Leo's Win Almost Didn't Happen

Golden Globes

Leo’s Win Almost Didn’t Happen

“I’ve never won anything before in my life,” Leonardo DiCaprio told me last night after he’d won Best Actor in a Drama at the Golden Globes. (Let’s put aside for a moment the kookiness of the Globes — we’ll get back to that shortly.)

Nothing? Ever? “Nothing,” Leo said at the swanky A-list after party thrown by Creative Artists Agency at Chaya Brasserie. This was a soiree wall-to-wall with bold-faced names who just kept coming, mostly from Miramax’s even bigger A-list bash over at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. While I was talking to Leo, for example, he was interrupted by a scruffy looking Tobey Maguire, Kate Hudson and Chris Robinson, Goldie Hawn, and others of that ilk. Meryl Streep, Brittany Murphy, Geoffrey Rush, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and Nicole Kidman were just a few of the others who packed into the tiny restaurant and boogied to part-time deejay Chris Huvane (who had a hip-hop version of Fiddler on the Roof spinning at one point on his turntable).

Having not previously won even a church raffle, Leo was beaming about his Globes win.

“I am a happy man,” he said, and I can tell you it’s the first time in the 11 or 12 years I’ve known him that this kid looked relieved. After excellent work in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," "Marvin’s Room," "Gangs of New York," "The Beach" and even "Titanic," he’s finally been moved up to the adult’s table. Did he write an acceptance speech? “I did,” he said, “Because my mother told me to. But it wasn’t all finished. I was really shocked when they called my name.”

He wasn’t the only one apparently. According to my sources, several members of the odd Hollywood Foreign Press Association were convinced that someone else had won Best Actor in a Drama. In fact, I am told that Don Cheadle from “Hotel Rwanda” was the straw poll winner across the board on many HFPA lists. One member confirmed for me, “The voting was very close, the closest it’s been ever. And yes Don Cheadle was second by not much.”

Some other members actually thought Cheadle had won, which would have made an interesting breakthrough situation given that another African-American, Jamie Foxx, won Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy. I can tell you that such a thing almost happened. This may mean that Cheadle has picked up a lot of support in the Hollywood community, making him a probable Oscar nominee along with Foxx, DiCaprio, Johnny Depp, and likely fifth choice Javier Bardem of “The Sea Inside.”

But bravo to Leonardo, who has come a long way since he first appeared as a homeless kid on TV’s “Growing Pains.” He’s survived rigorous public scrutiny in an onslaught of publicity that reached a crescendo with "Titanic" and has never quite abated. Even last night at the Miramax bash — possibly the last one ever thanks to Michael Eisner — the crush of fans, friends, paparazzi, and business associates around DiCaprio was the largest I’ve ever seen. No one causes a stir like he does, not even Mick Jagger, who really turned the party on its ear, or Martin Scorsese, Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Spacey, Imelda Staunton, Lisa Marie Presley, Sophie Okonedo, David Carradine, Anthony Mackie, Radha Mitchell, Wyclef Jean, Sarah Ferguson, Mena Suvari, director John Madden and Marc Forster, “Garden State” writer director Zach Braff, or any of the other dozens upon dozens of celebs who made Miramax their main event of the night.

One person who did miss the Globes: Al Pacino, whose father, Sal, died suddenly from a heart attack on Wednesday at age 82. Yes, you did see a mention in this column last week that Pacino dined out with friends on Thursday night in Hollywood and told me he’d probably attend the awards ceremony. He did not tell me his dad died and I was surprised to hear about it later. But let’s say he was in shock and not in the mood to announce something so personal. I’m told that the small funeral on Friday in West Covina was attended by the mother of his twins, actress Beverly D’Angelo. Condolences to Al and his sisters.

Condolences as well to Rick Schwartz, one of the producers of “The Aviator,” who lost his grandmother over the weekend and had to race back to New York. Rick, who also produced "Gangs of New York," missed seeing the Martin Scorsese-directed epic win Best Drama. Hopefully, he’ll make the Oscar ceremony to see the same thing happen again.

More tomorrow about the Globes, their ins and outs, the parties and more. But in the meantime, the strangest guest last night had to have been director Tony Kaye, the man who made the ugly film “American History X” a few years ago. Kaye, 53 years old according to the Internet Movie Data Base, appears now to be a wizened man with a long gray straggly beard and a large black scull cap. (Considering he looked like death itself, it’s appropriate that his next film is called "Reaper.")

Kaye arrived at the Miramax party with a beautiful young Asian woman as his date, causing a lot of stares since everyone thought he was a rabbi. One publicist, however, disabused the crowd of this idea when he asked Kaye what this week’s Torah reading was. “He didn’t know what I was talking about,” the flack said, shrugging.