Ball

It was a grandiose, one night only special event that was months in the making – the 2015 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Governors Ball, which was produced for a 26th year by Cheryl Cecchetto of Sequoia Productions with Jeffrey Kurland, the chair of the Ball and an Academy governor.

The Governors Ball is the first stop after the Oscars for everyone who’s been in the Dolby Theatre during the 3 ½ hour ceremony. Winners, nominees, presenters, studio executives – they all make their way inside joining Ray Dolby ballroom for the event, which has the eyes of the world upon it.

Every year, the Sequoia team comes up with a unique theme for the 1,500 guests. Several years ago, assigned and numbered tables were dispensed with favor of a less formal, lounging atmosphere each attendees could more easily mix and mingle.

The 2015 edition was meant to evoke a speakeasy with its rich decor and in true speakeasy style, the libations were flowing and there were countless toasts to the winners of the golden 8 ½ pound statue called Oscar.

Sterling Vineyards once again provided the exclusive wines for Hollywood’s biggest night. Vintners at the prestigious Napa winery created two custom wines especially for the event, Sterling Vineyards Limited Edition Gold Standard Reserve White and the Limited Edition Red Carpet Reserve Red. There were also three other vintages available including the label’s premium Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

The wines were chosen to pair with the Governors Ball special menu created once again by esteemed Chef Wolfgang Puck. All told, nearly 13,500 glasses of Sterling Vineyards wines were poured during the pre-show and the Ball.

Piper Heidsieck was the official champagne of the 87th annual Oscars. The revered French champagne house, founded in 1785, this year began a three-year deal with the Academy to be the exclusive bubbly provider. The brand poured its rare Prestige Cuvée at the Ball, along with its celebrated Cuvée Brut and its bold Rosé Sauvage.

This year the decor was inspired by Hollywood’s own legacy, the Academy’s archives and library of motion picture history. There were deep muted tones and colors that evoked glamour and royalty. There were deep burgundy velvet draperies on the walls and the same color tones in the carpeting while the tablecloths featured more vibrant purple shades and rococo patterns rich with gold and burgundy.

Each had a beautiful centerpiece designed by noted florist Mark’s Garden, while some featured votive and pillar candles and others had vintage table lamps. The beautiful linens were from Resource One.

The Academy pulled thousands of images of movie stars– everyone from Hattie McDaniel to Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe, Cary Grant and Clark Gable to Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet – images that were used in large illuminated photo collages that stood 13 feet high and were placed around the room. Hundreds of the images were reproduced and framed as souvenirs for guests to take home, just another memorable element of a spectacular evening.

Couture and Beauty at Roger Neal Style Hollywood Awards Suite

For coming up on 20 years now, Roger and Lynn Neal kick Oscar Week into high gear with a three-day extravaganza, their 19th Annual Style Hollywood Beauty and Couture Academy Award Suite.

Set up in the penthouse of the Luxe Hotel on Rodeo Drive, the place is buzzing with the latest in fashion, jewelry, beauty products, shoes and handbags. There’s even a private cabana for tanning, massages, hairstyling and manicures for invited guests.

Even as the pampering and product showcasing goes on, guests enjoy libations from Lorimar Winery, Starfire Water and Long Shot Coffee and catering by Chef Ken Ehrlich and Jeanette’s Edelweiss restaurant, with beautiful confections by Mary’s Cake Shop.

And there are always good causes that benefit, which this year were the Andy Transplant Foundation and Hollygrove, the orphanage where Marilyn Monroe lived in the 1940s, which now provides counseling and crisis services to at-risk children in their homes, at schools and on the Hollygrove campus in Hollywood.

A slew of nominees for the 87th annual Academy Awards attended including Alexander Dinelaris and Nicolas Giacobone, who went on to win the Oscar for co-writing “Birdman,” Laura Dern, Diane Warren, E. Max Frye, Danielle Brisebois. Stephane Ceritti, Helen Estabrook and Julien Féret, who was up for his short live-action film called “Butter Lamp.”

