8 DAYS: You’ll be in Hollywood to cover the Oscars on the red carpet! How’s the research coming along?
DENISE KELLER: If you love movies — and I love movies — whenever you watch one, that’s research. I’d watch two to three movies a week in the cinema. I’d also catch up on them on the plane when I’m on the move. I know people say movies aren’t as good as TV nowadays, but I think there’s always a good movie out there. My husband and I love the whole idea of going to the movies as a date night.
Of the nine Best Picture nominees, how many have you seen?
So far, I’ve seen Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge — which I think is awesome — Hell or High Water, and La La Land. I’m more fascinated with why a film wins Best Picture in a particular year. I’ve always had mixed feelings about past Best Picture winners.
Shakespeare in Love won Best Picture instead of Elizabeth. In the Best Actress category alone, I just didn’t understand why Cate Blanchett lost out to Gwyneth Paltow. I also have an issue with Forrest Gump beating Pulp Fiction. I’m a Pulp Fiction fan. I think Forrest Gump is great but I don’t know if I can watch it every day.
La La Land is a shoo-in for Best Picture. The musical is set in LA and you’ve been to LA before. Do you like the place?
My husband is originally from California, and I love California. I go there once a year, usually to see the in-laws. When I’m in LA, I’ll go do yoga; the yoga scene there is very fun. It’s about all a healthy lifestyle there. I like that because I like eating and living well. California has that ethos. The people are so nice. The sunshine is gorgeous, the sky beautiful, and the coastline amazing. Why wouldn’t you want to go there? I love New York too, but when you hit California, all your problems are kinda gone.
Was there a location in La La Land that resonated with you?
For me, what resonated the most was the idea of rejection. I can relate to what Mia [Emma Stone’s struggling actress character] went through in her career. I felt very moved that the movie showed an ugly side to Hollywood. There’s the glorified side which is about singing and dancing, and make-believe. But beneath the façade, it isn’t that fabulous. It’s harsh and vacuous. [The movie shows] how hard it is [to be in Hollywood]. The way Mia gets rejected — I’ve been there. It tickled me but it also made me a little sad because it reminded me of the times I was rejected and that were a lot of times.
Back when you were a MTV VJ in the Noughties…
Don’t go there with the numbers. (Chuckles)
… you were an aspiring actress who’d auditioned in LA and New York. Care to share any nightmare audition stories?
I had people looked at my reel for five seconds and switch it off. Kinda similar to what happened to Mia. [They did it] in front of you. It happened in my modelling days too. [The agency] would open up my portfolio, close it immediately, and say, “Thank you very much.” That was the worst audition ever. You can get trained in rejection. But if you have to persevere and have that tenacity that Mia has, you can outlive it.
Okay, we’re getting a little misty-eyed. Is there anyone you’re dying to meet on the red carpet?
If I see Benicio del Toro, I’ll give him a little twinkle. Him, and Meryl Streep. She’s just amazing. If I get to interview her, I’d ask her what it was like working on Kramer vs Kramer. Do you know how beautiful she was back then? She was Emma Stone back then. She was friggin’ gorgeous. She has , the highest number of Oscar nominations in history. That says a lot about her talent and her perseverance in Hollywood. She’s all about that tenacity I was talking about.
(Photo: Kelvin Chia/Stylist: Sharon B Tan/Stylist’S assistant: Nicholas Chan/Make-up and Hair: Michmakeover/Dress, Pleatation)
The 89th Annual Academy Awards premieres ‘live’ on Mon (Feb 27), HBO (StarHub Ch 601), 8am (Red Carpet) and 9.30 pm (main show). The show is also streamed live on HBO via StarHub Go. Catch exclusive behind-the-scenes content on hboasia.com/oscars.