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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
CNN Spotlight: And the Nominees Are...
Aired February 20, 2014 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NARRATOR: A scheming stripper with a fake identity.
AMY ADAMS, ACTRESS: I created Edith because I needed her to survive, OK? But I'm done with her now.
The tension created felt very organic, the sort of frenetic desperation.
JARED LETO, ACTOR: I have been looking for you, Lone Star.
NARRATOR: A transgender woman fighting for her life.
LETO: I need more of that (EXPLETIVE DELETED) cocktail you got.
KRISTA SMITH, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I almost didn't recognize you.
LETO: Do you like this dress? Because I think the neckline is a little plunging.
These physical transformations really helped to propel an inner transformation as well.
LETO: Bless your little heart.
NARRATOR: A young slave brutalized by a sadistic master.
LUPITA NYONG'O, ACTRESS: I ain't got no comfort in this life.
NYONG'O: She didn't have the luxury of sentimentalizing her pain. And so neither could I in playing her.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: We don't work for you, man.
JONAH HILL, ACTOR: Sweetheart, you have my money take to your boobs. Technically, you do work for me.
NARRATOR: A ruthless, soul-sucking Wall Street broker.
HILL: Donnie has no impulse control, no morality, and completely values the wrong things.
NARRATOR: Indescribably complex roles that have stretched these four actors to their limits and won them nominations for Hollywood's biggest prize, the Oscar. Tonight, "Vanity Fair"'s Krista Smith sits down with four of Hollywood's actors in "CNN Spotlight: And the Nominees Are..."
ADAMS: What's awesome about these dresses is they do look good on a lot of different body types.
SMITH: I met up with best actress nominee Amy Adams the DVD Journey of a Dress exhibition in Los Angeles, where one of the dresses she wore in "American Hustle" is on display.
(on camera): How was that for you to be so out there, just to be so exposed?
ADAMS: When we were trying on clothes, it just sort of became this thing when Sydney was feeling -- it's like this strange mix of vulnerability and power that she has.
CHRISTIAN BALE, ACTOR: You play your part.
ADAMS: Fine. You play your part.
She used it manipulation. She used it as a distraction. She used it as a middle finger to her lover who brought his wife. She was going to be seen.
SMITH (voice-over): And seen she was, decked out in sexy 1970s glam. Actress Amy Adams shined in "American Hustle," shedding her girl next door image and perfecting the role of Sydney, con artist and seductress.
ADAMS: Oh, my God. I could only dream about these dresses. They're beautiful.
We did "American Hustle" and I suddenly become aware of my decolletage.
SMITH (on camera): Well, that was very sexy. That was something we had never seen before, anybody who...
ADAMS: My boobs?
SMITH: I don't think we actually saw your boobs.
ADAMS: No, no, you didn't. There's some really nice editing.
SMITH: What drew you to this particular film and character, Sydney?
ADAMS: It was David. I got to really try something new.
SMITH (voice-over): Director David O. Russell had Adams in mind from the start.
DAVID O. RUSSELL, DIRECTOR: And I say, I want to make a character that's worth you putting your heart in it and I want it to play the broadest range of your emotion, all the way from your rawness to your most elegant, your most glamorous, your most sexy, your most romantic, but also your most emotional mess. And you're going to be able to be all those things.
ADAMS: We didn't have a script until like a week before. But that's a lot of how David worked. He will call you like two days before you get a text. There's this amazing scene in this one movie. Oh, and, also, you're a stripper. And you're like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, go back. What? Sydney is a stripper? She was, she was. He's like, oh, yes, we're going to shoot the scene. I will show -- and so then you're learning about your character as you go.
I falsified my records. I falsified them. My name is Sydney Prosser from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
And I loved the idea of this woman who had great vulnerability, but at the same time had this survivor's extinct. And I found that just really something I identified with, something I really was excited to play. I hadn't played that before.
SMITH: She had mostly played wholesome and naive. Before Sydney, she lit up the screen as the princess Giselle in the Disney hit "Enchanted."
SMITH (on camera): Where does your love of musical theater come from?
ADAMS: Wasn't this fun?
Yes, I just loved it. It always was something that spoke to my spirit, you know?
SMITH (voice-over): Adams was raised in a Mormon Church until the age of 11, when her parents divorced.
(on camera): You had seven brothers and sisters, right, and you were smack in the middle.
ADAMS: In the middle, yes.
SMITH: And you're the only performer out of everybody?
ADAMS: I'm the only one who chose it as a career.
