Photos (by Matthias Wurz) from the ‘Revanche’ Party at the residence of the Austrian Consulate General, Martin Weiss, in Los Angeles
Sunday Evening, February 22, Brentwood
The sky was covered with heavy clouds, a few dozen invited guests as well as representative of some Austrian media had followed the invitation of the Austrian Consul General in Los Angeles, Martin Weiss, at his residence in one of Los Angeles’ most enigmatic areas, Brentwood, where elegant houses and villas are nestling between mellow hilly vegetation.
Last year’s legendary party at the residence, when Stefan Ruzowitzky’s Die Fälscher (The Counterfeiters) received the 2008 Oscar was still being talked about a year later when I arrived at the scene just before 5 pm; the live broadcast of the ceremony was about to start.
A cross-culture buffet of snacks was provided in the dining room, small cheeseburgers as well as mini Schnitzels served by a liveried staff. Austrian white wine and champagne was paired with Californian red wine, and the guests mingled in either the living room with a large LCD screen and a staffed bar, or at the adjoining smaller TV room to follow the broadcast. For what seemed like a long time, the Awards ceremony at the Kodak Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard attracted little interest from this crowd – Australian actor Hugh Jackman hosting, joined by actress Anne Hathaway at the opening, earned some praise for his opening performance; the mood was good, and conversation lively, and the evening slowly progressed. As it got dark outside, the lights dimmed and the glow of candles lent a warm atmosphere.
At about 7.30 pm, desserts were served, with little pies and strawberries and mousse. Along came Oscar-shaped gingerbread covered with a thick layer of golden glacier sugar. Spirits were high and there seemed to be full confidence that Austria would indeed win; and the tension rose at about 8 pm, when, before a commercial break, it was announced that the Award for Foreign Language Films would be awarded next.
The host and the entire guests poured back into the rooms, their eyes fixed at the TV sets, while the two ORF cameras were making sure to capture what be another historic moment. As the nominations were introduced everyone was on their feet, and seconds seemed to pass like hours when finally the announcement came: the Japanese entry, Departures, had won.
Faces fell; Hollywood had provided yet another surprise winner in this category, and it wasn’t Austria. Nevertheless, the proud host ordered the chilled champagne to be opened, as he reminded his guests that “a year ago at this point we celebrated the Oscar for Stefan Ruzowitzky’s Die Fälscher with champagne. This year we will open the champagne now despite not having won” to a cheering crowd and added congratulatory words on the quality of the Austrian nomination.
The further the evening progressed, everyone eagerly awaited the arrival of director Götz Spielmann and the Revanche cast. It was about 10.30 pm when the actors Andreas Lust and Johannes Krisch arrived at the Consul General’s residence. Both showed signs of fatigue and exhaustion, but their content faces indicated that they thoroughly enjoyed the Award ceremony and their stay in Los Angeles. For now, a nomination is honor enough.
Johannes Krisch eventually posed for the cameras with a gingerbread Oscar (see photo at the top), whose head he finally bit off in a devilish facial expression and to the laughter of the guests.
Götz Spielmann, with producer Mathias Forbeg and lead actress Ursula Strauss, arrived at about 11.25 pm, evidently in a good mood, apologizing for being late.
Once the official group picture was done and the film cameras were off, the actors, champagne in hand, began reflecting their Oscar experience. Ursula Strauss, dressed in an elegant black evening dress and some dramatic jewelry said she had enjoyed the exhaustive preparations for the ceremony, but was quick to add that she was used to focusing on work rather than paying attention to accessories, as is done in Hollywood.
Trained as stage actor at the Volkstheater and long-term ensemble member of the Theater in der Josefstadt, Strauss showed some annoyance at repeated questions by journalists of whom she would like to meet at the Oscars ceremony.
“Kate Winslet would have been my choice,” she admitted, also because of her impressive performance as Hanna Schmitz in The Reader, which deservedly earned her the Oscar for Best Actress for that powerful role.
“But more importantly… – then she paused and looked at the glass she was holding, lost for the right words. Finally she looked up.
“I guess, what I am trying to say is, we, as Austrian actors, should see all these great Hollywood stars as colleagues – despite our admiration for them.”