Other guests making the rounds included Paul Sorvino, Renée Taylor, Erin Murphy, Carol Connors, Lois Aldrin, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Lea Thompson, well-known and loved for her role in “Back to the Future.”

“The exclusive suite is where stars and media can enjoy a much-needed relaxing and comfortable atmosphere and be pampered with some of the most expensive treatments available today,” said Roger Neal, who noted that the event seems to become a good luck charm as some of the attendees go on to win Oscars.

Designer Rhonda Shear unveiled her Shear Couture Oscar Collection to rave reviews. Her one-of-a-kind evening gowns and cocktail dresses are designed to mark the arrival of bold new era in event dressing.

Other designers showcasing their wares were Maricela David, Timmy Woods and Madeline Beth.

And there was much more to delight the senses including products from Skin Research/NeuLash, Nubra, Fur Frenzy, GT Nutrition, Grounded Beauty and Jenetiqa. Beverly Hills orthodontist Dr. Bruce MacFarlane showcased his new teeth whitener and Dr. Sandra Moldovan provided a gift certificate for periodontist services, while Nadia Khalil Bradley signed copies of her new book, “Origins of Truth.”

–Hillary Atkin

GBK’s Sleek and Stylish Oscar Luxury Gift Lounge Wins Raves

GBK is known for its award-worthy gifting suites and its Oscar event once again was a hot spot for celebs and VIPs to delve in and enjoy the grand finale of awards season while being pampered with products and services, treats and sweets.

The two-day event set up shop at Beverly Hills’ vaunted L’Ermitage Hotel, the perfect spot near the epicenter of many of the events in the days leading into the Academy Awards.

Guests were indulged with luxury gifts, gourmet food and an opportunity to support Each Mind Matters: California’s Mental Health Movement, a charity raising awareness about mental health and sponsored by Philosophy’s hope & grace initiative, which contributes a portion of its product sales to the cause.

Among those attending: Alexander Dinelaris, who went on to win the Oscar for co-writing best picture winner “Birdman,” Oscar-nominated songwriter Diane Warren, Lorraine Bracco, Martin Landau, Christina Milian, Machine Gun Kelly, Andy Dick, Bruce Davison, Daniel Baldwin, Mekhi Phifer, Robert Morse and Oscar-nominated directors Richard Linklater and Morton Tyldum.

Music, provided by GoodBoy, filled the air and created a celebratory soundtrack for the event, which took over a secluded patio at the hotel, adjoining suites and a private area upstairs. That was a fun gathering place, where we spotted a number of guests at the bar imbibing in Fancy Pants Wines, serving its refreshing Pinot Grigio and its special Red Blend.

The featured sponsor, STOP-ATTACK.com, attracted a lot of attention with demonstrations of its auto response cell phone app that provides personal protection in the event of an assault or attack

Those that are into health and beauty products were thrilled by the array of them presented at the lounge. They included cosmetic dentist Dr. Jamie Sands, who was gifting a comprehensive dental exam and an in-office professional teeth whitening; Beauty Kitchen by Heather Marianna, one of our favorites, who provided skin polish, hand cut soap bars and natural spa products; DermaSet 3D Anti-Aging Renewal Treatment, an all-in-one anti-aging cream; exclusively developed new Basicare beauty kits, featuring eyeshadows, mascaras, eyeliners and grooming tools in portable, compact kits; a full range of hair products from Jonathan Hair Care; three personal training sessions with Celebrity Trainer Lalo Fuentes; and L.A. Star Greens – Perfect 10, the world’s first certified organic blend of the top 10 superfoods.

On the fashion and jewelry side, guests got to sample products from Blaze Clothiers – USA; Shatra Designs, providing Bohemian-inspired luxury jewelry; handmade bracelets made out of donated military uniforms to support many military non-profit organizations from Bands for Arms; men’s jeans company Haala Denim– who promised a women’s line is coming out soon; and gorgeous, handcrafted bracelets featuring gemstones with meaning and a corresponding hashtag that matches the intention and style of the stones from Hazel and Harmony.