SMITH: You grew up in Colorado, and then, after high school, did you make a decision that this is it, I'm going to be an actress or I'm going to be a singer?
ADAMS: I was going to be a dancer. I always wanted to pursue theater, but I always thought it would be through dance. I think I always wanted to act, but I was too -- just too afraid to say it, because it took a lot for me to say, you know what, I just want to try, I just want to try.
SMITH (voice-over): Adams did try after a short stint as a waitress at Hooters.
(on camera): Famously, you had the job at Hooters for a minute.
ADAMS: Oh, my gosh, like the three months that like lasts forever in your life. Young ladies, watch what you do.
SMITH: But I would have to say in the "Guinness Book of World Records," I bet you you're the only one-time Hooters waitress that has received five Oscar nominations. I'm going to go on a limb and say that.
(voice-over): Adams opted out of college and soon found her way into the dinner theater circuit.
(on camera): You landed in a company in Minnesota.
ADAMS: I did.
SMITH: And what do you think about that kind of day in and day out where you're actually singing and then you're serving dessert in between the acts?
ADAMS: Yes. It's such great discipline. Really, you develop a work ethic.
SMITH (voice-over): Her talents caught the eye of a film producer who gave Adams her first role on the big screen in the dark comedy "Drop Dead Gorgeous."
ADAMS: Hey. Hey, I got second runner-up. I got second place.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Third.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Third.
SMITH: At 24 years old, she was Hollywood-bound. She got a string of guest spots on TV shows, like "Buffy: The Vampire Slayer."
ADAMS: I hope you will all be hanging out with a disgusting demon.
SMITH: And "That '70s Show."
ADAMS: So that was fun.
SMITH: But everything changed in 2002, with a chance-of-a-lifetime audition for director Steven Spielberg.
ADAMS: And Steven, I mean, come on, I was like -- oh, gosh, I was 27 and the character was meant to be quite younger. And so I showed up in like some pink cotton Cardigan and some ill-fitting khakis. And I just thought, you know what? I'm just going to present myself the way that I'm going to. It was the first time where I really was like, I can do this.
SMITH: And she did. In "Catch Me If You Can," Adams nailed the role as a gullible candy striper, falling for an impostor, played by Leonardo DiCaprio.
ADAMS: It's my first week. I think they're going to fire me.
LEONARDO DICAPRIO, ACTOR: No.
SMITH: The film was a hit, but somehow Adams failed to gain momentum.
(on camera): That movie came out and it didn't necessarily become the Amy Adams world that we all live in now. It took a little bit.
ADAMS: Yes. Well, yes. But, no, that was disheartening, not in the sense that I wasn't happy with the work, but I really thought it would get easier.
SMITH (voice-over): Things got tougher. With no movie offers for a year, Adams returned to TV, joining the series "Dr. Vegas."
ADAMS: He's a doctor at the casino.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Kind of weird.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: That's Vegas.
SMITH: But the show was canceled after just one season.
ADAMS: I was broke. I really was at a crossroads. I was sort of deciding if -- I didn't want to be a miserable actor.
SMITH: When we come back, Amy Adams on her crisis of competence.
ADAMS: I wouldn't have hired me to be in a big movie. I was a disaster.
SMITH: This dress, now, this is kind of before Sydney really goes to the dark side. It's just kind of conservative.
ADAMS: I'm not trying to distract anybody yet.
SMITH (voice-over): Before Amy Adams found her dark side in films like "American Hustle," she struggled to find her place in the acting world.
ADAMS: I think about it now, I wouldn't have hired me to be in a big movie. I was a disaster. I had a crisis of confidence. And I couldn't find my authentic self in that struggle.
I hadn't worked for like a year, and I was broke. And I thought, if this can't make me happy, I need to find something else. I was starting to sort of lose my way a little bit. What was interesting is, I was looking at it incorrectly. I was thinking a role made the difference, or an opportunity.
But if you're not ready for that moment to happen, it's not going to happen.
SMITH: By 2005, Adams was ready. She was 31 years old when she stole a spotlight in the low-budget independent film "Junebug."
ADAMS: You ever try out for cheerleader or anything? I tried out, but I didn't make it.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: I was born in Japan.
ADAMS: You were not.
SMITH (on camera): Did you have any idea when that film came out, it was going to kind of catapult you into a whole other echelon of roles?
ADAMS: No, none. I remember, when I watched it, the thing that struck me was that people found her funny, because when I played her, I found her so tragic. I thought I was playing like a great tragic character.
