By Jeremy Kinser
Originally published on Advocate.com February 28 2011 11:40 PM ET
During the past few months as awards season was in full swing, Dave Karger was nearly as ubiquitous as any of the acting nominees for last year’s films. Recognizable to film buffs thanks to his frequent appearances on Access Hollywood, as well as a past co-hosting stint on Turner Classic Movies with Robert Osborne, the handsome 37-year-old journalist, a senior editor at Entertainment Weekly, is the go-to guy for delivering informed, insightful commentary during awards season.
This year Karger, who is gay, was enlisted by the Academy to follow in the footsteps of his friend Osborne and the late Army Archerd as the official red carpet greeter and interviewer. Karger tells The Advocate how he predicts the winners, his opinion on how Anne Hathway and James Franco fared as Oscar hosts, and his involvement in the night’s gayest moment.
The Advocate: You’ve been championing The King’s Speech since last summer. How did you know it would go the distance?
Dave Karger: I saw The King’s Speech last August before it had its premiere at the Telluride and Toronto film festivals and I was just drawn in by the look of it and by the direction and acting. I just fell in love with it as so many people did. I interviewed Colin Firth on his 50th birthday in Toronto and had written something in [Entertainment Weekly] about how it was probably going to be an Oscar film. It’s amazing all these months later that it actually happened. I love The Social Network too, but I got the sense from all the Oscar voters I spoke to who told me King’s Speech was the film that was resonating with them and speaking to them on an emotional level.
You saw Colin and the producers after the awards last night. Did they give you props for your support?
They did actually. Colin said I was one of the true believers in the movie. It was very sweet that he remembered that and it meant a lot. I’m sure by last night Colin Firth was very sick of me. He’d had to talk to me every two days at some award show. I’d interviewed him for the magazine and the website and in front of an audience at the Palm Springs film festival, and on the carpet last night. But each time I saw him there was something different to talk about and he’s very easy to talk to, so that kept it interesting. He’s a great guy.
Network was the early favorite and won so many critics’ awards. How did King's Speech overtake it at all the guilds?
Network is a fantastic movie. I love it and The King’s Speech equally.
The Social Network is more of a critics’ film and King’s Speech is more
of an audience film. In between those two choices, the Academy usually
goes for the audience film. It’s been my mantra throughout this season. I
kept saying to myself that Oscar voters are not critics. I told myself
that they’d have a harder time giving the award to a film that’s a
little on the colder side, like The Social Network is. King’s Speech is a
warmer movie, which really helps its case.
You’re the successor to Army Archerd and Robert Osborne as the Academy Award's official red carpet greeter/interviewer. How did this come about?
It was as much a surprise to me as everyone. A month or two ago I was asked by the Academy to help them with programming on their “Road to Oscars” series on Oscar.com. I helped put together these two minute long packages about each of the 10 best picture nominees. About two weeks before the ceremony I got a call asking if I’d be willing and interested to be their official greeter. It’s a position I’ve known about and dreamed about for years. The first year I went to the Oscars was 1998, which was the year Titanic won. I remember walking down the carpet and seeing Army Archerd, and thinking that one day I would absolutely love to do that. And later Robert Osborne, who is someone I know and look up to and I cohosted a weekend of Turner Classic Movies with him. To follow in the footsteps of Army Archerd and Robert Osborne, are you kidding me? It was an honor.
I’m sure it’s harder work than it seems. Did you manage to have some fun?
had such a blast. It was truly one of the highlights of my career.
There were 722 people in the bleachers and they were like an audience on
Oprah’s "Favorite Things." I thought their heads would start exploding
when I announced Sandra Bullock or Colin Firth or Celine Dion. They went
bonkers. I loved it.
hich celebrity most surprised you last night?
Russell Brand. He was out of his mind. I loved every second of it. It’s the Oscars, so most people are in serious mode. He grabbed the microphone out of my hand and started addressing the crowd. It was hilarious. Another surprising moment was Eli Wallach. He also took the mike out of my hand and started speaking to the crowd. It’s moments like that on the red carpet that I live for.
Who did you find to be especially gracious last night?
Nicole Kidman was so lovely. I wasn’t surprised by it because she’s always gracious, but she was someone who was so composed and looked fantastic. I just love her and Keith Urban. They’re such a cute couple. And Mark Wahlberg, who I didn’t know before I met to do some stuff with The Fighter. He’s actually a really kind, considerate, and thoughtful guy. He’s very polite and sincere. It was a highlight of the awards season to get to know him a little bit. He looked fantastic last night on the red carpet.