Other sponsors of the GBK Oscars lounge included Energy Upgrade California,  a state initiative to help Californians take action to save energy and conserve natural resources, help reduce demand on the electricity grid, and make informed energy management choices at home and at work; Alila Hotels and Resorts, providing gift certificates for guests to stay at Alila properties in India, Oman, Bali and more; Still With You, a company that creates heart-warming memorial statues to comfort the bereaved in their darkest hours; and services from Jim Hjort, LCSW a Psychotherapist and Right Life™ Coach.




EcoLuxe Oscar Event Brings a ‘Green’ Touch to Awards Season

The day before the Oscars is always festive and guests at the Debbie Durkin EcoLuxe Lounge were in an especially celebratory mood at the daylong event, which culminated in a lovely cocktail party.

Set up in the Stardust ballroom of the Beverly Hilton, with a beautiful penthouse patio that offers sweeping views of Los Angeles, the event showcased sustainable and ecological products and services, along with delectable food and libations in honor of the Academy Awards and its honorees.

The rooftop setting was designed by Under Canvas, Elan Event Rentals, LBPS Events and Frances Lynn Creative Florals and produced by Durkin, LA’s leading producer of sustainable product placement for film and television.

Among those stopping by were people from nominated films including American Sniper, The Theory of Everything, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Hobbit and Whiplash.

There were special items for all of the invited VIP guests – and some designed especially for their four-legged friends.

Among the attendees: Ben Wilkins (Oscar Winner Whiplash: Best Sound Mixing:), Elise Robertson (Oscar Nominee American Sniper Best Picture), Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou (Oscar Nominee Guardians of the Galaxy: Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling), Jason Canovas (Oscar Nominee The Hobbit: Sound Editing), Lisa Bruce (Producer, The Theory of Everything: Best Picture), Kevin Sorbo (Hercules), Vine star Zane Hijazi), Jason Davis (Celebrity Rehab), Frank Stallone (Rocky) Nia Peeples (Pretty Little Liars), Amanda Adrienne (Avenged), Andrea Bogart (General Hospital), Nancy Davis (Race To Erase MS) and Carolyn Hennesy (Revenge).

Beauty junkies were in for a treat with access to a styling bar, organic spray tans, along with makeup touchups from by OC Hair & Makeup. Those who have resisted going camping because of the lack of running water had their attitude adjusted with glamping vacations to Glacier Park, Yellowstone and The Moab Desert from Under Canvas.

Guests also received a Choices Recovery beauty gift bag, celebrity #DogPower items from CanaDog Supply, handcrafted creations from BluBond, KD Pet Protector charms, and a Café Press gift bag filled with O.P.I., Go Go Squeez, Modern Oats, a HAI MP3 flatiron, fragrance from Loree Rodkin and John Paul Pet shampoo and conditioner.

Refreshments were served up at a Repurpose Compostable champagne and coffee bar and there were hors d’oeuvres from Chef Alex Fioroni of Healing With Food,  good times were memorialized in photo booth fun from Party Life Photo Booth, as DJ Dime spun the tunes.

The evening cocktail party was called “Salute To The Oscars” and presented by Choices Recovery. The guest list included Gretchen Christine Rossi (Real Housewives Of Orange County), Chris Booker (AMP Radio), Slade Smiley (Real Housewives of Orange County), Joyce Giraud & Michael Ohoven (Real Housewives of Beverly Hills), Kennedy Summers (Playboy Playmate of the Year 2015), Kristen Renton (Sons of Anarchy), Michael Lennox (Oscar Nominee: BOOGALOO AND GRAHAM: Best Live Action Short Film), Drake Bell (Drake & Josh), Travis Aaron Wade (Super Natural), producer Marc Anthony Nicholas (CBS “The Talk”/”On Your Marc”) and Adina Porter (True Blood).


Spirit Awards Give Top Honors to ‘Birdman’

It was looking a lot like the Oscars Saturday at the  Film Independent Spirit Awards –which have become less independent and more studio-centric in recent years.