God loves you just the way you are, but he loves you too much to let you stay that way.
SMITH (voice-over): That character landed Adams her first Oscar nomination for best supporting actress. But her role as the funny irresistible princess in Disney's "Enchanted" made her a star.
SMITH: Adams was on a fast track. The offers came in. She co- starred with Meryl Streep in back-to-back films, "Doubt" and "Julie & Julia."
MERYL STREEP, ACTRESS: Bon appetit.
ADAMS: Julia, you make it sound so simple.
SMITH: But it was director David O. Russell who transformed Amy Adams.
ADAMS: Are you married?
MARK WAHLBERG, ACTOR: No. Would I ask you out if I was married? What kind of guy do you think I am?
ADAMS: Happens all the time, trust me.
SMITH (on camera): David really broke you out. And "The Fighter" was great, because it's true.
SMITH: You got to wear a belly shirt. You got to be tough.
ADAMS: And I had a lot of belly, too. Yes, he said, I want her to look like a girl who eats and drinks beer. And I said, not a problem. That, I can do.
I hadn't even read a page. And he's like, I'm going to send you a couple of pages, but you need to do this. It's Charlene. And then he told me about one scene where she gets into a fight.
SMITH (voice-over): The movie was a smash, and Adams a knockout. The part made her a contender for more complex roles. In "The Master," she was the twisted wife of a cult leader played by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.
ADAMS: If we don't do that, we will lose every battle that we're engaged in. We will never dominate our environment the way we should unless we attack.
SMITH: Her chilling performance seemed to obliterate her squeaky- clean image and led to her darkest role to date.
ADAMS: And I'm going to get really close with Richie, the cop, in case we need to use him if we need another move.
SMITH: In "American Hustle," Adams went deeper than she ever had. She disappeared into the seductive, scheming Sydney, a stripper- turned-con artist with a bonus identity.
ADAMS: There are times when she doesn't know where she comes from. As a audience member watching it, I can imagine that must be frustrating. Is she kidding him or is she not? Is she lying to him? Is she not? I don't know that she always knows. And I felt that in playing her.
SMITH (on camera): No one has really seen you in a part like this before.
ADAMS: Yes. It was kind of gross to play, and I don't think she's a character that operates very well in her vulnerability. It pisses her off. And so anyone in the wake of that vulnerability is going to suffer.
SMITH (voice-over): Adams turned aggressive opposite co-star Bradley Cooper.
BRADLEY COOPER, ACTOR: I think that would be better.
ADAMS: No. No. I'm not (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you. (EXPLETIVE DELETED)
The tension created felt very organic, the sort of frenetic desperation we all have about this sort of like need for recreation that kind of runs through all the characters.
SMITH: But she got to have some fun, too. There was that epic New York City dance with partner in crime Christian Bale.
(on camera): I don't know how you got through it, just looking at Bradley Cooper with those pearls and Christian Bale with the worst comb-over ever.
ADAMS: The guys were just so committed. I mean, Christian, he gained the weight. He shaved his head.
He wasn't necessarily in good shape, and he had this comb-over that was rather elaborate. He had this confidence that drew me to him.
SMITH: The one scene that I remember so well in that movie was when you're waiting for the two women to meet, and then you do encounter Jen's character in that bathroom. That's Jennifer Lawrence, Adams' unhinged co-star and on-screen nemesis.
ADAMS: And it might be done now, but it was beautiful and it was real. And we loved each other.
JENNIFER LAWRENCE, ACTRESS: Shut up.
ADAMS: I remember we had shot. It was at the end of a long day. And I think there was so much expectation on it.
SMITH: Watching as a moviegoer, you did feel that kind of crazy tension.
ADAMS: You scare him and you manipulate him and you use your son.
In moment I thought, oh, my gosh, we are alike. We manifest it in different ways, but we're both so scared and just clinging, clawing for stability, for a sense of self.
LAWRENCE: I will make you so sorry for what you have done to my family. Mark my words.
ADAMS: That's (EXPLETIVE DELETED) up. I would never say anything that (EXPLETIVE DELETED) up to anybody. But you do, because you're so gross inside. You're so (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
LAWRENCE: Oh, I'm gross inside?
SMITH (voice-over): The intense role was hard to shake off the set.
(on camera): How do you separate it? How do you not take that home with you? Or do you?
ADAMS: After I had my daughter, I struggled with that a little bit, because I needed to come home and be clean for her.
