Fashion Chooses Safety Over Glitzy Parties for This Year’s Oscars, as Chanel Nixes Iconic Dinner for Gift Boxes (EXCLUSIVE)

Marc Malkin
·8-min read

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Welcome to this week’s “Just for Variety“…

Chanel may not be throwing its annual pre-Oscar dinner with Charles Finch this week, but that doesn’t mean the legendary French fashion house won’t be celebrating the Academy Awards. I can exclusively reveal that about 150 VIPs will not only receive a Chanel gift box on April 24 filled with goodies to toast the Oscars, but the house will also make a donation to The Actors Fund to support the organization’s COVID relief efforts. The gift comes with a link to a video (watch it above) featuring images of past dinners and the starry guests, including Margot Robbie, Pharrell Williams, Carey Mulligan, Demi Moore, Cate Blanchett, Pedro Almodóvar, Chris Pine, Sienna Miller, Taylor Russell, Mick Jagger, Jessica Chastain, Tracee Ellis Ross, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts, Robert De Niro, Robin Wright. Keira Knightley, Kaitlyn Dever, Jessica Biel, Sofia Coppola and Sofia Boutella, along with the message, “We can’t be together this year, but we can take this moment to fete film and fashion as we bring our pre-Oscar eve to you. Until next year.” After being held at Madeo for its first decade, Chanel moved the event to the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 2019. Chanel is certainly not the only party host to change course due to the pandemic. Vanity Fair is not throwing its annual viewing and after-party and the magazine’s Oscar week events sponsored by Lancôme went virtual. The uber-private Night Before benefit for the Motion Picture & Television Fund will be a virtual affair hosted by Wayne Brady. For more of this week’s Oscar events, check out Variety‘s Must Attend calendar listings.

As Warner Bros. awaits the April 23 release of the much anticipated “Mortal Kombat,” it sounds like the studio is hopeful the film will mark the rebirth of the franchise. Joe Taslim, who plays the villainous Sub-Zero, tells me that he’s signed on for four more installments if the series moves forward. “If this one’s successful, maybe we do more,” Taslim says on this week’s episode of the “Just for Variety” podcast. He remembers playing “Mortal Kombat” for the first time when he was about 12 years old. “I was born in South Sumatra. We were poor so I didn’t have the console because it’s expensive,” says Taslim, now 39. “I went to my friend’s house every day to play the game. But you get there and there are like 10 kids lining up. Who wins keeps playing…so it takes me to get to my part like 40 minutes.”

Attention, Anna Kendrick: Did you know that your “Stowaway” co-star Shamier Anderson was a big “Twilight” fan? “I was a Twi-hard,” recalls Anderson. “I’m from Toronto, and they used to have these things called ‘Live at Much.’ They’re like our ‘TRL,’ and Robert Pattinson and everybody came downtown, and I went and stood in the crowd, and I was screaming.” Anderson says he never told Kendrick about his Twi-past. “But now not only does Anna know,” he says, laughing, “but the world knows too!” In “Stowaway,” Anderson plays an unexpected passenger on a space mission to Mars. Kendrick, along with Toni Collette and Daniel Dae Kim, play astronauts. Anderson admits he questioned his team when they sent him the script for the film. “I said, ‘Are you sure they want to hire a Black guy?,’ because usually these narratives, we don’t see that. I know this because when the trailer got released, the amount of sci-fi enthusiasts that said, ‘Finally a Black guy in space’ and they’re like, ‘Hope he doesn’t die.’ Kudos to [director and co-writer] Joe Penna who really made that happen.” When I spoke to Anderson, he was wrapping first-time feature director Mo McRae’s dramedy thriller “A Lot of Nothing.” “I was on set a couple of times and this guy creeped into the door while I was filming and I was like, ‘Who is that guy? He looks really familiar,’” he recalls. “He sits behind the monitor and is watching us do our stuff but then I’m hyperventilating a little bit because I was like, ‘Oh, man, that’s Dr. Dre!’ What I love about our director is that he didn’t even bat an eye. I was like, ‘Yo, that’s like Dr. Dre.’ And he was like, ‘Oh, yeah, he’s my homie.’ That was a very cool moment.” Anderson is also working with his two brothers — actor Stephan James and businessman Sheldon James — in building their Bay Mills Investment Group, Canada’s first Black-owned venture capital firm focused on BIPOC entrepreneurs. Bay Mills was Sheldon’s idea. “When he approached Stephan and I, he said, ‘I understand the work that you’re doing in the acting world and art and activism and what you do for non-profits, but what about for profit, what about economic empowerment, generational wealth and financial literacy?’” Anderson says. “‘It’s important to use your platform to be able to impact change to really provide growth capital, network resources and top-tier mentoring and to support and scale emerging businesses in Canada.’” A Hollywood studio in their native Canada could be next. “Don’t be surprised in a few years if you hear me say, ‘We’re going to be open a studio up in Canada,’” Anderson says, with a big smile. “I’ll say this, ‘It’s definitely something we’ve been thinking about actively,’ and I’ll leave it at that.”