What did you think last night’s show?
After I did the red carpet greeting I had to host a backstage show on Oscar.com, so I wasn’t 100% watching the show because I had to be commenting on what was going on backstage. What I saw of the hosts seemed fine to me but now I’m reading all of these comments tearing them apart. I loved that Anne Hathaway sang and James Franco came out in drag. They were going for it in a way that was admirable, but now that I’ve read these horrible reviews I feel I need to watch again and see if I misjudged it.
I thought they were both game. James was Tweeting during the show so we can probably anticipate some performance art project to come from his hosting.
Yeah. When you have someone whose sensibility is as out there as James Franco’s, the Oscar telecast doesn’t always allow for that kind of expression. My concern going in was whether he was a square peg being shoved into a round hole. I’m glad they took a chance on them. I think it’s fun to have new people do it.
Do you think both films are going to be discussed by future generations?
People who like more adventurous filmmaking will be talking about The Social Network for decades. People who like period dramas will be talking about The King’s Speech. My fear is that King’s Speech is going to get lumped in to that list of criminal Oscar winners people always rattle off with Shakespeare in Love, Crash, and Chariots of Fire. I don’t think it belongs on that list. I think it’s a very deserving winner.
How do you feel about people who say it appealed to the older Academy members?
It’s interesting to note that of all the 10 best picture nominees The King’s Speech was directed by the youngest person. Tom Hooper is 38 years old. A lot of people think it’s a stodgy film, that it belongs on the BBC. That’s wrong. I think it’s very energetically directed and interestingly shot and it deserves more acclaim for that. And it got acclaim—four Oscars last night.
You’re one of the most reliable prognosticators in the industry, but you missed two of the big ones last night.
What went wrong with your picks for best director and supporting actress?
I really thought there was going to be a split between best picture and director. I sensed so much support for both that I thought The King’s Speech and The Social Network would end up splitting the big awards. I was totally off there. I should have trusted the Director’s Guild Award and gone with Tom Hooper. Same with supporting actress. I should have listened to Screen Actor’s Guild that gave it to Melissa Leo. I was thinking that with 10 nominations True Grit was going to win something. I didn’t think it would go 0 for 10. I thought Hailee Steinfeld was its best shot. I did talk to some voters who told me that Melissa Leo lost their vote after she put her own ads out. I failed to realize that most voters don’t follow campaigning as closely as I do. They either didn’t see the Melissa ads or didn’t care about them. Just before Kirk Douglas opened that envelope I knew I was wrong. [Laughs]
What was the biggest surprise of the night?
I didn’t expect Randy Newman to win for Toy Story 3. I expected the Dido song to win for 127 Hours. Overall there weren’t many surprises. Maybe that’s the biggest surprise that there were no surprises at all.
What was the gayest moment of the Oscars last night?
James Franco in drag. No, Iain Canning, one of the producers of The King’s Speech, thanking his boyfriend. I loved that. That’s terrific. No wait, the gayest moment was me interviewing Tim Gunn on my platform on the carpet. [Laughs]
In your opinion what was the biggest Oscar snub this year?
Ryan Gosling not being nominated for Blue Valentine. That’s ridiculous to me. I’m very biased. I loved that movie and I haven’t shut up about it since I saw it. It doesn’t make sense how they can recognize Michelle Williams and not Ryan Gosling because the movie was so much about the two of them. It just does not make sense.
Many people were surprised that Burlesque failed to receive nominations for song and costumes. Do you think this was a reaction to the controversy that Screen Gems flew Golden Globe voters to Las Vegas to see Cher?
I don’t think most Oscar voters follow that stuff. I think they just didn’t like the movie. I was surprised that that song didn’t get nominated. I don’t think the movie overall was perceived as being classy enough to get an Oscar nomination for best costume. If you look at the films nominated for best costume, such as Alice in Wonderland, I Am Love, and The King’s Speech, they have a little more pedigree. The best song omission surprised me. I liked Dianne Warren’s “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” and I thought Cher just killed it.
Which 2011 films are you most looking forward to seeing?
I’m really curious about The Tree of Life, the Terrence Malick film with Brad Pitt. George Clooney is directing a film with Ryan Gosling so anything with the two of them, I’m in. I also love Cameron Crowe who’s making a film with Matt Damon called We Bought a Zoo. There’s a film I’ve seen called Tyrannosaur that I can’t stop thinking about. It’s a British film that played at Sundance and will be out later this year. It has two of the most amazing performances I’ve ever seen in my entire life. It affected me as much as Blue Valentine did last year.