How Oscar 2015 Shapes 2016 With Kat Kramer & Thank Meryl via Patricia, Now Lily, Jane Fonda

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What happened after winner Patricia Arquette’s impassioned Equal Pay Oscar acceptance speech in 2015, remarkably, has had a ripple effect, not just with the projects it inspired for 2016, but also in legislation, and even a federal investigation into equal pay in Hollywood based on salary numbers leaked as part of the Sony Hack.  ArquetteASFArquette’s trophy moment for Boyhood, Best Supporting Actress, crescendoed with “To every woman who gave birth, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.” A hashtag GirlPower lit up the Internet, and Meryl Streep’s “whoop-whoop” fist-pump went viral. That catches you up to now… almost.

Advances in Equal Pay

On Oct. 5, Governor Jerry Brown signed very sophisticated Equal Pay language into effect for California, with impact on the entertainment industry, famous for inequity in male vs female star paychecks. Also, in June, Meryl Streep, having just marked her 66th birthday, penned a letter to Congress, excerpted as “I am writing to ask you to stand up for equality — for your mother, your daughter, your sister, your wife or yourself — by actively supporting the equal rights amendment.” Subsequent breaking news announced a Federal Investigation (FBI) of pay discrepancies with 50 potential actresses contacted based on Sony’s leaked salary data.

The result is that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will depose women in film and TV in support of a class action lawsuit likely to be filed. KatKramerSBNow flash forward to films released for 2016 award consideration: Suffragette (Meryl Streep, Helena Bonham Carter, Carey Mulligan), Joy (Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper re-team), Youth (Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel), Truth (Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford), Carol (Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara), Freeheld (Ellen Page, Julianne Moore), and Grandma (Lily Tomlin) to name a few of the stunning female-driven star vehicles on screens this year. Yes, women’s issue films on parade, thanks to Patricia Arquette, and her Oscar podium cri de ceour in 2015.

Katherine Kramer’s Insider’s Take on Women In Movies and The Oscars

To put this “Year of Women’s Issues” in perspective, Katharine “Kat” Kramer, namesake of Katharine Hepburn as decided by her legendary director father Stanley Kramer (1913-2001), made time to discuss Award Season 2016 with us from an insider, child-of-hollywood, vantage point.

Kramer’s father, whose films include Inherit The Wind (Spencer Tracy, 1950), The Wild One (Marlon Brando, 1953), High Noon (Gary Cooper, 1952), Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (Tracy, Hepburn, 1967), The Defiant Ones (Tony Curtis, Sidney Poitier, 1958), Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), won 16 Academy Awards, and has an eponymous award given each year by the Producer’s Guild of America (PGA). His long reach as an outsider who made “Social Justice movies,” according to Kat, includes novel approaches like raising funds from “a bunch of lettuce growers” among other pioneering filmmaking tactics. Besides 16 Oscar wins, 85 nominations, and the Irving Thalberg Award from The Academy, he also had a hand in shaping the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in the 1950’s. Thus Kat Kramer, actress-singer/writer-producer, was a Miss Golden Globe in 1990. In other words, she has seen the inside of the Industry at home, on the red carpet, and at most major award shows. GuessWHOAsfShe also facilitates the PGA Stanley Kramer Award with her mother, PGA member Karen Sharpe-Kramer, also an actress, who once had a role in The High and the Mighty with John Wayne. One of four Kramer children, Kat also has a film series called “Kat Kramer’s Films That Change The World,” a one-woman show called “My Duet with Mick Jagger” due out in 2016/17 season, and her bio/website is listed below for more information.

We met up briefly on the red carpet as Jane Fonda received the Kirk Douglas Award from Elizabeth Banks and Diane Lane at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF), and continued our conversation as follows:

How do you think Award Season is shaping up so far?