Also up for best picture at the Academy Awards, and considered to be the front runner, “Birdman” was the big winner at the Spirits, taking the best feature prize and the male lead trophy for Michael Keaton.

Richard Linklater was awarded the best director trophy for his epic coming of age drama “Boyhood,” filmed over a 12-year period. Actress Patricia Arquette, as expected, accepted the supporting actress trophy for her role in the film.

Two other actors also considered locks for the Oscars were awarded Spirits for their work: supporting actor J.K. Simmons of “Whiplash” and Julianne Moore of “Still Alice.”

Another Oscar front runner, “Citizenfour,” took the prize for best documentary. Laura Poitras’ film got up close and personal with Edward Snowden, giving audiences insight into his thinking in releasing classified information about government surveillance.

Dan Gilroy won the honor for best first feature for “Nightcrawler,” and also took the prize for its screenplay – for which he’s also Oscar nominated.

The ceremony was held under a tent at Santa Monica beach and was hosted this year by Fred Armisen and Kristen Bell.


Before Oscars, It was a Birdman Night at the Costume Designers Guild Awards

The complete spectrum of artistry of costumes in film and television takes center stage every year at the Costume Designers Guild Awards.


Actress Emmy Rossum hosted the 17th annual addition of the gala, held Tuesday February 17 at the Beverly Hilton’s International Ballroom.


Coming towards the end of awards season, it is considered the most freewheeling of the guild presentations which, with the exception of the Screen Actors Guild ceremony, are not televised, and therefore give presenters and recipients a wide swath of freedom of speech.


No one gets played off the stage for making a long acceptance speech for a presentation to one of the honorees.


The Costume Designers Guild hands out awards for costume design excellence in seven categories in film, television and commercials, as well as four honorary statues.


Naomi Watts was honored with the LACOSTE Spotlight Award, which was presented by Watts’ good friend and co-star in the film “We Don’t Live Here Anymore,” Laura Dern. Both women are Oscar nominees.


“Naomi, you are astounding. Beginning with Mulholland Drive, 21 Grams and The Ring, your career choices range from drama to comedy, thrillers and fantasy,” Dern said.


After giving Dern a warm hug, Watts wondered aloud about her ensemble for the evening. “Oh, no, do I have side boob?” she asked about the cream-colored halter gown she was wearing, arousing loud laughter from an audience whose job it is to make sure wardrobe malfunctions do not happen.

“I love clothing, costumes and the designers. I like to look at a person and how they present themselves and a lot of that is judged by the close that they wear,” said Watts, who also noted that her mother was a costume designer.


She discussed the costume design in her latest project, “Birdman,” which went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.


“We were thrust into a wild vision of Alejandro’s, working at the speed of light and changing close on-screen. It was intense but when we got it right there was a lot of high-fiving.”


Earlier in the evening, “Birdman’s” Albert Wolsky  won the top prize for contemporary film. Milena Canonero won the award for best design in period film with “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” She also went on to win the Oscar on Sunday night. And Colleen Atwood received the guild’s award for fantasy film for designing the costumes of “Into the Woods.”


On the television side, Michele Clapton won for period/fantasy with “Game of Thrones,” Jenny Eagan took the contemporary series trophy for “True Detective” and Lou Eyrich one for me for television movie or miniseries with “American Horror Story: Freak Show.”


Deborah Nadoolman Landis received the prestigious Edith Head award for the advancement and education of the art of costume design, presented to her by someone who knows her very well – husband John Landis.


He noted how she was one of the driving forces behind putting on the annual dinner and awards show, which began in 1998. She served as CDG president from 2001 to 2007 and has written multiple books about the industry.


Nadoolman Landis’ acclaimed “Hollywood Costume” exhibit in Los Angeles, in the old May Co. building adjacent to LACMA, is closing on March 2 and she urged everyone who hadn’t to go and see it.


More star power came in the personage of Harrison Ford who in a lengthy yet entertaining presentation lauded Aggie Guerard Rodgers for receiving the career achievement award. They had first met on “American Graffiti” and also worked together in “The Conversation.”

