CTV eTalk – Red Carpet Diaries

City Life takes five with etalk hosts Ben Mulroney and Danielle Graham during the tuxedo-and-gown torrent that is the awards season to see what life is like behind the camera.

They call it their Olympics. It’s award season. With the Golden Globes, the Critics’ Choice Awards, the Academy Awards and more all rammed into a two-month whirlwind, you could say things get pretty hectic for the likes of etalk hosts Ben Mulroney and Danielle Graham. “Everything that we do in our job is geared towards these few months,” says Mulroney during a recent break after the Critics’ Choice Awards. We caught up with Canada’s conduits to the stars during a rare moment of calm to find out more about life lining the red carpet, their most memorable Oscar moments and who they believe will take home statues at the 88th Academy Awards.

Q: You’re entering the home stretch of award season, with the Academy Awards only a few weeks away. How do you prepare for this hectic time of year, for Oscar night?
Ben Mulroney: As I get older, it’s about having more discipline in my life. It’s about recognizing that a good night’s sleep is worth everything. It means trying to put your best foot forward all the time, and it means trying to go into every situation prepared and rested and fed, because you never know how long you’re going to be on the red carpet for. [Laughs.]

Q: What are some things you always bring to L.A. for the awards?
Danielle Graham:
Well, we go with an incredible research pack that our team has been working on for a while, and that’s everything from stats to how many nominations, how many wins, how many times they’ve been overlooked — everything like that is in there.

I also pack some hydrating skin stuff to make sure my skin is glowing — gotta look good. Spanx are important. I’m four months pregnant, so they’re extra important this year [Laughs]. As long as I have my research, and wardrobe, obviously, stuff to make me look good, I should be OK.

Q: You watch all these films throughout the year. But when you see a film for the first time is it apparent if it’s award-calibre or not, or do you need to watch it against other films and gauge its merit?
DG: No, I feel like there’s a few films every year that one of us — whether it’s Ben or Devon [Soltendieck], myself, Traci [Melchor], Lainey [Lui] or Liz [Trinnear] — see and we come back and we say to the rest of the team, “This movie is going to get an Oscar,” or, “This performance will win an Oscar.” For me, the most recent I remember would have been — when I was so confident, and I was right — it was Dallas Buyers Club, for Jared Leto. I told him in the room that he would win the Oscar. We didn’t even know at that point if he would ever get a nomination, and he came back to claim that. And I really do love being right [Laughs]. So that for me was a real victory. So it’s obvious a lot of the time.

Q: Tell us about one of your most memorable red carpet moments.
BM: Years ago, we knew that George Clooney was going to be walking the carpet, and this was the year where he was nominated for a number of Oscars for Good Night, and Good Luck, and I think he was also in Syriana, so he was nominated for that. And I believe it was the same year that Walk the Line was nominated for best picture and Reese Witherspoon won for her portrayal of June Carter Cash. So we had George Clooney stop on the carpet and I said, “George, you’re nominated for a number of Oscars tonight. But a lot of people don’t know that you could have been nominated for one more had you accepted the role for June Carter Cash.” And he didn’t see that coming. He expected me to be saying one thing and I went in another direction and it caught him off guard. He really let his guard down and gave me a tremendously funny answer about how he didn’t think he could have filled in the dress the way that Reese did, or something to that effect, and it was one of those great, great moments on the carpet.

Q: Is there one actor you look forward to interviewing, or try to interview, every year?
I think there’s one person every year that you really want to get. I think this year, for us, it will be Leonardo DiCaprio. That’s the guy you want on the red carpet this year. Everyone’s saying it’s his year. This movie [The Revenant] has a great Canadian connection, which is something we always like to focus on with etalk. And, you know, the painstaking job of making this movie, with the elements and the eating of the bison parts. As I’m watching this I’m thinking I could never in a million years survive this, this like “Ernest Goes Up North” — everything went wrong [Laughs]. So you want that interview. That’s the one to get.

Q: These months can be all-consuming for you and the etalk team. How do you find balance?
Well, it’s everything. I think the balance is something you feel. You know. Everybody knows when their life is out of balance. You have a sense of unease as you go about your day. So it’s not hard to identify when it’s out of balance. It’s just you have to put in the work to make sure that you do balance it. So I think the biggest challenge is just managing other people’s expectations of you, being present in your work and being as good as you can when you’re doing it, so that when you decide to take off that cap and go home and be a dad and a husband you’re not going to feel guilty about leaving your work. You say, “No, I left it all at work. I gave it 100 per cent. Now I’m going to go home and I’m going to give 100 per cent.”

CTV’s etalk is the exclusive Canadian outlet covering the red carpet show live for Canada. Catch this year’s Oscars on February 28.

The etalk Oscar Predictions

Best Picture?
BM: I’m terrible at these. I’m almost always wrong. If I had to guess right now I’d say the momentum is behind The Revenant. But because [Alejandro] Iñárritu won last year [for Best Director and Best Picture, both for Birdman], I don’t know, maybe they’re going to look at Spotlight, which I think is an equally deserving film, and Tom McCarthy did a good job with that. I think the safe money is on Leo and The Revenant, as well as Iñárritu. But an upset is absolutely a possibility. It is the Oscars.

Actor in a Leading Role? Is this finally Leo’s year?
DG: I think so. I don’t want to say I can’t say who else would win, but I just feel the performance is a real standout performance. While the other guys in the category are great, they probably wish Leo wasn’t up there. But I do think it’s his year.

Actress in a Leading Role?
BM: I loved the movie Room, so I’m kind of rooting for Brie Larson in that category. And the fact that it’s a Canadian co-production doesn’t hurt either. But Saoirse Ronan, in another Canadian co-production, Brooklyn — I mean, this is her introduction to the world. She’s been in a number of things before, but in her first real starring turn she did a tremendous job.

Best Director?
DG: I think it could be Alejandro Iñárritu for The Revenant. That would be two in a row for him, which would be great, and also a great story. And also: give the guy something. I mean, look what he went through, shooting with only natural light in the elements of Alberta. Sounds like a nightmare.

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