And especially when I started doing this, I realized I really need to leave Sydney at work. I made a real conscious effort. I have a wonderful partner, Darren, who really helps me with that.
SMITH (voice-over): And despite her five Oscar nominations, Adams hasn't succumbed to the pitfall of fame.
ADAMS: And I work really hard so that it stays my job and not my life. I think that's important. And that's what I learned. You show up on time. You know, you treat people with respect and you learn you stuff. You do it. It's just beyond my little Colorado girl's dreams. It's just really beyond.
SMITH: Coming up: a rock star ready for his closeup.
LETO: Why are you so good to me?
SMITH: And his ultimate transformation.
LETO: You know what? You don't deserve our money.
LETO: Do you like this dress? Because I think the neckline is a little plunging.
SMITH: I almost didn't recognize you.
LETO: I kept the character so close to me.
Why are you so good to me?
SMITH (voice-over): Actor Jared Leto's haunting portrayal of Rayon, an HIV-positive transgender woman captured the emotional core of the hit film "Dallas Buyers Club," catapulting him into the spotlight and creating serious Oscar buzz.
(on camera): I feel like you have been shot out of a cannon. How has this whole experience been?
LETO: It's been absolutely wonderful. I think the unexpected nature of all of this has made it that much more impactful.
SMITH (voice-over): Unexpected since Leto hadn't made a film for years, taking time off to focus on his band, 30 Seconds to Mars. For the bulk of his career, Leto has alternated between actor and rock star.
(on camera): I remember that you took a lot of heat for that. Like, oh, of course.
SMITH: Now he wants to be a rock star.
SMITH: And -- but you did it. You actually sell out 100,000-seat stadiums and sell millions of records.
LETO: I have always been a creative person. I made music years and years before I ever even dreamed of acting. But most people don't know that.
SMITH: I reading about how you were raised. Like, you basically traveled a lot as a kid.
LETO: My mom climbed out of the muddy banks of the Mississippi with her kids in one hand and a fistful of food stamps in the other -- I say that kind of as a joke, but it's really true, too -- in search of a better life for herself.
But I think the experiences of moving around a lot prepared me for a life on the road, for a sense of adventure. I wanted to be a painter. At first, I studied to be an artist, a fine artist. And I pursued that for many years, and I discovered filmmaking.
SMITH (voice-over): That lead to an interest in acting. Leto headed to Los Angeles in 1992. His good looks and ability to pull off the perfect teen slacker landed him in the television cult hit "My So- Called Life."
LETO: Get in.
SMITH (on camera): We were basically introduced to you as Jordan Catalano. And I can't believe that show was only on for a year.
Do you miss that character at all?
LETO: You know, it was such a short period of my life. And it really found an audience because it was replayed so long on MTV.
Well, I'm going to go.
SMITH (voice-over): Leto was an instant heartthrob, but worked hard to get more challenging parts. It didn't take long.
LETO: It looks like needless wind-resistance to me.
SMITH: He secured his first leading role in "Prefontaine," based on Olympic runner Steve Prefontaine. Leto immersed himself into the part, training for weeks, sculpting his body, becoming the athlete.
(on camera): I don't know whether there was method or not, but you stay in character throughout the whole process.
LETO: I find it to be really fertile ground to learn and experiment, to explore the space. Right?
Usually, when you're making a film, you have a lot of downtime. But when you're staying focused and in character, you get to use that time to really take advantage of what's happening in a great way.
SMITH (voice-over): He found success with edgier characters, all requiring a drastic change in appearance. He was chiseled and platinum blond in "Fight Club," slicked-back in a three-piece suit in the thriller "American Psycho" opposite Christian Bale.
LETO: How the hell are you?
SMITH: He was emaciated as a junkie in the disturbing and well- received "Requiem For a Dream," losing 30 pounds to play a heroin addict, and later gained significant weight in "Chapter 27" for the role of Mark David Chapman, the murderer of John Lennon.
LETO: I guess it wasn't meant to be.
I think I work best when I'm challenged with an impossible task.
SMITH (on camera): This one, to me, was the ultimate transformation, because you had taken a five-year hiatus.
LETO: This role was something really special for me. I'm glad that I read the script. And I hadn't read a script in years.
MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY, ACTOR: Give him a good one. Give him a good one.
SMITH: You did your audition via Skype, right?
LETO: Yes, I did it via Skype, and flirted with the director for 20 minutes.
SMITH: Right. It always go back to that. Flirt with the director.