Director Richard Linklater (“Boyhood”) received the distinguished collaborator award from Patricia Arquette. “This is the coolest award show, and what I want to know is if I can keep the tablecloth, he said, referring to the black sequined table coverings in the ballroom.


“I am so grateful because as directors, we are pretty full of ourselves– but I do not know one director who also thinks he could be a costume designer.”


Breaking the Code Behind The Imitation Game

Graham Moore’s screenplay for “The Imitation Game” just won the coveted Writers Guild Award for best adapted screenplay, topping a field of contenders including Jason Hall’s “American Sniper” Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman and “Wild,” whose screenplay was written by Nick Hornby.

Based upon the book “Alan Turing: The Enigma” by Andrew Hodges, the Weinstein Company film vividly brings to life a little-known story about the attempts to bring down the Third Reich during World War II – the efforts by a group of English mathematicians working in secret at a compound called Bletchley Park to crack the code of a German encryption machine which would enable them to learn where the Nazis were next planning to attack.

With England’s fate hanging in the balance, and countless lives at stake, the group’s leader is the brilliant yet eccentric Turing, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, who must hide his homosexuality or risk arrest and persecution by the country he is fighting to save.

With eight Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, and noms for  Cumberbatch and costar Keira Knightley, the film is directed by Oscar contender Morten Tyldum with a screenplay by Moore, who is nominated for adapted screenplay.

Moore and producer Teddy Schwarzman sat down recently to discuss the extraordinary and compelling story behind “The Imitation Game.” Here is an edited version of our conversation:

Hillary Atkin: Congratulations on all the acclaim the film is receiving. How did this project originate?

Teddy Schwarzman: The idea for the project originated in 2009 when Prime Minister Gordon brown issued a public apology to Turing. Historians, gay rights activists and scientists had been lobbying for years to get him his due.  When that apology reached our team it became very clear this story needed to be told, not just to tell the tragedy of his life but his legacy and how he changed our world.

Graham Moore: Everyone on the film knew from the beginning five years ago that it was going to be one of the most important things in our lives. Alan Turing’s story had been told before on the page and stage but never in narrative cinema. If anyone’s story deserved a film, his did, and we wanted to do a film make his legacy proud. There was a tremendous responsibility to tell it well.

HA: What were the biggest challenges in re-creating the character of Alan Turing, who died in 1954 and is considered the father of modern theoretical computer science?

GM:  There was no audio or video of Alan, which means we had to put together the character from his own writing. One of his nieces who was 18 when he passed away was very helpful, along with other people’s accounts. I was able to put together elements of his character from what he wrote.  Alan was also a good prose stylist, his papers translate ideas into layman’s terms. One of my favorite scenes is where Alan explains the big idea of the Imitation Game —a thrilling monologue to write and see Benedict perform. It was almost helpful that there was no audio or video, especially for Benedict. He couldn’t do an impression, he had to find Alan from the inside.  We had some photographs, and Benedict wore prosthetic teeth to make them more like Alan’s. There were enormous mouthfuls of dialogue with that, yet it’s very subtle. Sammy, our costume designer, used mismatched patterns in his shirts and ties. In his wallpaper, there was some binary code.

TS: Our greatest challenge was to capture his spirit and accomplishments and ultimately capture his character without making it feel like a laundry list–without a sense of who he was. Intertwining three different time periods was the best way to do it justice, in our opinion. We went to London for 14 weeks and reached out to Alan Turing’s family and Bletchley Park. His nieces meet with Morten, and Benedict was able to hear firsthand accounts of his cadence, how he was with children, and listened to recordings with colleagues talking about Turing, which we were lucky to have as a resource. Turing’s great nephew is even in the film, dancing in the background.

HA: Along the way, there must have been some surprises you discovered about him in addition to the secret life he led as a gay man.