I am really very excited about this awards season because of Women’s issue and social justice, even the documentaries and foreign language films. There are a lot of strong women’s issue films.
Even with Grandma (Lily Tomlin), it’s a socially conscious film. The abortion issue is in there very much, and what I’m doing on Monday (Oct. 12) is an open caption screening on the Sony lot, and Q & A after the film, really in the Stanley Kramer mode. It’s catering to the deaf community in (Hollywood). They are never given the same rights. They vote, they’re SAG actors, but they don’t even get a chance to see things on the big screen sometimes.

GrandmaLTJGRight now, Paul Weitz is the main special guest panelist for the panel/Q & A.  I’m lucky to be moderating after the film. I hope Lily can come, it depends on her Grace and Frankie (Netflix series) shooting schedule. She has been generous and Hosted/participated in four out of the seven installments for my Cinema series. She is featured along with Jane Fonda in an up-coming Feminist documentary I will be presenting. Lily is a genuine hero of mine. When Paul Weitz cast her in Admission I introduced her to his work, when I first found out she would be working with him. I was in Little Fockers which he directed, and his grandfather (Paul Kohner) was my father’s agent. Lily used to drive me around when we were working together on my cinema series, and making television/radio appearances together, and in a way I feel like a catalyst for Grandma. She spends a good part of the film driving her granddaughter Sage (played by Julia Garner) around on a deadline for money for her abortion. I relate to Paul’s film on many levels.

Guess you’re a big fan of Grandma then? What else do you like out there on the awards horizon?

Grandma is the underdog, obviously. There’s Spotlight (Priest abuse, Mark Ruffalo). I did see Freeheld (Ellen Page, Julianne Moore), it’s depressing but a true story — a natural Stanley Kramer social justice kind of film. I definitely think Joy (Jennifer Lawrence as a mop inventor) will be in the running. David O. Russell, I really like him. I thought Truth was amazing. Cate Blanchett, of course in Truth (about Mary Mapes TV producer). I was at the premiere. She’s also in Carol, which I haven’t seen. Jane Fonda in Youth, I hear it is great, and she is a contender. I can’t wait to see Youth, I’ve just seen the trailer; I was in correspondence with her when she was making it. Trumbo (Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane) is another one. Carol, Truth will definitely be in there. I liked Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn. Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years, 45 Years is supposedly in there too. I hope this year ends up with veterans and younger actresses really getting in there. I think it’s Lily Tomlin’s time, Helen Mirren will get in there, of course.

There’s always Helen Mirren, Lily in Grandma, but I thought you were going to say it would be Meryl vs Jane Fonda competing?

Meryl was just starting her career when she had a brief but important scene with Jane Fonda in Julia (1977). I hope they both get nominated for  Best Supporting Actress for their individual performances this year.MerylKateASF

There’s word out there that Katharine Hepburn wasn’t a fan of Meryl Streep, which seems odd, can you confirm that?

It’s true, she wasn’t. But she never mentioned it directly to me, I had heard about it. I am a big Meryl fan myself however. And I do know Bette Davis was a great admirer of Meryl’s work.

Do you think she was jealous of Meryl’s ability, or feared her as competition?

Katharine Hepburn had four Academy Awards, she had the record. If there’s anybody on the planet who could do that it would be Meryl. I can’t think of any other. So I think so, definitely.

How about when she worked with Jane for On Golden Pond? Jane told me she had only one mentor, that being Katherine Hepburn for the film.

I do know Kate took Jane to tea to discuss the script. Jane was also the producer, and it was important to her because it starred her own father opposite Kate. I believe Kate was hard on her in the beginning. I am fortunate that Jane also took me to tea once, and gave me some career advice. I did learn a lot from that.


From what I just saw of her, talking to her, Jane Fonda seems tough as nails!

She really is, but she has had a lot of things to put up with. She certainly has survived a lot, also being one of the first women to produce her own material. Coming from a famous family, like I do, I can sympathize.

Since you were Katharine Hepburn’s Godchild, named for her, can you share some memories of her?