LETO: You should have seen his face when I grabbed the lipstick and put it on. His jaw dropped. I had that little pinked sweater pulled down over my shoulder.
And he was -- it was great, because he was just such a straight male. He was so, like, easily disarmed. And I haven't told him this yet, but I felt like I had him in the palm of my hand, or at a least part of him.
LETO: I have been looking for you, Lone Star.
SMITH (voice-over): Leto sunk his teeth into the part, learning everything he could about Rayon.
LETO: I began meeting with transgender people and listening, just kind of shutting up and listening. The information kind of passed easily from hand to hand, and that was really nice. People were incredibly generous.
And we talked about things like what it's like to tell your father, your parents who you really are, and what it's like to fit into the world, to try to fit into the world.
SMITH: And staying in character offset as a woman was eye-opening.
LETO: I was walking through Whole Foods, and I got this look, which was, I don't know what that is, but I don't like it.
And it was a real look of condemnation, of judgment, of disgust. And that was powerful to get to understand and a gift to get that look, because I'm sure Rayon and the Rayons of the world get that look all the time.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Oh, God help me.
LETO: He is helping you. I have AIDS.
SMITH (on camera): The scene when you wear the suit and you go to visit your father, it's as if he's in a costume. What did you learn about being transgender?
LETO: I learned a lot making this film. And I think at the core of it, we have all had our own issues with identity. And I think that Rayon was in that place. She was looking for who she really was.
I'm sorry, dad.
MCCONAUGHEY: You should go. Unless you got more cash or new clients, I'm busy.
SMITH (voice-over): Leto co-starred with Matthew McConaughey, who played a homophobic rodeo cowboy, blindsided by his own HIV diagnosis.
LETO: You know what? You don't deserve our money, you homophobic.
SMITH (on camera): How was McConaughey?
LETO: Working with Matthew was great. He was obviously born to play this part. And I think we both came to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) win.
LETO: Not to win any accolades or awards, but to win, and to bring these people to life and to do something that was going to live forever.
SMITH (voice-over): Coming up: Jonah Hill on his audition for Martin Scorsese.
HILL: And I start sweating.
And I go to the bathroom, and I wash my face. And I'm like, "Get it together. You know, this is, like, your one chance. Like, don't blow this."
You have my money. Take the abuse.
HILL: I love three things. I love my country. I love Jesus Christ, and I love making people rich. Hello.
SMITH (voice-over): Playing Donnie Azoff, from "The Wolf of Wall Street." Cold blooded, calculated...
HILL: Hey, listen, I quit.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't work for you, man.
HILL: You have my money taped to your boobs. Technically you do.
SMITH: He's a man Jonah Hill actively dislikes.
HILL: Donnie has no impulse control, no morality, and completely values the wrong things.
SMITH (on camera): What made you think that you could do Donnie? Because you're not like him.
HILL: No, I'm not like him. But unfortunately, you know, you meet people in life or you have people in life that they don't possess a lot of the qualities that you would hope they would. There's a small part of every person that wants more, that wants everything, that wants to be the best and the richest and the most powerful and have the best of everything. And Jordan and Donnie, that was 100 percent of who they were.
Jordan, do you know how good it is to have you back in this office? It's not the same when you're gone.
SMITH (voice-over): Like him or not, it's the role that won Hill a second Oscar nomination. A role that could have totally been out of his reach. Hill built his career in comedies. It all started as a teenager with too much time on his hands.
HILL: I started making these prank phone call CDs for people, just friends of mine, and they were fun and ridiculous. And I was about 17 or 18. I'm friends with the Hoffman family, and their kids went to the same school as me. And Dustin was like, you know, "You should be an actor." I'd given him some of these prank phone calls.
And I just took it as a nice compliment. I would never have expected anything. And one day he called me and said, "Come to this house. I want you to come to this house." And so I go and in the house is David O. Russell and Mark Wahlberg and Jason Schwartzman and all the people who were in "I Heart Huckabees" and they were listening to my prank call CD.
SMITH: Those prank calls landed Hill his first film.
HILL: Hey, Crocket.
SMITH: And led to small parts in hit comedies. Like "Knocked Up."
HILL: Look, man, I didn't go to Yale so I could work 12 hours a day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought you went you went to Santa Monica City College.
HILL: I went where I went, Jason.
SMITH: And "Forgetting Sarah Marshall."
HILL: I would love to sell you some weed, Jimmy, but I'm at my (EXPLETIVE DELETED) job right now. Obviously, because you called me at work, because I'm at my place of work.