GM: It was really the sheer breadth of his accomplishments: we knew he cracked the Enigma code, and theorized the computer, but what we didn’t know is that in his off hours he did algorithms on how tigers got their stripes. When do you find time for that? You got the sense his mind was constantly analyzing, breaking codes and patterns in everything. He was a great botanist, and had an amazing garden he tended. He was an Olympic-level marathon runner, who qualified in his 20s. Where do you have time to also run marathons? I just loved idea of his mind working–that he couldn’t stop if he wanted to stop having ideas. That was something, that there was so much constant activity in his head that it was hard for others to get a fraction of his attention, like what he wanted for lunch. There were so many big concepts and brilliant ideas floating around in his head.

HA: Tell us about the casting process for the film.

TS: What we tried to do instead of casting the biggest names was to find people who were incredibly passionate. We had a director who displayed all the tonal balances and he also understood and fell in love with the character, the man and the role. We put pieces in place that felt organic to the story that needed to be told and respected. We just went through a process of getting the best ensemble that creates chemistry. Benedict and Keira give the performances of their careers.

HA: How did you design or obtain the World War II-era and other period elements you needed for the production?

TS: We had a tremendous props department that spent months working. We had the original Enigma, and the listening stations originally used to intercept Morse code. Everything was sourced. We didn’t use replicas. There were memorabilia collectors who donated items for the shoot.  We did have World War II experts, uniforms, weaponry, vehicles, and we met a number of veterans, and people who worked at Bletchley, who are just now figuring out what they did there. It was very compartmentalized.

HA: How do you feel the story of Alan Turing resonates today, especially his persecution by the British after the war?

TS: His treatment by his government was terrible. He was one of 49,000 men who were convicted of gross indecency under British law between 1885 and 1967, people forced into jail time. Turing was given the option of chemical castration injections instead of going to jail. It’s a tragedy we wanted to highlight. We’ve come so far yet there are still religions and countries where being gay is a crime. If his genius contributions can help show that discrimination by sex, gender or race is something of no merit, we would love that message to get out there.

GM: I’m extremely proud as an American what great progress in gay rights we’ve made in the last few years, tremendous advances. I think the film hopefully shows audiences there was a gay man at the very heart of the computer revolution, at the heart of the Second World War. Historically, gay figures have been written out of narratives, so the goal was always to correct that, to say that gay men and women have been at heart of our history for a long time, and hopefully there are more gay figures we can recognize. In technology, it was only a few months ago that Apple’s Tim Cook came out.  Now there are 37 states in the union that have legal same sex marriage. We have made a lot of progress since Alan Turing’s time.








WGA Awards Play The Imitation Game, Check Into Grand Budapest Hotel

Nic Pizzolatto made something very clear during his two trips to the podium at the WGA Awards. The writer of HBO’s “True Detective ”– honored for both outstanding drama series and new series – is still worried about keeping his job.

Both of Pizzolatto’s acceptance speeches were part of a thread of self-deprecating humor that ran through the West Coast edition of the 2015 Writers Guild Awards, which honor outstanding achievement in writing for film, television, news, radio, promotion, new media, graphic animation and videogames.

The WGA West’s cocktail and dinner gala took place Saturday, February 14 at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles, while an East Coast kudofest for WGA East members and guests was held concurrently at New York City’s Edison Ballroom.

Actress and writer Lisa Kudrow emceed the LA ceremony, setting the tone right away with this crack: “It’s very liberating for this not to be televised. There’s no one at home watching – kind of like network TV. I don’t know what you do when you’re not on TV, but for me it probably involves hookers and some blow.”

The star of HBO’s “The Comeback,” now in its second incarnation, went on to joke about loaning screeners to relatives, the Sony hack pretty much leaving writers unscathed and how the WGA trophy looks like half a heart – with the rest of it apparently ripped out. That was especially resonant, coming on Valentine’s Day.

“This is the most important awards show, because it’s for television and film, so it’s kind of like the Emmys and the Oscars, so twice as important. But maybe you have to divide that by four because no one here is famous, except for Keira Knightley,” she said calling out the costar of “The Imitation Game,” who was seated at the Weinstein Co. table with other key players from the film.