Wow, well she was such a colorful individual. She was just really larger than life, an intimidating force  of nature. I used to hang out with her when she had a place in Manhattan, also in Connecticut. She was always questioning, very curious about everything. When Warren Beatty was (re)making Love Affair with Annette Bening, they were just married, he faced a lot of resistance from her. He asked me ‘Can you get her for me?’ I gave him the phone number. A lot of people take credit for landing Katharine Hepburn, but I was the earliest person. She acted like she didn’t know who he was! I said, ‘send flowers,’ and we all ended having dinner together. She used to visit us up in Seattle. I grew up in Seattle, not Hollywood. She did a lot of theatrical productions, many people do not remember that; she would tour, and hook up with us. She used to send me a lot of correspondence on her “Katharine Hepburn” stationery, handwritten. I’ve saved all of it. I used to call her “Auntie Kate,” she felt more of an aunt role than a Godmother. She is a character in my one-woman show.

You told me earlier that she didn’t have Parkinson’s Disease?

No, she didn’t actually have Parkinson’s, that’s a huge misconception. She had ‘familial tremors,’ there is a distinct difference. Familial tremor is an inherited tremor, and has some of the same symptoms. But my Dad developed Parkinson’s later in life.

As far as Katharine Hepburn’s crown in Hollywood, I would say Cate Blanchett is really her inheritor, do you agree?

I agree. I don’t think there’s any other actor for generations who can fill those shoes. Cate is also getting ready to play Lucille Ball, one of my favorite powerful women. CateLucyASFAnd she played Katharine already.  She is cornering the market on legends. And she’s in Truth [about allegations Dan Rather made about President George W. Bush, which impacted his CBS producer Mary Mapes played by Blanchett, and got both fired] which is just astonishing, and Carol. When Cate Blanchett played Katharine in the Aviator (about Howard Hughes, directed by Scorsese), she signed the AIDS dress. Remember the AIDS dress? She signed right next to Katharine, who’d signed it earlier. I hosted a small reception in her honor. I gave her the petty coat from my Christening that Katharine had given me. I wish my Godmother had been there. And then she won for Blue Jasmine. I just saw her the other night at the Truth premiere.

Do you ever get a fame hangover? I mean, maybe you don’t, but it happens to me sometimes after a lot of famous people at big events, red carpets, award shows —

I think everybody does. Especially the winners! Don’t you think they have the same thing?

How do you handle it, get over it?

I deal with so many different groups of individuals, but nothing ever seems like a high after a show. The carpet is different. After an award show, that is just such a high, nothing seems to eclipse that. You’re right about that!

As a former Miss Golden Globe, what’s it like being part of an Awards ceremony, and how did you prepare for it?

That’s a great question. Whether you get to be a Miss Golden Globe or a Mr. Golden Globe — they have Mr. Golden Globe, not often but they do it — you have to be a daughter or son of a famous person in the Industry. My father, he actually helped form the HFPA. He and his publicist came up with the idea to start the Hollywood Foreign Press Association [as an awards-presenting charitable foundation, it was actually founded in the 40’s initially]. So he became a big favorite. It’s a family tradition. It is very much more difficult than people are aware, it’s not just being a trophy girl. For instance, the timing is everything, since it is a live telecast. When you’re handing a trophy, you’re on call throughout the whole ceremony. I had to have a feeling of whenever the stage manager gave me the go-ahead. I would lead the winner off the stage, or in the beginning, when they didn’t let me know. It’s based on how long the speeches are, everything. There was Julia Roberts out there, Oliver Stone, I can’t remember everybody who was there, it was a blur! My feet were very sore after standing all that time, but it was a great PR experience because I opened my one-woman show shortly after.

Do you still go to the Golden Globes?

I attend every year. They have actually brought me in to coach. That was for the first Mr. Golden Globe, John Clark Cable in 1995. I also came up with an idea, to have all former Miss Golden Globes attend and have a table. They didn’t end up doing that, but they ended up having a party to announce Miss Golden Globe each year. InStyle magazine is a partner. I’ve attended a couple of those. My mom actually brought her Golden Globe to one of them. She won for The High and the Mighty opposite John Wayne, back in the 1950’s. It had a re-release premiere at Paramount a few years ago. When my Dad was attending, we’d seen it grow in so many ways. They also give out grants. Its so amazing because they give substantial grants to non-profits and educational organizations.