SMITH: Then in "Superbad." Being funny made Jonah Hill famous.
HILL: I don't want to sit here cooking (EXPLETIVE DELETED) food, no offense. And I just think that I don't ever need to cook tiramisu. Am I going to be a chef? No. Just give me a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) break. I'm sorry for cursing.
I started not having to audition for films, and I got script after script. And it was a really lucky, amazing time. I would call it the Christmas present thing where it's like you get a Christmas present and you open the box, and it's this thing that you really wanted.
SMITH: But what Hill didn't want was to get typecast.
HILL: I knew I didn't want to make a bunch of movies just like "Superbad," because I wouldn't be able to grow as an actor. And my goals were to, you know, be as good of a dramatic actor as I was a comedic actor.
SMITH: "Moneyball" would give him that chance. Hill played Peter Brand, a Yale-trained whiz kid who helped Brad Pitt's Billy Beane rebuild a crash-strapped baseball team. Hill knocked it out of the park.
HILL: Come on! Come on!
SMITH: His performance earned him his first Oscar nomination and landed him on the short list for the role of a lifetime.
HILL: I got a phone call from my agent that said, "You are on the bottom of a list of way better actors to get the second lead opposite Leo in a Martin Scorsese film." And I was just so excited that I was even on the bottom of that list.
SMITH: So let me just ask you, because Martin Scorsese you said is your dream to work with.
HILL: Yes. I was so excited. I read the book three times, and I read Terence Winter's screenplay three times, and my agent said, "In two months you're going to fly to New York and meet with Martin Scorsese."
SMITH: But Hill couldn't wait two months. HILL: I happened to be in Mexico promoting a film, and Leo was there promoting a different film. I asked if I could meet with him, because he was the producer and star of the film. And I said, "Listen, I have to play this part. There's no other actor in the world that can play this part." And he called Martin Scorsese and said, "I just met with this guy. I've never seen someone want a part more."
SMITH: Weeks later, Hill was standing in Martin Scorsese's New York office, sweating.
HILL: And I'm like, I must be really nervous. You know? And I go to the bathroom and I wash my face, I'm like, "Get it together. You know, this is, like, your one chance. Like, don't blow this."
And I go back in, and I really start sweating, like really badly again. And I'm like, "I'm sorry, guys. I don't want to be demanding in any way, but is it really hot in here?"
And Scorsese was like, "Yes, I know, it's so hot. The air conditioner is busted. Let's go in my office." So we went in his office where it was, like, way cooler and more relaxed. And we talked for about an hour and a half about Donnie. And then I read the scenes, and I said, you know, "I did the best I could. I prepared for months."
And I hadn't told my family and friends I was even up for a Martin Scorsese film, because I figured I wasn't going to get it.
SMITH: Hill waited a month and a half with no word. Then he got a phone call.
HILL: My phone rang and it was Leo. He was like, "You got the part." And I ran around the streets screaming. That day was probably the best day of my life.
SMITH: Coming up, it's his dream job. But can he deliver?
HILL: We're doing take after take after take after take. And Scorsese is not happy. Not mad, just not satisfied with whatever we're getting. And everyone can tell that I'm freaking out.
SMITH (voice-over): It was Jonah Hill's dream job. Acting in a Martin Scorsese film. Playing Donnie Azoff, the crack-smoking, sadistic sidekick to Leonardo DiCaprio's Jordan Belfort.
HILL: OK. You're all right.
SMITH: For Hill, a different kind of part. And a very different appearance.
(on camera): Did you know then that you were going to have to wear the teeth?
HILL: Yes, yes. We had talked about what his look -- his look would look like. And you know, Martin kind of wanted Donnie to look like a lit match. His hair is, like, wild and crazy and blonde and orange, and he's just kind of like a stick of dynamite.
HILL: Twenty-two million dollars in three (EXPLETIVE DELETED) days!
SMITH: Did you sleep in the teeth?
HILL: I didn't sleep with them in, but I had such a horrible lisp when I put them in that I had to talk on the phone for an hour and a half to two hours every day with them in, in order to get rid of the lisp.
And since no one in my personal life would, obviously, indulge me in doing that with me, I would call different businesses. So I would call, like, Best Buys and Targets. I couldn't go in somewhere and talk, because if somebody recognized me, it would be very embarrassing. So I would call Best Buy, especially this one in Hawaii, and their customer service was amazing. And I would speak on the phone with them as Donnie for like an hour and a half, two hours every day.