Later in the evening, they all had cause to celebrate. Graham Moore’s script for the drama about brilliant British mathematician Alan Turing, who cracked the Nazi Enigma code during World War II and was later persecuted as a gay man, went on to win the coveted adapted screenplay award.

There was stiff competition in the category, in which nominees also included Jason Hall’s “American Sniper” Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman and “Wild,” whose screenplay was written by Nick Hornby based on the book by Cheryl Strayed.

The original screenplay trophy was awarded to Wes Anderson for his “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Anderson, who shares story credit with Hugo Guiness, is also up for a slew of Oscars including producing, directing and writing the film, spent much of his acceptance speech joking about the location.

“We’re on hallowed ground, near the home of 20th Century Fox and a large community of entertainment attorneys,” he said. “I even lived around here – with Owen Wilson– at a place that’s now the Holiday Inn Express, so I can think of no better neighborhood in which to accept this award.”

The 2:45-long ceremony featured many funny moments, including what at first appeared to be a traditional “in memoriam” segment called “In Loving Memory” that actually mourned television shows we lost in 2014 in a video scored with schmaltzy music—and greeted with loud laughter. So long to “Bad Judge,” “A to Z,” “Friends with Better Lives” and “Jennifer Falls.” In a bad sign for its loyal but small audience on Fox, on the bubble “Mulaney” was also included in the mix.

There were also live bits of anecdotal humor from various writers seated in the ballroom who ended their well-received spiels with “I’m ____________, and I’m a writer.” Among the participants were Steve Levitan and Daniel Petrie, Jr. And there were some on tape, including one nominee who intercut his formulaic thank you with clips from J.K. Simmons as the music teacher from hell in “Whiplash” urging him to do better.

In the actual comedy categories, FX’s “Louie” won outstanding comedy series from a field that included other cable and streaming laffers “Orange Is the New Black,” “Veep,” “Transparent” and “Silicon Valley.” It also took the trophy for outstanding episodic comedy over nominated eps from ”Modern Family,” “New Girl” and “Orange Is the New Black.”

Network television was not entirely left out of the top honors. CBS’s “The Good Wife,” with an episode written by its creators Michelle and Robert King, took the trophy for episodic drama over competition that included “Mad Men,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Rectify” and “Game of Thrones.”

The honorary awards were especially high profile. Shonda Rhimes, who pretty much runs Thursday nights on ABC, received the WGAW’s Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television Writing Achievement, which was presented to her by “Scandal” costar Scott Foley.

“I feel that being powerful and bad ass is my right,” she said, before thanking the actors, the crew and everyone that’s part of Shondaland, her production company. “But the best thing is the dark and twisty writers’ room, with people I’ll be begging for jobs from in the future.”

WGAW President Chris Keyser presented the Guild’s Valentine Davies Award to Academy Award-winning filmmaker/advocate Ben Affleck (“Argo”) for his humanitarian efforts in the Congo, where production of chocolate and coffee is creating better lives for thousands of farmers and their families.

Affleck went on to make a lengthy but entertaining speech which he joked was 150 pages long but could maybe be cut down to 120. One of his themes was that celebrities are put under a microscope but when they actually have something to say about humanitarian issues there is a general cynicism in hearing about it.

“Actors, writers and directors have an ability to contribute to these causes,” he said. “Being labeled as ‘Hollywood’ is unfair. Why should these sorts of contributions be limited to CEOs and scientists? And by the way, you have less of a chance of getting a screenplay made than of becoming a CEO.”

Affleck discussed his upbringing, calling his parents left-wing intellectuals and noting that his father was a bartender. He talked about learning about other religions and cultures while growing up and in college and later, as he traveled in his film career. “Once I understood human bonds and saw people in communities who wanted lives free of oppression, the best force for change is people being connected. The simple and small measures of kindness and grace enable you to find empathy and to relate.”

“Cougartown” cocreator Bill Lawrence presented the WGAW’s Morgan Cox Award to TV writer/producer and WGAW Showrunner Training Program co-founder Jeff Melvoin (“Army Wives”) for Guild service.

