There’s a war in Iraq, but that had little bearing last night on many movie and TV stars. They turned out in force for DreamWorks’s bash at the Beverly Hills Hotel to benefit the Motion Picture Fund.
This first-time-ever gala was put together by DreamWorks honcho Jeffrey Katzenberg, who summoned as many A-list stars as he could find. While studios and talent agencies forked over big bucks for the tickets, the stars got the seats and the goodies. In fact, each star was given a pair of Reebok shoes with a value of around $250. According to the Reebok workers at the party these are shoes you can’t buy in the U.S. -- they’re fancier and only available in Europe.
So imagine this sight of wealthy stars carting away their goodies and waiting under the carport at the Beverly Hills Hotel for their limos, SUVs, and Mercedes' to be rounded up. Among them: Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Billy Crystal, Christopher Walken, Michael Caine, Tom Arnold, Sally Field, Blythe Danner, Steven Spielberg, producer Saul Zaentz, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Brendan Fraser, Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta Jones, Catherine Keener, Dermot Mulroney, Alessandra Nivola, Ray Liotta, Paramount honcho Jon Goldwyn, writer/director brothers Chris and Paul Weitz, Heather Graham, Melissa Etheridge, Renee Zellweger, Miguel Ferrer, Julia Ormond, producer Steve Tisch, and ER star Goran Visjnic.
Mind you, the press was not invited to watch this event or participate in it. But Variety editor-in-chief Peter Bart was there, new Reeboks in hand.
Meanwhile, in the Polo Lounge, I dined with fellow reporters Frank DiGiacomo of the New York Observer, Ben Widdicombe of the Daily News, and Baz Bamigboye of the London Daily Mail. What fun we had watching this group as they slinked by!
In a sort of comic moment, American Idol judge Paula Abdul arrived late and missed the party and the sneakers. Instead the lovable Paula brought her pals into the Polo Lounge and hung out. Also moseying about were brothers Sean and MacKenzie Astin, as well as Actors Studio inquisitor James Lipton.
For a few minutes, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones also took some time off in the Polo. Catherine, the odds-on favorite to win the best supporting actress Oscar today, is due to give birth in 10 days. Where will the baby be born? "Either here or in New York," she says. "Or Kansas if we’re in between and have to land!"
Michael and Catherine missed the Miramax Max Awards party at the St. Regis Hotel, but that may have been just as well. Spotted in the crowd of swells at the much more somber event was Michael’s ex wife, Diandra.
It was a feisty afternoon at the Independent Spirit Awards yesterday.
Bowling for Columbine won the award for Best Documentary, and that led very vocal director Michael Moore to the podium.
Acknowledging that he’d won the award for a non fiction time, he observed that “these are fictitious times with a fictitious president now conducting a war for fictitious reasons.”
Watching generals and other military personnel as consultants on TV also came under his criticism. “I would like the US military to withdraw from the media,” Moore said.
He also observed that a “lesson for the kids from Columbine is that violence is an accepted means to resolve a conflict.”
Moore concluded with his denouncement of the Bush administration: “Anytime you have the pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, you’re not long for the White House.”
The audience cheered Moore’s statements, just as they approved other similar pronouncements by screenwriter Mike White (The Good Girl) and a statement from the board of the IFP West read by actor Don Cheadle.
Julianne Moore, who won the Best Actress award for Far From Heaven, only alluded to the war when she said: “I tell my children that fighting is not the answer.”
Far From Heaven also won the award for Best Picture and Best Director (Todd Haynes).
Of course not all the actors who came or won awards were anti-war. Dennis Quaid, best supporting actor for Far From Heaven, said at party later last evening that he was “on the other side” when he refused to wear a peace pin.