Is that your car there?
LEONARDO DICAPRIO, ACTOR: Yes.
HILL: It's a Jag?
HILL: Make a lot of money.
SMITH: When you first meet him, it's fantastic.
HILL: How much money you make?
DICAPRIO: I don't know, $70,000 last month.
HILL: That was the scene I auditioned with.
SMITH: That was it?
HILL: Yes. That was my big scene, Donnie's big intro scene. Between the audition and the actual film, I had been rehearsing the scene for six months.
Must take you a lot of work.
SMITH (voice-over): For Hill, the pressure of performing for Scorsese was intense.
HILL: I was absolutely terrified.
I'll tell you what, you show me a pay stub for $72,000, I'm going to quit my job right now and I'll work for you. We're doing the scene in the first half of the day where I meet Leo. And he's happy, we're happy. I couldn't be happier, because it went well. And we move on.
Now we're going to shoot the scene after lunch of just me quitting my job in the phone booth.
Oh, yes, everything's fine.
We're doing take after take after take, and you know, Scorsese is not happy. Not mad, but just he's not satisfied with whatever we're getting. And I just keep doing take after take. And I don't know. I keep trying different ways. I don't know what's going on, and he's not happy. And he kind of clears everybody out. So I'm starting to get really nervous because...
SMITH: I can imagine.
HILL: Like what does he want? What am I doing wrong? And finally, his assistant Ashley comes up to me, and she goes, "Are you OK?" And then that really freaks me out, because it means it's noticeable that I'm doing a bad job and everyone can tell that I'm freaking out.
And so he clears everyone out. He goes, "Hey, kid, come here. Let's go sit at his monitors, you know, where he observes everything." And we sit there and he reads the paper. And I sit there next to him, and I just don't say anything. He doesn't say anything to me. And we sit there for about 20 minutes. And the first 10 minutes I'm still freaking out and nervous. And the last 10 minutes I just kind of zoned out and forgot about everything.
SMITH (voice-over): Then it was time to try again.
HILL: We did two takes, and he was happy.
Hey, listen, I quit.
And that's what's in the film.
I work better from a place of feeling I shouldn't be there. You feel like you don't deserve a seat at the table. And then that either gives you an opportunity to run away and blow it or to really get better and feel like you're not letting all these geniuses down.
SMITH: His insecurity about acting for Scorsese not only helped him in the end, but earned Hill his second Oscar nomination.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jonah Hill in "The Wolf of Wall Street."
SMITH (on camera): I'm so proud of you. You turned 30. You already have two Oscar nominations. I can't even imagine what your speed dial is like. Brad, Leo, Marty.
SMITH: Mom. Everybody. How was it this time around when you got the call again that you were nominated for Best Supporting Actor?
HILL: My phone rang at like 5:30 or whatever it is, and it was my publicist, and she was screaming. And then my mom immediately after, and then Leo immediately after that. Because it all happened really fast. "I've got to go." I talked to my mom and we spoke for a second. And she's like, "I'm going to let you talk to everyone." And my phone rang immediately, and I hadn't called anyone, and Leo was -- I think I was the first person he called. And he called me, and he was like, "Twenty-two million in three (EXPLETIVE DELETED) hours!" and he, like, screamed it in the phone. We're, like, really happy. And he's like, "Let's conference in Marty. Let's conference in Marty."
SMITH (voice-over): Jonah Hill still can't believe it.
HILL: And I was like, what the hell is going on? How am I on a phone call, you know, with Leonardo DiCaprio conferencing in my hero, Martin Scorsese? And we all spoke on the phone, and Marty was like, you know, "It's so exciting. It's exciting stuff," you know. And that was like a moment.
Don't forget about my money.
SMITH: An unexpected moment in his unpredictable career.
HILL: A couple mill coming in.
SMITH (on camera): Scorsese is your dream. Check. Working with Leonardo now twice, check. Two Oscar nominations. What's next? What's next for you?
HILL: It's to continue down this road of playing people that challenge me. Playing people that scare me to play. There have been two or three times where I've said, "I'm scared to play this person. There's some reason I'm scared to do it." And they said, "That's the No. 1 reason why you absolutely have to go and play this person." And that's exciting to me. And I hope every movie I make gets to be that dangerous and exciting to me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You admit it.
LUPITA NYONG'O, ACTRESS: Yes.
SMITH (on camera): Coming up...
NYONG'O: You know why?
