Quebec’s cinematic triple-threat Denis Villeneuve says he’s found the key to navigating the intensity of Oscar nomination day: “At the very last minute before announcements, make pancakes. It helps with the stress.”
It’s a particularly Canadian way to prepare, and perhaps it’s especially fitting since this year’s nominees hail everywhere from Saskatoon to Halifax.
The list begins with writer, director and producer Villeneuve, whose sprawling sci-fi epic “Dune” is among the most recognized overall with 10 nods, including nominations for the Montreal-based filmmaker in the best adapted screenplay and best picture categories, although he was omitted from the director race.
Then there’s Toronto costume designer Luis Sequeira of “Nightmare Alley” and Quebec producer Roger Frappier of “The Power of the Dog.”
Guillermo del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley” snagged four nominations including best picture, for a team that includes Toronto producer J. Miles Dale.
Sequeira and Dale are both longtime collaborators of del Toro’s, on projects including “The Shape of Water,” which earned Dale the best picture Oscar in 2018 for producing along with the Mexican director, and brought Sequeira an Oscar nomination.
It was a nerve-wracking morning for Sequeira, who said by phone from his home in Toronto that he had planned to sleep in until “my phone started buzzing away and I knew something was up.”
“But this time, I thought I’d endure the suspense and watch,” he said of the early morning livestreamed announcements.
Villeneuve, who shares the adapted screenplay nod with co-writers Eric Roth and Jon Spaihts, detailed his Oscar breakfast strategy in a prepared statement that shared the spotlight with his “Dune” colleagues, many of them Canadian.
“Now that it’s over, I can say two things: First, I could not be more proud of my whole team who got 10 nominations,” said Villeneuve, previously nominated for best director for 2016’s alien-invasion film “Arrival” and whose 2010 film “Incendies” was up for a best foreign language Oscar.
“We had an amazing morning. None of which would have been possible without our incredible cast — on behalf of the entire producing team, we thank you for your hard work in making my old dream a reality. Second, make sure you put enough eggs in the preparation, our pancakes were a disaster.”
Other “Dune” nominations include best makeup and hairstyling for Donald Mowat and best production design for Patrice Vermette, who both hail from Montreal and each have longstanding ties to Villeneuve.
Leading the Oscar pack is Jane Campion’s suspenseful Western “The Power of the Dog” with 12 nominations. Frappier, of Saint-Joseph-de-Sorel, Que., is among the team members nominated for best picture and said it was a “huge honour” to be included in the marquee category.
“Regardless of the end result, it’s already a fantastic reward,” Frappier said in a statement that also congratulates Campion on her best director nod and all the artists “who accompany us on this magnificent adventure.”
Del Toro’s largely Canadian team for “Nightmare Alley” includes Tamara Deverell and Shane Vieau, who received nominations for best production design, and were also feeling the excitement of the day.
Vieau described an “overwhelming, emotional” morning at home in Chester, N.S.
“It honestly felt like the Olympics this year,” the Halifax-bred set decorator said over the phone.
“To be honoured within your group of peers is really the most important thing. We’ve got a lot of love for this show, and it really was such a labour of love with Guillermo to do.”
Deverell, Vieau’s Saskatoon-bred and Toronto-based co-nominee and del Toro’s production designer, was in Costa Rica on vacation when she learned the news and was already celebrating.
“It’s been a pretty fantastic adventure and honour,” she said over the phone.
She added it was “amazing” to work with Sequeira and Vieau, but especially del Toro, “the maestro,” and with whom she just finished collaborating for his upcoming Netflix anthology series “Cabinet of Curiosities.”
Two Canadians also landed nods in the best documentary short subject category: producer Geoff McLean for his work on “Audible,” and Nova Scotia’s Ben Proudfoot for his film “The Queen of Basketball,” which tells the story of Lucy Harris, the only woman to be drafted by the NBA and the first Black woman inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Harris died suddenly in January at the age of 66.
“This is a very special story not only because it’s great but because we lost Lucy less than a month ago,” a “flabbergasted” Proudfoot said by phone from Los Angeles, where he is now based.
“Me and my whole team, our hearts have been on fire since we started making this film, (and) trying to get Lucy’s story out there to the world and close the gap between how important and significant her life story is and how many people know about it.
“The warm glow of the news this morning can be a beacon of positivity for Lucy’s family as they grieve her loss. I’m happy that this gives us the opportunity to tell the story to an even wider audience … because I come from Halifax, a place that appreciates people and appreciates the tradition of oral storytelling.”
Other nominees include the National Film Board co-production “Affairs of the Art,” up for best animated short.
The 94th annual Academy Awards air March 27 on CTV and ABC.
–With files from David Friend in Toronto