“Rescue Me” Co-Creator Peter Tolan presented the WGAW’s Screen Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement to the late screenwriter/director Harold Ramis (“Animal House,” “Ghostbusters,” “Groundhog Day”), which was accepted by the Ramis family on his behalf after a clip reel of some of his blockbusters that have become iconic.

TV writer/playwright Winnie Holzman (“Wicked”) presented the WGAW’s Paul Selvin Award to screenwriter Margaret Nagle for her screenplay, “The Good Lie,” a drama about Sudanese orphans known as “The Lost Boys” rebuilding their lives in the United States.

Via video, iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar accepted the WGAW’s Jean Renoir Award for Screenwriting Achievement.

The East Coast also had special honorees including Edward Zwick (“Thirtysomething,” “Shakespeare In Love”), who was presented with the Ian McLellan Hunter Award for Career Achievement in Writing by noted screenwriter Paul Haggis.

Journalist Bill Moyers presented legendary television writer/producer Norman Lear (“All In The Family,” “The Jeffersons”) with the Evelyn F. Burkey Award for Bringing Honor and Dignity to Writers.

And we all know writers would never make jokes about that.

Here’s the complete list of winners:


The Grand Budapest Hotel, Screenplay by Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness; Fox Searchlight

The Imitation Game, Written by Graham Moore; Based on the book Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges; The Weinstein Company

The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, Written by Brian Knappenberger; FilmBuff



True Detective, Written by Nic Pizzolatto; HBO


Louie, Written by Pamela Adlon, Louis C.K.; FX


True Detective, Written by Nic Pizzolatto; HBO


“The Last Call” (The Good Wife), Written by Robert King & Michelle King; CBS


“So Did the Fat Lady” (Louie), Written by Louis C.K.; FX


Deliverance Creek, Written by Melissa Carter; Lifetime


Olive Kitteridge, Teleplay by Jane Anderson, Based on the novel by Elizabeth Strout; HBO


“Episode 113: Rachel” (High Maintenance), Written by Katja Blichfeld & Ben Sinclair; helpingyoumaintain.com


“Brick Like Me” (The Simpsons), Written by Brian Kelley; Fox


Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Writers: Kevin Avery, Tim Carvell, Dan Gurewitch, Geoff Haggerty, Jeff Maurer, John Oliver, Scott Sherman, Will Tracy, Jill Twiss, Juli Weiner; HBO


71st Annual Golden Globe Awards, Written by Barry Adelman; Special Material by Alex Baze, Dave Boone, Robert Carlock, Tina Fey, Jon Macks, Sam Means, Seth Meyers, Amy Poehler, Mike Shoemaker; NBC


Hollywood Game Night, Head Writer: Grant Taylor; Writers: Alex Chauvin, Ann Slichter; NBC


General Hospital, Written by Ron Carlivati, Anna Theresa Cascio, Suzanne Flynn, Kate Hall, Elizabeth Korte, Daniel James O’Connor, Elizabeth Page, Katherine Schock, Scott Sickles, Chris Van Etten; ABC


“Haunted Heartthrob” (Haunted Hathaways), Written by Bob Smiley; Nickelodeon


“United States of Secrets: The Program (Part One)” (Frontline); PBS; Written by Michael Kirk & Mike Wiser; PBS


“League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis” (Frontline), Written by Michael Kirk & Mike Wiser; PBS


“Nelson Mandela: A Man Who Changed the World” (World News with Diane Sawyer), Written by Dave Bloch, Lisa Ferri, Diane Sawyer; ABC News


“Nowhere to Go” (60 Minutes), Written by Oriana Zill de Granados, Scott Pelley, Michael Rey; CBS



“Three Shots Rang Out: The JFK Assassination 50 Years Later,” Written by Darren Reynolds; ABC News Radio


“World News This Week,” Written by Andrew Evans; ABC News Radio


“Civil Rights at 50,” Written by Jane Tillman Irving; WCBS Radio



“How I Met Your Mother” Written by Dan Greenberger; CBS



The Last of Us: Left Behind, Written by Neil Druckmann; Sony Computer Entertainment