The Stanley Kramer Award from The PGA is very coveted, are you involved in the selection process or the ceremony each year?

I attend each year with my mother actress/producer Karen Sharpe-Kramer. KarenSharpeASFShe established it in 2001 when my father passed away. I do put in my two cents with the selection. When we first established it with the PGA, there was not a plethora of socially conscious films, and thankfully that has now changed. There are many strong social justice films to choose from. Especially this year. My mother does make the final selection (along with my input) and the Committee heads which is kept under wraps. My Cinema Series “Kat Kramer’s Films That Change The World” is an entity I created and founded and have more freedom and flexibilty than with anything else. I honestly feel my father is “guiding me” through the process.

It’s the PGA, they’re known for men, being a boys club, right? With a year of women’s issues? Does it work?

Don’t feel comfortable calling it a Boy’s Club. They have a woman Co-President now, and there are a lot of women on the board.  Every year, we select a lot of different ones, so many issues out there. I’ve had from animal rights to women’s issue to the holocaust. Sometimes there are like five to 10 or more on a single subject. I have so many submissions all the time, I have always been blessed to pick the right one, it’s been very right (on target).

What was the first year winner?

I am Sam, with Sean Penn, Dakota Fanning.

Do you ever get starstruck anymore?

I am all the time. I mean, I am a professional myself, but you always are starstruck. It happens with everyone I’ve known that I’ve idolized. I have to admit I don’t just have one (screen idol). Some I’ve met, gotten to work with, or to know. Barbra Streisand is huge idol of mine. Her film Yentl was the kick-off for my series. My dad loved that.

My Cinema Series is also in a way following in my father’s footsteps. With “Kat Kramer’s Films That Change The World” I admit I’m hands-on with the selection process. I have presented Awards contenders (The Cove) and mostly documentary features. With the rare exceptions like Yentl, BHOPAL: A Prayer For Rain, and now Grandma where I’m “pioneering” accessible Cinema experiences for the deaf community in entertainment. There hasn’t been an open caption film presented on a studio lot in some time, so Monday night will be quite historical. I also got to work with Robert De Niro, he is my top favorite for that generation. I was in The Little Fockers and What Just Happened, and he produced them too. StreisandDeNiro

Him and Barbra Streisand have both directed, most people don’t approach it from that angle. It’s not like it was for my Dad, he started when it was a producer’s medium in the first half of his career. He was also the editor, it was not a director’s medium until later.

What about the rivalry between New York and Hollywood, I mean De Niro with Tribeca, it is a rivalry that exists, right?

Yeah, I think so, there is a rivalry between NY and LA — you see a lot of times it marries together, however, especially with a lot of independent films. I am also a big Scorsese fan, and in the third year of the festival, Tribeca, they screened his very first film, So This Is New York (1948), my father’s first production ever. Ironically, it had never been released in New York because it had a limited release in 1940’s. Scorsese introduced the film with my mother. They also had a screening of Inherit the Wind. My father was born in Hell’s Kitchen, as you know, so there’s a New York mentality that’s curious about Stanley Kramer.

Oh, before I forget to mention, Mick Jagger is producing “Vinyl” for HBO with Martin Scorsese. I once recorded an album called “Gemstone” which covers Mick Jagger love songs. It’s in my show “My Duet with Mick” about my journey to get Sir Mick to sing a duet with me. I’m shooting a couple of series and indie projects, but 2016/17 is “My Duet With Mick.”

In closing, back to women’s issues, the Feds are looking into equal pay, did you hear about that? The FBI is contacting actresses to ask about pay? That’s what I heard anyway.

Me too, something like that. Meryl is really championing (equal pay), and I know Suffragette is a platform for that. StreepSuffASFShe is using her cameo in that film to spearhead change. But Grandma is about what’s happening now (not a period piece), dealing with women’s issues head-on. With abortion being such a huge controversial thing right now, that for me would be my choice.

(For more information on Kat Kramer and her screening series, find out here.)


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