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A Minute With: Patton Oswalt on Spirit Awards and playing host

By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - When it comes to hosting an awards show, Patton Oswalt has a few tricks up his sleeve that include keeping a celebrity-filled crowd on edge.

The Virginia-born Oswalt, 45, has forged a career in comedy, with roles in TV sitcoms "The King of Queens" and "Two and a Half Men," and films such as 2011's "Young Adult" and last year's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty."

With his comforting, friendly and often neighborly vocal tone, Oswalt is also a regular voice actor and stand-up comedian. On Saturday, he will host the Film Independent Spirit Awards, a laid-back luncheon held in a tent on the beach in Santa Monica, California, the day before Hollywood's Oscars night.

Oswalt spoke to Reuters on hosting duties, the industry of independent film and how to break the ice with nominees.

Q: What's all this about you handing out live birds instead of the Spirit award bird statuettes to winners?

A: Oh, good lord, no. We just did that as a goof on the commercial. Why would I give a live, fragile animal to a boozy actor at a beach? That'd be terrible, no!

Q: The Spirit Awards are the day before the Academy Awards and a lot of those actors are going to be on edge as they are also nominated for Oscars. Are you going to put them at ease?

A: It'll be a combination of me being genuinely excited to be there and them being genuinely buzzed from the alcohol that they're serving that I think will relax everybody, that's what I'm hoping for at least.

Q: You're up against some tough hosting competition this year after Tina Fey and Amy Poehler slayed the crowd at the Golden Globes and Ellen DeGeneres is back for the Oscars. How are you feeling about that?

A: Really confident. Of all those people, I'm the prettiest girl. I don't really think I'm going to have any problems.

Q: You're known for often speaking your mind and calling out celebrities on Twitter. Is there anyone at the awards that you're hoping to throw a few jibes at?

A: Oh, yeah, there's people there. I hope they understand that it's my job to warm people up; I don't think anyone's going to take anything too personally. Oh, wait a minute. We're talking about actors. God knows what's going to happen.

Q: How are you planning to break the ice with the nominees?

A: The most that I'd say, especially if I'm talking to someone like Robert Redford or Bruce Dern, I say "Hey, look, thank you." And they can see from my pasty (repertory)-theater skin that I'm just a guy that watched a lot of those movies and I'm just happy to get to see them in real life and thank them in person for all the amazing work they did.

If it's somebody new and upcoming, I just go, "Look at all the horrible mistakes I've made. Please don't do what I do," and then I mysteriously walk away while sipping my Scotch.

Q: Just to make them more on edge about their career?

A: Exactly. I want to go "Hey, one small step and this is you," and then I point to my face. And then I just burst into tears.

Q: What's the strangest thing you're going to try and do?

A: I'm going to go commando.

Q: You've had your own success in independent film such as "Young Adult," how have you seen the industry change?

A: It's been pretty profound. I think the main thing that has changed is that now I think indie films have to do a little less begging especially in terms of getting distribution or just getting seen. If a filmmaker is simply concerned with getting their work looked at so that they could build their career off of that, if the initial film doesn't sell to a distributor or entice a studio, they can go, "You know what, everyone's got a screen in their pocket now, and I can reach them somehow." And the good stuff does bubble up.

Q: You were also in Ben Stiller's anticipated December film "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," which failed to score any big awards nominations. Were you disappointed?

A: I was just disappointed in terms of, I thought Ben Stiller did an amazing job directing it and I thought he should have gotten some recognition for that. I also thought it should have gotten way more recognition in terms of cinematography, and in terms of his writing ... this was a really good crowded year, and it really tells you something when a movie that good gets lost in the shuffle. So it's frustrating for that movie but I think it's good overall for the health of cinema.

Q: What are your Oscar plans, will you be attending?

A: I don't think I get to go to the Oscars yet, I'm not a member of the Academy. I'd love to be someday, fingers crossed. Oscars day is going to be pajamas, pizza, wine and a big screen TV and my Twitter feed, that's all it's going to be.

(Editing by Eric Kelsey and Paul Simao)

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