'Gravity' Filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron Reflects on Movie Competitions; Hollywood Says Goodbye to one of Its Favorites

By Stacy Jenel Smith

January 23, 2014 6 min read

"Art is not a 100-meter race, you know. There's not an objective measurement about what is the best. There's always taste. There's always the gestalt of the moment — for some reason, a movie happens to jell." That's filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron, whose "Gravity" space drama is up for 10 Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director, talking about movies competing. "Gravity" tied with "12 Years a Slave" for the Producers Guild's top prize over the weekend, while "American Hustle" won the Screen Actor's Guild's ensemble award. Which of the three will win top honors Oscar night is a tough call.

"Awards are fantastic because they are the reflection of a moment," adds Cuaron. "If a film is not nominated it doesn't necessarily mean it is not great; there were other great films that were not even nominated."

Cuaron is especially thrilled about the attention being lavished upon leading lady Sandra Bullock as an astronaut in horrific jeopardy in space. "I'm very happy for Sandra — Sandra is the film. You know, this film, if it works, it's Sandra. We can have all this floating and visual effects and stuff, but Sandra is heroic what she did. She holds the film together, not only in terms of an exciting and accessible way, but also carrying all this deep emotional charge. If you'd seen what she had to endure to make this performance, you would apprectiate it even more ...

"She's a warrior, she's fearless, she's generous. She's amazing behind the camera and in front of the camera. Yeah, it was easy for me because I had Sandra. It was tough for Sandra."

We caught up with Cuaron at the Television Critics Association's Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, where he joined fellow "Believe" executive producers J.J. Abrams and Jonas Pate ("The Grave," "Deceiver," "The Take") to help launch the show about a little girl with potentially earth-changing supernatural powers. Also on the press conference panel for the series that debuts March 10 were stars Kyle MacLachlan, Delroy Lindo, Jamie Chung, Jake McLaughlin and juvenile actress Johnny Sequoyah.

Onstage, he joked that he was attracted to the series, in part, because "nobody is floating." Sci-fi giant Abrams, whose latest film undertaking is the new "Star Wars," told the crowd that he'd been wanting to work with Cuaron for 20 years.

Later, we asked Cuaron if he felt the same way about Abrams. "All the time," he replied. "We met — I think it's been more than 20 years ago. He wrote a script that I loved for 'Speed Racer.' He wrote a beautiful screenplay. But at that time I was just starting. It was a big movie. I was not the obvious choice [to direct]."

Now that he's jumped into the television pool, how does he like it?

"It's been a really good experience. When you do film, [the story] is closed, but when you do TV you can keep adding things."

Cuaron admits his schedule has been "a bit busy" but points out that "Believe" does not rest on his shoulders alone. "Look, the great thing of this is, you're working with Jonas. Jonas is just getting the show together and moving everything forward."

While Alfonso heads off to collect more awards.

A TRIBUTE: Hollywood publicist extraordinaire Julian Myers, who passed away in December at age 95, was celebrated the other day with a packed house at The Hollywood Museum. Myers was remembered with as much affection for his gentlemanly, upbeat ways as he was esteemed for his illustrious career and stunning athletic prowess.

The hard core marathoner, who ran 90 miles in celebration of his 90th birthday, broke a world record for the 800-meter run in his age bracket just this past fall at the Huntsman World Senior Games in Utah.

The PR wizard somehow managed to work a job fraught with friction and distrust for countless others and remain one of the most well-liked figures in the business. As a publicist at 20th Century Fox, he worked with Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, John Wayne and others. Responsible for getting Monroe to the set on time during her films' production, he once famously said he was the only guy in town trying to get Marilyn Monroe out of bed. Later, he had his own PR firm and, among other things, helped promote then-client Dennis Weaver's visionary ecolonomics push for environmentally and economically helpful inventions.

Julian was working on a book about utilizing social media just this past year (so we never want to hear anyone say they're too old for this new fangled stuff) and had producing project for a feature film in the works.

However, it might be his kindness and good cheer that were remembered most. It's not surprising that he and his beloved late wife Patsy were trying to establish a monthly friendship holiday — Amigo Day. The man who tended to answer "Never better!" when asked how he was took many a neophyte publicist and journalist under wing through the years and showed supportive ways to all.

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