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Nina Totenberg Heads To The Oscars


The Academy Awards are tomorrow night. The biggest stars in the world will be there - Lady Gaga, Meryl Streep, Spike Lee, Chadwick Boseman, Rami Malek, Emily Blunt, Viggo Mortensen and Nina Totenberg. Nina steals the show, I might say, in the Julie Cohen-Betsy West film "RBG" about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It's nominated for best documentary feature. And the correspondent who turns any Supreme Court case into her own red carpet, Nina Totenberg, joins us now. Thanks so much for being with us, Nina.

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: Thank you, Scott. I don't even know who all those stars are.

SIMON: They know who you are, though.

TOTENBERG: Oh, let's hope.

SIMON: More to the point. Listen; there's so many serious questions raised in this film, so let me ask, what are you going to wear?

TOTENBERG: (Laughter) Well, I'm a party girl, so I have evening gowns - not dozens, but I've got them. So I got the top four, I brought them downstairs, I put on each one. I actually put my hair up so my husband would see what it looked like, and he had another friend over. Then we all agreed on the simplest one. Black, sexy, slit up the side - that's it. And he tried on his best tuxedos also and we voted on those, too (laughter).

SIMON: Aww. So David's going with you, your husband.

TOTENBERG: David is going with me.

SIMON: You know a lot of well-known people, but is there anyone in particular you're really going to be excited to see?

TOTENBERG: I would say Meryl Streep.

SIMON: Oh, my gosh, how nice. Well, I believe she'll be there.

TOTENBERG: I'm sure she'll be there. She usually is.

SIMON: What about names that come to - I mean, George Clooney.

TOTENBERG: Yes, I would love to see George Clooney, but I would better like to see Cary Grant and unfortunately he won't be there (laughter).

SIMON: Well, he might come back for you, Nina. There's really no telling. Do you happen to know if the justice will be there? Can you tell us?

TOTENBERG: She will not be there and let me say...

SIMON: Yeah.

TOTENBERG: ...One of the reasons she will not be there is that there's court on Monday. And she's not going to miss court. You know, she's just back.

SIMON: To go to the Oscars, right. Yeah.

TOTENBERG: Yeah. She's not going to miss court to go to the Oscars. I'm cutting class - court class - to be there.

SIMON: If "RBG" wins, will you, Nina Totenberg, get to go to the stage and thank your producer, your director, your husband and your agent?

TOTENBERG: I don't have an agent, and no. I'm going to be in the rafters so high I suspect that I'll be lucky if I don't get a nosebleed. I mean, you know, Julie and Betsy did a fabulous job with this movie. I had no idea that it would turn out so brilliantly. And it - it's a hard thing to do, to make the Supreme Court both compelling and to make it clear. And every screening I've been to of this movie - and there are several - ends with a standing O. And they should and will get all the credit if they win. And if they don't win, they should and will get all the credit anyway.

SIMON: One day, when they make the Nina Totenberg story, which by the way will need to be a musical, who plays Nina Totenberg?

TOTENBERG: (Laughter) Who do you think, Scott? Who do you think I should get?

SIMON: I - just off the top of my head, I'd say Emma Stone.

TOTENBERG: (Laughter) Well, I think Emma Stone is too young, so let's go for Sharon (laughter).

SIMON: Well, good luck - not that you need it. NPR's Oscar-bound Nina Totenberg, thanks so much.

TOTENBERG: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Nina Totenberg is NPR's award-winning legal affairs correspondent. Her reports air regularly on NPR's critically acclaimed newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.