What does ice fishing on a Maine lake have to do with the glitz, glamour and red carpets of this Sunday’s Oscar ceremony?
Well, Willem Dafoe has a vested interest in both.
In interviews in the past, Dafoe has professed his love for ice fishing on Thompson Lake in Oxford County, where he has spent a lot of time over the years.
But he does take time out from ice fishing to work, and Sunday he’ll be up for a best supporting actor Oscar for his role in “The Florida Project.”
Besides having a rooting interest in Dafoe’s nomination, Mainers can also keep an eye out for other residents (or part-time residents) who might be there, and take pride in the various Maine films or performers who have been Oscar-worthy over the years. Here is a potpourri of Maine-centric Oscar tidbits help get you ready for Sunday.
PLAY SPOT THE MAINER
The Oscar telecast starts about a half-hour earlier this year, at 8 p.m. Sunday on ABC. But live coverage of the red carpet begins at 6:30 p.m., also on ABC. That’s when the stars explain who they are wearing and how it’s an honor just to be nominated. Though there aren’t a ton of Mainers nominated this year, you never know who will show up at the Oscars. So you might want to keep your eyes peeled for Portland native Anna Kendrick, who starred in the singing comedy “Pitch Perfect 3” last year. John Travolta, who has a house on Islesboro, has been an Oscar presenter in recent years. His wife, Kelly Preston, is also an actor. The pair will star in a film due out this year called “Gotti,” based on the life of New York crime boss John Gotti.
Bangor’s favorite writer, Stephen King, had a movie based on one of his books, “It,” released in theaters last year. It’s not nominated for any awards, but another horror movie is up for best picture: “Get Out.” Horror movies don’t get much Oscar love, so King may show up just to show moral support.
OSCAR GOES FISHING?
In “The Florida Project,” Dafoe, 62, plays the manager of a motel near Disney World that is home to a 6-year-old girl and her rebellious mother. Though it’s not exactly a blockbuster, it was chosen by the American Film Institute as one of 10 best films of the year.
Dafoe is a native of Wisconsin, maybe that’s why he loves ice fishing. He was famously filmed ice fishing in Maine in the early 1990s for a short-lived TV show with a cult following called “Fishing with John” starring actor John Lurie and various celebrity guests. The most dramatic moment in that episode was probably when Dafoe and his host ran out of crackers and worried they might starve. Dafoe has talked over the years, in interviews, about owning a home on Thompson Lake.
Publicists for “The Florida Project” said Dafoe wasn’t available to be interviewed for this story. But he did take time out to visit the Mill Creek Hannaford supermarket on a Saturday in late January. When asked by a shopper why he was there, he said his son, Jack, lives in the area. Jack Dafoe’s LinkedIn profile lists his job as a law clerk working in Maine courts.
Dafoe has been nominated for best supporting actor Oscars twice before, for “Platoon” in 1987 and “Shadow of the Vampire” in 2001.
One Maine native has been nominated twice for Oscars in the past few years – Eric Saindon. Don’t recognize the Gorham native’s name? That’s because he works behind the scenes, as a visual effects supervisor for Weta Digital, in New Zealand. He was nominated in the visual effects category for “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” in 2014 and for “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” in 2013. Saindon, 48, has also worked on the three “Lord of the Rings” movies, “King Kong,” “Night at the Museum” and “Avatar.”
Kendrick, 32, is a Deering High grad who has been racking up acting honors since she was a middle schooler. She was just 12 when she was nominated for a Tony playing the kid sister in the Broadway revival of “High Society.” Her only Oscar nomination, so far, came for her role opposite George Clooney in “Up In the Air” in 2010. She was nominated in the best supporting actress category.
King’s works have had a fair impact on the Oscars. Kathy Bates won the best actress Oscar in 1991 for “Misery.” The 1995 film “The Shawshank Redemption,” based on a King story, was nominated for seven Oscars, including best picture, but did not win any.
And speaking of Maine writers, another Deering High grad, E. Annie Proulx, saw her story “Brokeback Mountain” made into a film which, at the 2006 Academy Awards, won best adapted screenplay, best director and best original score.