Feathers are set to fly on Saturday, March 1, as comedian and actor Patton Oswalt will host the 29th Annual Film Independent Spirit Awards. The performer, who is not only a film enthusiast who’s looking forward to infusing the ceremony with his witty commentary on the winners, he has also revealed his surprising new prizes for the honorees. This year, the former Annie Award-nominated actor plans on replacing the Independent Spirit Award’s symbolic avian trophies. Each award winner will receive a live bird at the event, which will be held in a tent on the beach in Santa Monica during a daytime luncheon. The premiere broadcast will air later that evening, at 10:00 pm ET/PT, exclusively on IFC.
Oswalt generously took the time to talk about introducing the Film Independent Spirit Award winners during a recent conference call. Among other things, the host discussed how he was drawn to presenting the awards because the ceremony rewards emerging actors and filmmakers who have the potential to produce great work in their careers; how he thinks the Independent Spirit Awards are not only an important predictor of who’s going to win at this year’s Academy Awards, but also emphasizes who audiences are going to be supporting at the Oscars ten years down the road; and joked that he’s been chasing and yelling at birds at his local park, in an effort to overcome his polarizing fear of the animal.
Question (Q): What was it about this awards ceremony that really drew you to hosting it this year?
Patton Oswalt (PO): For me, being the kind of film buff that I am, this award show digs pretty deep into trying to find movies that took risks and rolling the dice. It rewards people that are clearly emerging that are going to be doing great stuff with their careers, and you can see them early.
What I also love is that they keep an eye open for veterans like Robert Redford and Bruce Dern, who continue to take risks and seek out challenging, different material. It’s a continuation of that process of risk and independence that the Independent Spirit Award’s really embrace and try to bring attention to.
Q: How do you prepare to host the show like this? Do you watch all the nominated movies?
PO: I watch as many movies as I can. I huddle with all my funny comedian friends and we sit and write jokes, but I try to be very, very aware of who’s going to be there. When I host award shows, it comes down to being aware of what’s going on out there, and bring that out to what you’re doing. Every time you go back out on stage, you have to be present. Real stuff is happening all around you, so you’ve got to comment on it.
Q: What have you learned things from hosting previous ceremonies, including the Annie Awards in 2012?
PO: I’m going to be very, very aware if someone reads the wrong card, that’s for sure. Like that poor guy did, he read the wrong winner. I’ll try, once again, to make a screw-up like that delightful.
Q: Do you have a song-and-dance number planned for this ceremony?
PO: I would never inflict that on the audience. No singing from me. I value the people in the audience too much.
Q: You’re involved with social media. Are you going to check to see what viewers thought of the show following the ceremony?
PO: I think after the awards show, I’m going to be so drained, so I’m going be in my sweatpants watching the Oscars.
Q: There are so many wonderful movies that didn’t get enough attention at the Oscars this year that are getting recognized here at the Independent Spirit Awards. Which ones do you kind of hope come out of here with a live bird this year?
PO: I thought ‘The Spectacular Now’ was fantastic. I hope ‘Enough Said’ wins everything it was nominated for. I thought the documentary ‘The Act of Killing,’ even though it was hard to watch, was crucial. I really hope that Bruce Dern wins for ‘Nebraska’ because I thought he was just amazing. That guy’s had awards coming for a long time, so that would be great.
Q: Do you think that the Independent Spirit Awards is a pretty good predictor of who’s going to win the Oscar?
PO: I think it goes beyond that. I think that the Independent Spirit Awards are an important predictor of who you’re going to be rooting for in the Oscars ten years down the road. That’s what makes it so exciting for me, that this is like giving an award to Martin Scorsese in 1971 for ‘Who’s Knocking On My Door.’
You’re seeing people that in the beginning of their, I’m going to use the word journey, but it really is. These are the future masters that you’re watching when they’re young, and it makes it that much more crucial and stressful for me. I really want to do well by these guys, because these are the people that are going to be making movies down the road that we’re going to be fighting over at the Oscars.
Q: Are you surprised by the rise of Independent Spirit Award nominee Matthew McConaughey?
PO: No, not at all. He just kicked his career into this turbo level the past couple of years with ‘Killer Joe’ and ‘Mud,’ and then this year especially with ‘Dallas Buyers Club.’ He steals the whole movie with one scene in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street.’ He’s amazing. He’s doing it now on all fronts. The only thing I could think of what he’ll do next is a play somewhere, and I wouldn’t put that beyond his abilities at this point.
Q: For your hosting duties, how have you been prepping for dealing with live birds? Have you been spending time with birds, taking birds out to dinner? Are you ready to work with birds?
PO: I feel pretty ready. I’ve been going down to the park a lot, chasing them around and yelling at them, so we’ll see. I’m trying to just get over… it’s kind of weird, I probably shouldn’t say this, but I have a paralyzing fear of birds, so I have two weeks to get over this life-long terror I have. I don’t think it’ll affect my performance, but we’ll see.
Q: Do the winners actually keep the birds?
PO: I think that’s going to be up to the individual winners. They can keep them, they can set them free. Trust me, I know actors and I know directors, and there are all kinds of things they could do with birds, some of which I would rather not go into.
Q: What happens in case one of the birds dies?
PO: Anyone whose bird dies will be given a baby cougar.
Q: Do you anticipate any backlash from animal-welfare groups?
PO: Each bird is given its own individual suite at Shutters on the Beach and its own personal limo driver. Plus, we’re setting each of them up with their own Instagram and Vine accounts. They’re being treated very, very well. A little known fact is that they were personally bred by Robert Redford.
Q: If all goes well, would you be interested in returning for another hosting stint of the ceremony?
PO: If they let me host next year, I’d be interested in returning. I’m going to try to work up to mythological flying creatures: pegasi, rocs … anything like that. That’s the kind of grandeur this awards ceremony deserves.