Karen Valby
January 30, 2014 AT 05:00 AM EST

Yes, stars like to complain about the awards-season gauntlet they run each winter from red carpet to red carpet. But there are perks — like hobnobbing with other A-listers they’ve never met before. “I’ve made plenty of new friends,” says 12 Years a Slave breakout Lupita Nyong’o. “I’ve really enjoyed getting to know Amy Adams. Emma Thompson as well, who is a riot.” Thanks to back-to-back events for the distribution of celebratory tchotchkes, Nyong’o has also become better acquainted with her 12 Years castmates, such as Alfre Woodard. “We only had one day on the set, but since then we’ve had so many more occasions to hang out,” says Nyong’o. “The fact that you are all in it is very comforting because you know that you are not alone in the frenzy and the madness.”

Even Hollywood veterans like Bruce Dern delight in rubbing shoulders with other stars. “Two weeks ago, I’d never met Al Pacino,” he says. “And Meryl [Streep]. I didn’t know her before. I mean, we knew who each other was. It’s one of the funny things about show business, that everybody assumes we all know each other. Well, we know of each other. But we don’t get face-to-face. Now you get to actually sit down in a more relaxed atmosphere.” For example, Dern recently chatted up Jared Leto about the late long-distance runner Steve Prefontaine, a friend of Dern’s whom Leto played in a 1997 biopic.

Leto says he’s found an unlikely awards-circuit pal in Robert Redford. “We met at the New York Film Critics Circle [event],” Leto recalls. “[Then] I was on the red carpet at the Golden Globes, and I heard someone say my name and it was Redford. You meet people like Redford or Meryl Streep or Bruce Dern, and when you talk to them they’re actually nice and not out of their minds.”

Steve Coogan, an actor-writer nominated for co-writing Philomena, has found surprising fans of his earlier work in British TV — even relatively obscure projects. “I was shocked to find out that Bradley Cooper knew my stuff from 20 years ago,” says Coogan. “And Alfonso Cuarón knows this series Saxondale that went below the radar in the U.K., in weirdly intimate detail.” By the time the nominees have worked enough red carpets, they must be thrilled to talk to anyone other than reporters — and about anything other than themselves.

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