Yes, Robin Williams is the funniest man in the world.
And the most gracious. Last night the Broadcast Film Critics of Los Angeles handed both Daniel Day Lewis and Jack Nicholson the award for Best Actor, effectively leaving Williams, the third nominee, in the cold. Williams, then summoned by Nicholson to the stage, proceeded to do about 20 minutes of side-splitting shtick. He said, "I came here with no expectations, I'm leaving without expectations. Basically, this a big f--- you from the critics!"
Daniel Day Lewis thanked Eminem and "the patron saint of shoemakers." The references were to the rapper whose angry music provided the soundtrack to his work-outs during the making of Gangs of New York, and to the shoe cobbling he did in Florence for a year in 1999. Lewis has become the frequent target of jokes for these tidbits.
DDL was also the target of some barbs from host Jason Alexander, who called the Irish actor and Oscar favorite "very scary. I'm scared of him now." Alexander quipped that DDL had grown so proficient at being a butcher "that you should see his brisket. It's a beautiful cut."
Lewis, who is trying hard to enjoy all this despite his obvious lack of ease, played along the best he could.
The Broadcasters group dinner, which took place in the grand ballroom of the Beverly Hills Hotel, will be shown tonight on the E! channel. I will tell you that it was one of the best nights in Hollywood in a long time—very intimate, and fun and collegial, with nearly all the nominees in attendance. The evening had a real sense of conviviality. I hope the broadcast will capture that. Stars from different movies all mingled with each other during the breaks. People who'd never met before got a chance to say hello. I witnessed Spanish director Pedro Almodovar's face light up as he met Nicole Kidman—and vice versa. I don't know that either one of them knew what the other was saying, but they had a ball.
Meantime, Williams—who's looking great—spent time telling "knock knock" jokes to Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw. Spielberg won Best Director for his two 2002 movies, Catch Me if You Can and Minority Report.
Meanwhile, Queen Latifah, accepting the Best Song award for Eminem, also broke up the audience by doing a dead-on imitation of the white rapper. It nearly stole the show.
Julianne Moore, one of the few nominees absent, won for Best Actress in Far From Heaven.
Best Film and Best Ensemble both went to Chicago, which now looks poised to win the Oscar as Best Picture. Tomorrow it will likely win Best Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globe Awards as well. After the show was over, Latifah threw a party for the cast and producers of the movie at Cicada in downtown Los Angeles.
Chicago star Catherine Zeta-Jones, looking very pregnant, won Best Supporting Actress. Chris Cooper, of Adaptation, won Best Supporting Actor. That same movie also got Best Screenplay, written by Charlie Kaufman. There was no mention of Charlie's fictitious twin brother Donald, who got a screenplay credit on the movie. I asked Charlie where Donald was, and he replied: "He's dead." Kaufman, who is a little odd but not as strange as he's been portrayed by the media, brought as his "date" director Spike Jonze. Charlie had his eye on Diane Lane, but demurred: "I'm sure she's not interested in meeting me." Lane's manager, Joan Hyler, disagreed and set about trying to get them together.
Looking for news from the romantic front, I had a long talk with Renee Zellweger, who looked stunning in a simple jacket and skirt—very different than her recent outings in Marilyn Monroe finery.
"Where's your 'friend' George Clooney?" I asked Renee while we hung out at the bar with Sam Rockwell and Don Cheadle.
"My 'friend?'" Renee responded, mimicking my use of hand signal quotation marks. "Jeez. I wish everyone knew I've seen my 'friend' about once in the last year!"
So I guess that puts to an end to tabloid speculation about that pair.
There were lots of other interesting people who came to this awards dinner as presenters, including the beautiful Laura Linney, Edward Norton, Robert Evans, Michael Moore (whose documentary Bowling for Columbine was a winner), the whole gang from About Schmidt, Martin Scorsese and wife Helen, John C. Reilly, Adrien Brody, Susan Sarandon and her 13-year-old son Jack, director Todd Haynes (who accepted for Julianne Moore), Edward Herrman, Nia Vardalos, Michael Constantine, and Lainie Kazan (all from My Big Fat Greek Wedding), the great Michele Lee (who came with New York TV film critic Joel Siegel and really looked stunning), and Chicago producer Marty Richards.
Richards has been trying to get Chicago made into a movie for 25 years. Everyone in New York has listened to his struggles in doing so. Richards, who was married to the late and very wealthy Mary Lea Johnson (a cousin of Michael Douglas), is so happy about the success of Chicago that he looks ready to hyperventilate at any moment. If Chicago sweeps the Golden Globes, I'm afraid for Marty's life. He's going to expire from joy.
He told us a funny story during the cocktail hour. "One day I was sitting in the Russian Tea Room, and Sally Field, Darryl Hannah, and Goldie Hawn were all having lunch together. Claudette Colbert came in, and Sally said, Let's send her a note. She's the reason we're all here. They send the note over, and Claudette makes no response. Finally, on their way out they stop to see her. It turned out Claudette had never heard of Sally. Then Goldie Hawn introduced herself, and Colbert said, 'I know you! You're Private Benjamin, aren't you?'"
Field, of course, has two Academy Awards. But that's the nature of fame. And all that jazz.