If you could put one great movie performance in a time capsule, what would you choose?
TARAJI P. HENSON Tom Hanks in Philadelphia. It speaks to what's happening today in the world, including health care. And yeah, [AIDS is] still an epidemic. We don't have a handle on that yet.
NAOMIE HARRIS I am obsessed with The Sound of Music. That is my favorite movie.
ANNETTE BENING Me too!
AMY ADAMS Can I use that answer? You and I will go do a sing-along afterward.
BENING I went to the sing-along at the Hollywood Bowl with my children.
ADAMS It handles a really important time in history about what was happening on the precipice of that war.
BENING The first [performance] that popped into my head was Liv Ullmann in Persona. But I think that was because it was one of the first serious movies I saw in the little art house in San Diego where I grew up. I hadn't seen films like that before.
NATALIE PORTMAN One of the performances I think of the most is Emily Watson in Breaking the Waves. That relationship with God and with herself and with her sexuality and all of that is so human and strange and beautiful.
ISABELLE HUPPERT Usually I have difficulty answering such a question, and strangely enough, right away I thought of Shirley MacLaine in Some Came Running, the Vincente Minnelli film. For me, she is really just the actress.
EMMA STONE John Candy in Planes, Trains & Automobiles. I'm serious. Comedy means everything to me. He just breaks your heart and makes you laugh, and he does it all so beautifully.
Do any of you get stage fright?
BENING Yes. But not paralyzing. I have fear all the time with the work that I do. I don't know if everyone has that. I think most people do.
ADAMS Oh my gosh, yes. Paralyzing.
BENING More than with the camera?
ADAMS I used to have it with the camera. I figured that out, thankfully. But with the stage, I didn't realize how bad it was until I was doing Into the Woods in Central Park, and there would be times where I literally thought I wouldn't be able to walk onstage.
ADAMS The worst stage fright I ever had was singing alone at the Oscars [a song from Enchanted in 2008].
HENSON Very scary.
ADAMS Emma? Maybe this year?
STONE Oh no. I forgot about that.
ADAMS You should do it.
HENSON At least you didn't have to sing about pimps and whores [a song from Hustle & Flow with Three 6 Mafia at the 2006 Oscars].
ADAMS You actually did it. That was the first year I was nominated, and I was like, "She is up there, singing at the Oscars."
HENSON It was pretty scary. I had to look over everyone's heads because it's not like what I'm singing about is the most … you know.
You played a real woman in Hidden Figures. Is it scarier playing someone you've met?
HENSON Yes. It's scary when they're so alive and their family is still alive. It's a big pressure, because you want to get it right. And that's all I cared about. Can we just make sure Katherine [Johnson, now 98] is happy? This is her story. We are riding on her shoulders right now. And I owe her the truth and all of me. I got to sit with her and started studying her mannerisms, and I asked her a lot of questions. What I did find that was parallel in our lives was math, which I hated.
HENSON Oh God, yeah. I was not wired that way. And I think it was because as girls we were told math and science was for boys, so I guess I believed that.
Naomie, in Moonlight, you play a character who ages more than 20 years and becomes a crack addict. And you had three days to shoot it.
HARRIS It was never meant to be three days. It was because I had issues with visas because I'm British.
HENSON Really, you're British?!
HARRIS I am! (Laughter.)
HENSON I had no idea. I thought she was from California.
ADAMS You're like, "She is really putting on something for this roundtable." (Laughs.)
BENING Her accent is so believable.
How did you do it in three days?
HARRIS It's so weird, actually, because I never felt like it was three days. I never felt rushed. It's only now that everybody is saying, "Oh my gosh, it was done in three days. That's insane." And I'm like, "Yeah, it is insane!"
How did you research that role?
HARRIS YouTube. It's my first time discovering any of this, but it's an incredible mine of information. You have people with their camera phones who go down into crack dens and record interviews with people — information that you would never be able to get from any other source. Obviously, I don't know anything about Miami in the 1980s, but I felt through these clips that I got real insight into those communities and those people's lives.
Do you feel the industry is doing enough for black actors?
HARRIS It's changing hugely.
HENSON It's always hard. I have white friends, blond hair, blue eyes, who ain't worked in five years. Have we seen enough representation of African-American stories? No. But has Hollywood been horrible to me? No. I've worked. Did I get paid what I deserve? That is the question we should be talking about. But I can't take that on because I have worked and I've seen my career do this. So I never wallow in the muck and say, "Oh, it's hard." That's a given. I can't take this skin off. We know what the deal is. You understand? So I'm not going to make it an issue. I'm going to work my ass off and hopefully the work that I'm doing will change things, will make it better for the next one coming behind me. You let me in, give me an inch, I'll take a mile. I've come a long way. I mean, look at me now. I'm on a hit show, I just produced my own variety show for Christmas, and I watch TV and I go, "Wow, they're saying, 'Taraji.' " Not "Taraji P. Henson," but "Taraji's White Hot Holiday." (Laughs.) See, I'm white, really. I'm not black!