No fewer than 151 — count ‘em! — of this year’s class of Oscar attended the annual luncheon and they came with their appetite and wit intact.
As the 6,000 Academy members are currently making their minds up as to who to give their precious vote to, it’s no surprise that the main protagonists were out in force in Los Angeles Monday, putting themselves out there, as well as enjoying a delicious meal of Indochina-spiced beef with avocado mousse, Alaskan black cod and mini lemon meringue tarts with blueberries. It’s almost worth getting into acting for food like that.
(More on TIME.com: See the top 10 movies of 2010)
Best Actor nominee Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) noted the similarity between the lunch and the bar mitzvahs of his youth. “I had to go to bar mitzvahs every weekend, and this is like the same feeling. Putting on a suit every weekend to go meet with a lot of Jews.”
The lunch truly brings together Oscar’s past, present and future. Previous winners Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, Jeff Bridges and Geoffrey Rush were there, as were nominees (but not winners as of yet) Annette Bening, Colin Firth and Natalie Portman and first timers Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone) and Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit).
And it was another first-time nominee, in the shape of the universally adored Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right), who said in that typically modest (Ruffalovian, if you will) style of his that he’s surprised by his Best Supporting Actor nod. But the zinger wasn’t far off. “It’s taken me a long time to get here, so I really have been, as a meditation, making myself enjoy the hell out of it every single day,” he started off by saying. “And I love free lunches, man. I came up as a starving, struggling actor, so I’m very grateful for a gift lunch.”
(More on TIME.com: See pictures of food around the world)
It’s almost as if the stars are trying out the odd funny here and there, in case they’re called up on stage on February 27. And so we get Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) making light of how he’s now treated after playing a Monarch (“I do get the odd bow, which I put down to either confusion or facetiousness”) and Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole) claiming that her 2-year-old daughter signs off on the Oscar dress (“She has a very strong voice in terms of what I will be wearing on the night of the Oscars. Fingers crossed, guys. I could be wearing a tutu.”)
But perhaps Melissa Leo (The Fighter) nailed it best of all, comparing Oscar season to a nonstop energy drink. NewsFeed is also existing on a similar diet of “water and vitamins” as there’s another three weeks of this to go. (via AP)