Each year, Oscar nominees juggle an action-packed award season dance card that has them all but commuting from one starry red carpet and black tie gala to the next.
So when it’s time for the annual Academy Awards nominees luncheon, the comparatively low-key, wine-filled gathering at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills is a welcome, no-stress respite, resulting in one very star-studded group picture.
Nearly all the year’s nominees – including this season’s darlings Leonardo DiCaprio, Alicia Vikander, Brie Larson – showed up on Feb. 8 to raise a group toast, pick up up their official certificates of nomination and pose for a keepsake “class of 2016 photo” on a dais packed with the A-list likes of Sylvester Stallone, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lawrence, Matt Damon and Steven Spielberg.
Here’s a behind a behind-the-scenes look at the coolest lunch in town:
“Follow me!” said Jason Tremblay to his 9-year-old son, Room star, Jacob Tremblay, who sipped a Shirley Temple as the duo made their way onto the outdoor patio before the lunch began. More interested in the maraschino cherry bobbing in his drink than the A-list crowd, Jacob excitedly told his dad: “There’s a cherry in it… I’m squishing all the juice out of it!”
Creed star Sylvester Stallone was a a huge hit at the luncheon and for several minutes chatted with an upbeat Dicaprio as lunch-goers were wowed by the disparate pair.
Spotlight producer Michael Sugar complimented his star Rachel McAdams on her blonde highlights before she bumped into Dicaprio, who kissed her on both cheeks before the two took their seats at assigned tables.
Descending the stairs into the ballroom, The Revenant director Alejandro G. Inarritu, fresh from his Directors Guild win on Saturday, tells a friend, “I’m tired.. I’m numb!” Soon he was engaged in a chat with Spielberg.
Spielberg and Dicaprio enjoyed an animated chat while The Martian production designer Arthur Max reminisced about Woodstock (yes, Woodstock) with his delighted table-mate Alicia Vikander, who sipped white wine.
During the lunch, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, gave the assembled group some advice from the podium: “Simply take a breath and relax!” Larson and Joy nominee Jennifer Lawrence caught up close to where Stallone took a moment to chat with young Tremblay before Tremblay’s father snapped a personal photo of the duo. Lawrence embraced Eddie Redmayne, who did the gentlemanly thing and gave his jacket to his wife for warmth.
Oscar producer David Hill took a moment to congratulate a bashful Lady Gaga from the stage for her Super Bowl rendition of the National Anthem.
Larson and McAdams spilled their style secrets to PEOPLE as the Room star reveals, “I’ve been able to understand clothes and fashion better, it’s a great way for me to express what’s happening on the inside,” adding, “so my goal with each dress that I’ve worn is just to try to reflect what my soul looks like, which is far more complicated than any dress could ever be.”
The Spotlight actress has made the best dressed list on multiple occasions, but even she admits there were times she has been anything but. “I mean, it’s always not glamorous when you go home at the end of the night like so sad and you just fall on the floor in a puddle,” McAdams tells PEOPLE. “It’s so fun, but you really do feel like you turn into a pumpkin – go from Cinderella to a pumpkin – in the best way. I shouldn’t say this out loud because Elie Saab might kill me, but I had a great photo shoot with my sister’s Chihuahua on the dress after the SAG Awards with the SAG Award.”
Another style standout is Danish Girl‘s Vikander, who has been soaking in her first awards season as an Oscar nominee. “I think I kind of just learned by watching him,” she says to PEOPLE about advice she’s received from costar Redmayne. “He said try to enjoy it because it is pretty wonderful and that’s actually what I’m trying to do and then I’ve also been shooting at the same time over the last four months on a film and then to kind of be able to enjoy this and then go back and do the proper work and be able to really kind of balance both of them.”
And no one has waited for an Oscar nomination quite as long as Stallone. Forty years since his first nomination, the Creed star “never thought [he] would be able to cross this threshold again.”
Adds Stallone, “It was wonderful in 1976–that was a minor miracle – but as I get older I realize miracles begin to diminish longer in the tunnel keeps getting longer and the opportunities tend to shrink proportionate to the amount of time that you have left, so bluntly I couldn’t be more thrilled in the fact that my daughters actually look at me now as an actor and not a bad golfer.”
Watch the 88th Academy Awards on Feb. 28 at 7 ET/4 PT on ABC, and stay tuned to PEOPLE for full Oscars coverage.
Reporting by NICOLE SANDS AND KARA WARNER