Pete Hammond

Dreamworks’  awards contender The Help got into the spirit of the season and held their first annual Help holiday cocktail party Wednesday night at Soho House in West Hollywood. Call me cynical but this is probably also The Help’s LAST annual holiday cocktail party as I doubt Dreamworks is going to gather the cast and filmmakers to do this every year.

Nevertheless this is one group that had plenty to celebrate considering the box office and awards haul it has collected so far. That includes five Golden Globe nominations including Best Picture Drama, four SAG award nominations including Outstanding Cast, eight Critics Choice Nominations including Best Picture, a spot on the AFI’s 10 Best List, and numerous acting awards from critics groups. The August release which has grossed $169 million domestically has continued to stay in the picture so successfully that it is looking likely to grab multiple Oscar nominations including one for Best Picture.

Among those at the packed party last night were stars Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain and Mary Steenburgen along with producers Chris Columbus and Brunson Green. The industry crowd included producers Larry Mark, Donald DeLine, Brian Oliver and other Academy members and press. Davis told me she is trying not to become too overwhelmed by all the awards attention. “I look at it as a big tidal wave. It is either going to completely roll over and consume me or I am going to ride it,” she said. Despite all the recognition (she won a Tony last year for Fences and has been previously Oscar-nominated for Doubt) she maintains that she does not believe in competition between actors. But don’t expect her to turn into George C. Scott and refuse an Oscar nomination if she gets one. She said she is trying to take everything one day at a time even though she is already up against her Doubt co-star Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady for the Globes, SAG and Critics Choice Awards, and both look likely to take this contest all the way to the Oscars.

Co-star Octavia Spencer told me the whole experience of the awards run so far has been  amazing. She’s savoring every moment  and with Globe, CCMA and SAG nominations she probably is heading for the Oscars too. She’s never been through this process but is watching with wide-eyed abandon. She’s going home to Alabama for the holidays before launching the next round of the season. “As long as I am single that’s where I need to go,” she laughed.

Spencer’s fellow Globe, SAG and CCMA nominee Jessica Chastain couldn’t stay for the whole event as she had a meeting on a new film. No surprise there as she has had about eight this year alone. She also won the New York Film Critics award for Best Supporting Actress for a slew of them including The Tree of Life and Take Shelter. Like Spencer she also seemed like a kid at her first Christmas.

Producer Chris Columbus, an Academy member, is just trying to keep up with his screeners. He had just gotten The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo that day and wanted to watch it with his Lizbeth Salander-obsessed 17-year-old daughter. “I also read what you wrote in Deadline this week about Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and am anxious to see that too,” he said of another screener he just received. As for The Help’s Oscar chances? “I’m not getting too far ahead on that but the whole experience has made me want to do more films like it. I don’t really want to do another $170 million blockbuster tentpole movie right now.”

So The Help holiday party was full of good tidings for all. Maybe it will start a trend. In fact I expect my J. Edgar New Year’s Eve party invite is probably in the mail.

Awards Columnist Pete Hammond - tip him here.