Congrats to Variety’s Clayton Davis and Elizabeth Wagmeister, who will be working overtime Sunday when they join ABC’s pre-Academy Awards show “Oscars Countdown Live.”

Before cameras began rolling on the new ABC comedy, “Home Economics,” Karla Souza insisted that her character, an attorney-turned-stay-at-home mom married to a struggling novelist (Topher Grace), be presented as a true portrayal of a Latina woman. “It wasn’t written that way, and it wasn’t presented that way,” the former “How to Get Away With Murder” star tells me. “Even the wardrobe is [now] Latin-owned companies and brands. Kat Orindgreff, who is the costume designer, is amazing at shipping stuff from Mexico. It was 100% artisan clothing from Latin-owned companies. That was a very important thing for me to include her heritage and her roots.” When Souza signed on for the role, she was pregnant with her second child, something the “Home Economics” team embraced, unlike producers of other projects that came her way. “No one wanted a pregnant, six-month bump,” Souza says. “I was definitely feeling the discrimination in the workplace.” The “Home Economics” team even wanted to include the pregnancy in the show, but she had the baby before filming resumed after being postponed due to the pandemic. While Grace already had a successful run in comedy with “That ‘70s Show,” Souza insists she wasn’t familiar with the long-running series because she wasn’t living in the U.S. during the height of its popularity. “I knew Topher more from ‘Traffic,’ she says. “I would say that’s the Topher in my head. I don’t even think I saw the ‘Spider-Mans.’ I think he did ‘Spider-Man.’”

It wasn’t until recently that Michael Greyeyes saw a TV comedy in which Native and Indigenous characters and storylines were central to the show. “Until I saw the pilot cut together, I hadn’t seen it,” says the Canadian actor, who is Plains Cree from the Muskeg Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan. The pilot he’s referring to is for “Rutherford Falls.” Michael Schur’s new series, premiering April 22 on Peacock, centers on the relationship between a small upstate New York town and the members of a neighboring Native American reservation. Ed Helms stars as Nathan Rutherford, a local who wants to preserve the town’s history. Greyeyes plays Terry, the boss of the casino that houses the tribe’s cultural center where Rutherford’s best friend (Jana Schmieding) works. “What [co-creator] Sierra Teller Ornelas and Mike and Ed have done is they’ve elevated Indigenous joy in a TV show, and that’s history.” There are five Indigenous writers on the show. “It’s paradigm shifting,” Greyeyes says. He admits it may take audiences some getting used to seeing him in a comedy after a career in drama. “I’m a bit of a goofball,” he says. “I think we were in the first week and Jana has seen me in all my films and she just kept looking at me and going, ‘I had no idea. I had no idea.’ Comedy is quite new to me. My knees were knocking together when I was going my screen test because these are comedy legends. Comedic acting I knew demands a lot of chops. I remember I went into the room and thinking they might not see me in this frame, but I’m going to go for it. I’m going to swing for the fences. And then I heard laughter during the screen test. I was so delighted.”

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