SMITH: Lupita Nyong'o, the hottest actress you never heard of.
Cate Blanchett came to me and said how much she liked my work. And I was like, check. Very good check.
SMITH (voice-over): The Golden Globes. The official kickoff to Hollywood's award season.
NYONG'O: I'm just here to celebrate the success of the film.
SMITH (on camera): How is your list of people that you want to meet? I know you were, like, keeping...
NYONG'O: That was a game.
SMITH: Yes, I know.
NYONG'O: It was a game. It was the Golden Globes game.
SMITH: It's got to be pretty amazing.
(voice-over): A game for Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong'o, a newcomer anxious to rub elbows with Hollywood's brightest stars.
NYONG'O: At the Golden Globes, one on my checklist was Cate Blanchett. You know, the commercial break, and that's when me and my best friend were like, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
And I was sitting there, and Cate Blanchett came to me. And she gave me a kiss on my cheek and said how much she liked my work. That was a shock. You know? And I was like, check. Very good check.
SMITH (voice-over): A SAG Award, check. Critic's Choice Award, check. Now an Oscar nomination for the hottest actress you've never heard of.
Lupita Nyong'o is stunning audiences with her portrayal of Patsy in "12 Years a Slave."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get away from him, Patsy.
SMITH: She was one of hundreds of actresses to audition for the part.
(on camera): You were just basically still at Yale Drama School when you auditioned for this.
NYONG'O: Yes, I was.
SMITH: How did the call come up for you to audition?
NYONG'O: Well, my manager -- I had a manager at the time, and she received the script. And she read it, saw the role of Patsy, and she thought that I would be right for it. So she worked her magic and got the casting office to come and watch my showcase in L.A. We were there as a class. It was our coming out event, where we meet the industry and the industry meets us.
SMITH (voice-over): When director Steve McQueen met Nyong'o, what he saw was innocence and grace. Exactly what he needed for an actress playing a slave brutalized by a sadistic master.
(on camera): I mean, it's so challenging even for an audience member to watch what happens to her.
NYONG'O: Yes. SMITH: How is it for you, the actress, to get into that?
NYONG'O: First and foremost, it was ensuring that I was not playing Patsy from a place of sympathy for her situation.
I'm going to Master Shaw's plantation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You admit it?
She didn't have the luxury of sentimentalizing her pain.
I got this from Mr. Shaw.
And so neither could I in playing her. That these were the circumstances of her life, and it was my job as an actor to truthfully believe in them and try and deepen them, personalize them for myself as best as I could.
SMITH (voice-over): But once Nyong'o became Patsy, she struggled with leaving her tortured character on the set.
NYONG'O: Balls of cotton day in and day out. More than anyone. And for that I will be (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
It seeps into everything you do. Every single thing. That's how things get richer, you know, because it's always in your subconscious. And I got massages and all sorts of other therapies and stuff to try and get out of that zone.
SMITH: And she was surrounded by a cast of veteran actors that mentored her, like Michael Fassbender.
MICHAEL FASSBENDER, ACTOR: That's good.
NYONG'O: With Michael, after a certain scene we'd shot, we were traveling back to base or something together. And I felt like there was just one more thing I could have done. And I was just -- I felt such regret, because it's done. There was no turning back. It's not like you have the next day to go and try the thing you just discovered.
And I turned to Michael and I was like, "What do I do if there is something I wish I would have done? You know, like, do you ever feel that way?"
He says, "Yes. Let it go." You know.
SMITH: I would imagine...
NYONG'O: You just let go.
SMITH: ... as an actress, that would just torture you. NYONG'O: Yes.
SMITH: And interviewing and talking with Michael Fassbender, they always say the same thing about Steve McQueen, is that he creates an environment where you're allowed to fail.
NYONG'O: Yes, exactly. And when failure is an option, then the sky is the limit, because you get that one way or another, and you don't get punished for getting it wrong.
SMITH (voice-over): So far, Nyong'o is getting everything right, from fame to fashion.
(on camera): You have certainly taken the fashion world by storm. Everyone is loving your wardrobe.
NYONG'O: Thank you.
SMITH: How has that process been?
NYONG'O: It's been fun to have things to dress up for and to have someone to play dress-up with, you know, my stylist.
SMITH (voice-over): At just 30 years old, Lupita Nyong'o has found both style and success, from her first feature film to Oscar-nominated actress to fashion darling.
(on camera): What do you feel like is next for you?
NYONG'O: Well, my plan is to get back to work. By hell or high water.