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Bel Powley at the 2015 Gotham Awards | Paula Schwartz Photo
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Marielle Heller and Bel Powley at the 2015 Gotham Awards | Paula Schwartz Photo
Marielle Heller and Bel Powley at the 2015 Gotham Awards | Paula Schwartz Photo

The Gotham Independent Film Awards at Cipriani’s Wall Street attracted big name movie stars and up-and-coming talent. Some of them stopped to talk to me on the red carpet:

Emmy Rossum flashed a diamond engagement ring on the red carpet that drew the attention of New York Post columnist Cindy Adams. “Is she looking at my ring?” Rossum asked journalists. She said the ring was old. “It’s an old one, but it’s a good looking one, kid,” Adams told her.

Rossum’s fiancé is Sam Esmail, who created “Mr. Robot,” nominated for a breakthrough series award. (It later won – see the full list of winners here.) The actress also handed out the ensemble award to “Spotlight,” one of the few films she said she had seen. The actress said she is busy filming season six of “Shameless” and she’s moving back to New York in January. Rossum, who has a beautiful voice, starred in the movie version of “Phantom of the Opera” and told me theater might be in her future. “I’m hoping to go on Broadway, so hopefully that will be in the cards.”

Emmy Rossum at the 2015 Gotham Awards | Paula Schwartz Photo
Emmy Rossum at the 2015 Gotham Awards | Paula Schwartz Photo

Brian D’Arcy James plays Boston Globe reporter Matt Caroll in Tom McCarthy’s “Spotlight,” nominated for best feature – which it won along with best screenplay. The cast also received a special ensemble performance tribute. James credited the screenwriters, Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy, for the film’s success. “I think what we can bring to it as actors is having a familiarity as much as we could with getting to know the people we’re portraying in real life,” said James. “ I think we feel duty bound to really honor what all these people did in all the mundane ways and all the exciting ways. There’s more of the former than the latter when you’re working in journalism. It’s not a very sexy depiction of the workplace, but the result is often paradigm shifting and seismic in terms of the impact it can have on society.”

Matthew Heineman’s movie, “Cartel Land” about the drug wars in Mexico, was nominated for best documentary. “The journey I went on in Mexico was terrifying, a rollercoaster. The story shifted many different times, and I wanted the audience to go on the same journey I went on,” he told me. “You know, I’m not a war reporter. I’ve never been in any situation like this before, and this film led me into shoot outs between these vigilant characters and the Mexican drug cartels, meth labs in the dark desert night, places of torture, places I never could have dreamed of ever filming.”

Sean Baker, the director of “Tangerine,” which was nominated for best feature and went on to win the Audience Favorite Award, shot the entire film on iPhones. His two stars, Mya Taylor and Kitani Kiki Rodriguez, were nominated for breakthrough actor awards. They play transgender street hookers. Although the movie was scripted, the director told me the input of his stars was invaluable. “Sometimes I let them go off script because being two cisgender white guys from outside this world, we wouldn’t have the terminology perfect, we wouldn’t have the vernacular to talk street talk perfectly, so we needed for them to help us sometimes.”

Sarah Paulson, Michael Shannon and Sean Baker at the 2015 Gotham Awards | Paula Schwartz Photo
Sarah Paulson, Michael Shannon and Sean Baker at the 2015 Gotham Awards | Paula Schwartz Photo

Marielle Heller, nominated for a breakthrough director award for “The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” has worked on the film, first a play, for eight years. “It’s born out of my sheer stubbornness and love.” The 36-year-old director praised her star, Bel Powley, who went on to win the best actress award. “I couldn’t have found a more incredible actress to take on this part. This role of Minnie means more to me than any character I’ve ever come across. I love her. I find her to be inspiring and really special.”

Marielle Heller at the 2015 Gotham Awards | Paula Schwartz Photo
Marielle Heller at the 2015 Gotham Awards | Paula Schwartz Photo

Josh Singer, the co-writer of “Spotlight,” which won three Gothams that night, told me his next project is a biopic about astronaut Neil Armstrong, which will be helmed by “Whiplash” director Damien Chazell. “It’s a great story because a lot of people know the icon but not many people know the man… He wasn’t a big talker in terms of the press and he wasn’t a big talker period, but if you look at the ten years leading up to the Apollo mission, it’s a pretty rugged, tragic, harrowing tale.”

Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer at the 2015 Gotham Awards | Paula Schwartz Photo
Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer at the 2015 Gotham Awards | Paula Schwartz Photo

Cynthia Nixon stars as a mother dying of cancer in “James White,” starring Christopher Abbott – up for best actor – and directed by Josh Mond, nominated for breakthrough director. I asked how she found her way into the character. “I know this character. I know her so well. She’s me. She’s my mother. She’s all the women, my mother’s friends on the Upper West Side, you know, I know her. I know her and I love her and I see her shortcomings and I love her anyway.”

Rachel McAdams, who plays Sacha Pfeiffer, the only woman on the Boston Globe investigative team called Spotlight, stopped briefly to chat about the real-life character she played. “I got to spend a lot of time with her and just get to know what an amazing woman she was. I was just so moved by her compassion. She was just such an incredible listener, and I think people who had fought this pain for a long time felt like they could really open up to her and I think a lot of the stories came out because of her, so I was just very inspired to play her.” As for details about how she looked and spoke, McAdams said, “Sacha would always be available for me to send her an email. I would ask, ‘Would you wear these pants? Would you wear these shoes?’ She was very gracious with her time.”

The cast of "Spotlight" at the 2015 Gotham Awards | Paula Schwartz Photo
The cast of “Spotlight” at the 2015 Gotham Awards | Paula Schwartz Photo

Brett Haley, the 32-year-old director of “I’ll See You in My Dreams,” was there to support his star, Blythe Danner, nominated for a best actress award. The movie, which cost $500,000, has already made $7.5 million dollars and proves there is an audience for movies about older women. The director conceded that the film is “not one of those walk of into the sunset films. It’s about loss and about dealing with loss and how none of us can get through life unscathed. At times it is sad but overall, I think it’s very fun and funny and hopefully life-reaffirming and hopeful.” Haley told me when he wrote the story about a 70-year-old widow that Blythe Danner “was the first person that came to mind, and I’m so happy she’s being recognized for her first leading role at 72.”

Blythe Danner looks terrific and said she’s excited to be nominated and in the mix. She told me at first she resisted taking the role. “I never thought that it would be something that would be so easy,” she said. “I was really nervous about it because I thought it would be so difficult being in every scene. I’ve always been a supporting actor. I’ve never had a lead in a film, and I thought I don’t know if should do this. I don’t know if I have the stamina.”

She added, “I had to kiss Sam Elliott the first day of the film, so I was a little bit edgy about that white moustache and all the rest of it, but he couldn’t have been sweeter.”

Blythe Danner at the 2015 Gotham Awards | Paula Schwartz Photo
Blythe Danner at the 2015 Gotham Awards | Paula Schwartz Photo

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