The Spirit Awards were not only an anti-war demonstration. I was very happy to see Derek Luke, the star of Antwone Fisher pick up a statue for Best Actor. He took the stage holding hands with his beautiful wife of four years and gave her the award for supporting him. Luke was discovered working in the Sony Pictures gift shop here in L.A. But he had another job: “Four years ago I was a waiter here at this event!” he revealed, which got him his own thunderous applause. This guy is class act and I hope he’s around for a long time.
Meanwhile, ingénue Brittany Murphy had a lot of trouble presenting the nominees in one category. She seemed frightened by the TelePrompTer and confused about how to proceed. Nevertheless, she told a couple of improvised jokes while the frantic director ran to her aide.
Anjelica Huston made a surprise appearance in the audience to support her brother, Danny, who was nominated for Best Actor in an obscure film. Danny Huston is now filming Birth opposite Nicole Kidman, making him the latest bloomer maybe in Hollywood history. He may well turn out to be a star following in the footsteps of his sister, father (John) and grandfather (Walter).
There was a lot of music at the Spirit Awards too as the Best Picture nominees were turned into comic songs during each of their presentations. The always underrated Lesley Ann Warren stole the show when she sang a tribute to The Good Girl to the tune of "Stand By Your Man."
But the real musical star of the afternoon was Elvis Costello, who opened the show with an acoustic performance of his old hit “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace Love and Understanding.” Nick Lowe wrote that song back in 1978, and it’s turned into a Costello anthem. Costello was there with his girlfriend, jazz singer Diana Krall, and the two of them happily worked the red carpet and chatted with other stars. It’s a new happy Costello for the millennium. He also told me he had a wonderful time guest hosting the David Letterman show last week.
Meantime, war coverage on TV out here in Los Angeles continues to be surreal. If it weren’t for Fox, CNN, and NBC, you’d never know we were at war or that American soldiers were imperiled at all. Both CBS and ABC have been showing basketball games all day. Yesterday morning, CBS was the only broadcast network to avoid the war altogether, showing Saturday morning cartoons. CBS used to be the news network of record, but I guess all that’s changed. They must be sedating Dan Rather. Dan, we feel your pain.
Indeed, the scene over at the St. Regis earlier yesterday was downright reverent as Miramax staged its annual pre-Oscar celebration. In past years the Max awards have been wild and bawdy, with satirical sketches and lavish buffets. But in light of the current events, Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein decided to tone things down considerably.
Crooner/pianist Michael Feinstein was featured for the entertainment, playing songs from Chicago and related music by Sammy Cahn. Elliot Goldenthal’s Oscar-nominated music from Frida was also performed, and several film clips from past Max awards were shown. Weinstein’s two toddler daughters, Lily and Emma, helped hand out chocolate Oscars to Miramax’s 39 or so nominees. They were helped by production chief Meryl Poster.
In the audience were Daniel Day-Lewis, Richard Gere, Rob Marshall, Salma Hayek, Ed Norton, Renee Zellweger, Julie Taymor and Elliot Goldenthal, The Hours director Stephen Daldry, Bono, Adrien Brody, and SNL comic Jimmy Fallon, as well as a dozen or so other Miramax nominees.
Chicago producer Marty Richards, still recuperating from the effects of radiation therapy for prostate cancer, skipped the event. He’s saving his energy for the Oscars and his likely win for Best Picture.
Hayek brought her parents, who came from Mexico to be part of their daughter’s incredible success with Frida.
Many of the Miramax nominees however, like Queen Latifah and The Hours’ Ed Harris, were forced to leave early in the show for a dress rehearsal at the Kodak Theatre. Ironically, having so many nominees actually hampered the Max Awards -- the stars couldn’t be in two places at once!
The Miramax crowd also entertained CBS chief Les Moonves and Soprano’s executive producer Brad Grey, both of whom got a kick out of an animated feature that lampooned several industry heavyweights including Michael Eisner, Katzenberg, and Stacey Snider.
All in all, a busy night after a long hot afternoon in Santa Monica at the Independent Spirit Awards. More on those tomorrow, along with Oscar coverage of the big event at long last!