Oscar's Private Parts

Article excerpt

Byline: David Ansen with Ramin Setoodeh

Welcome to Newsweek's annual Oscar Roundtable. Michael Fassbender's penis makes everyone laugh. Charlize Theron sleeps with her statue. Christopher Plummer boogies to house music. Tilda Swinton talks about her first time. George Clooney doesn't want to live in a trailer. Viola Davis is terrified of Meryl Streep.

We're waiting for the stars to arrive when the first distress message comes through. Charlize Theron might be late because her house is surrounded by paparazzi and she can't get out. Then a puzzling email warns that Michael Fassbender isn't coming after all.

So, of course, Theron is the first to arrive at Smashbox Studios in West Hollywood, where we're holding this year's Newsweek Oscar Roundtable. She's fighting off a cold and keeps saying she "sounds like a man." If so, not any man I've ever met. By the time Fassbender blows in--the email was apparently a prank--George Clooney and Viola Davis and Tilda Swinton have already shown up, and the lovefest has begun. At many previous roundtables--Newsweek has been doing these since 1998--the talent was often meeting each other for the first time, but this year our lineup has a lot of shared history. George and Viola (sorry, but it was a first-name kind of day) are old pals; they worked together on Solaris a decade ago, and he lent her his Lake Como villa for her honeymoon. George and Tilda are good buddies, too, having bonded making Michael Clayton and Burn After Reading. Charlize and Michael just spent months together shooting Ridley Scott's sci-fi epic Prometheus at Pinewood Studios outside London.

We knew the chemistry was going to be special this year. Although this is work for them--just part of a string of Oscar-season promotional duties--it feels more like a cozy A-list dinner party. Fassbender, who once worked as a bartender, runs out with his publicist before the photo shoot and returns bearing vodka and Bloody Mary mix, then sets up shop behind the bar in the greenroom and begins to pour. (It's still well before noon.) With his short-cropped hair and Irish bonhomie, he bears no resemblance to the slick sex addict in Shame or the moody, sideburned Rochester in Jane Eyre, and even less to the straitlaced Carl Jung in A Dangerous Method--especially when he and Theron start sharing stories of their drunken sky-diving experiences. Last to arrive is Christopher Plummer, dapper and elegant. At 82, Plummer is no longer the drinking man he was in his wilder days--his recent memoir is full of memorable boozing tales--so he doesn't partake. But there's no need to loosen him up: in front of our video camera, he assumes the persona of the newly out gay father in Beginners, playing with a scarf as he boogies to house music. When it's Theron's turn, she transforms herself into the reckless, drunken narcissist she plays so unforgettably in Young Adult, and hurls a drink at the camera. (To see these and other star videos from the Oscar Roundtable, check out Newsweek's new iPad app.)

There's a stir in the room when the surprise seventh star arrives--Uggie, the scene-stealing 9-year-old Jack Russell from The Artist. Should one address him in English or French? Swinton, not one to be starstruck, falls to her knees before the canine. "Hi, Uggie, you are such an amazing dog!" she says, insisting on a photo of the two of them together. Not everyone is so happy to see the pooch. Plummer expresses frustration that Cosmo, Beginners' remarkable Jack Russell, isn't getting the same awards-season attention. "We had the better dog," he declares, with his best silken patrician diction. He doesn't seem to want to pose in the group photo with Uggie--the competition!--and no one is quite sure whether his reluctance is serious or sly.

It's time for the roundtable conversation to begin, but Clooney and Fassbender can't be torn away from the Ping-Pong table in the lounge. What's the score? "We're like those schoolchildren," Clooney says. …