Monday, May 20, 2024

Spielberg, Lucas, Will Smith, Tom Hanks, Warren Beatty, Bradley Cooper All At One Amazing Dinner


The list of superstars and their promixity to each other was only part of what Saturday night’s Lifetime Achievement dinner for the Motion Picture Academy so special this year. It was also the vibe in the room. Without cameras and with little press, Hollywood’s superstars gathered for a festive and poignant dinner to celebrate this year’s Oscar Lifetime Achievement honorees–Jeffrey Katzenberg, D A Pennebaker, George Stevens Jr. and Hal Needham.

The honorees and their guests sat at four long tables perpendicular to the stage in the Dolby ballroom in the Hollywood and Highland center. So imagine if you will that the  Katzenberg table had Kirk and Ann Douglas, Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Melody Hobson, Stacey Snider, and Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. And, oh yes, Will Smith.

Parallel to that group the Pennebaker throng, with mostly family and Michael Moore with Kathlyn Glynn, his lovely wife, and yours truly. On other side of us was George Stevens’s group, with Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, Elisabeth Shue and Davis Guggenheim, Quincy Jones, Tom and Meredith Brokaw, Mike Medavoy, and Sidney Poitier with wife Joanna. Just to name a few.

Hal Needham’s table featured famed “Godfather” producer Al Ruddy, his wife Wanda who’s the overseer of Armani everywhere.

And then, just mixed into the crowd were casts and directors from all the big hit movies of the moment, from “Les Miz” director Tom Hooper, battling a cold, to “Silver Linings Playbook” director David O. Russell and star Bradley Cooper. There was everyone from Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann to Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal. John Krasinski was there from “Promised Land” and Quentin Tarantino came to toast Hal Needham right after the first screening of “Django Unchained.”

Wait: Richard Gere was in the mix, as was Stefanie Powers, just back from England. And there was a table for all the people from “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” I ran into John Hawkes, a likely Best Actor nominee for “The Sessions.”

I know I saw “Flight” director Bob Zemeckis. And of course, Hawk Koch, new president of the academy, along with Dawn Hudson, who’s running the Oscars so brilliantly now. And new Oscar producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron were there with Seth McFarlane, next February’s host.

It’s always the most fun watching people mix and match. Warren Beatty nearly bowed to the ground when he met David O. Russell, who told him: “I’ve always wanted to meet you. I’ve taken a page or two from your book.” Spielberg and Lucas had the hottest aisle, and Spielberg went into deep confab with Pennebaker.

George Lucas did tell me that there is no director chosen for the new “Star Wars” films but that “they’re in the hands of Kathy Kennedy now.” Lucas really is concentrating on making small personal pictures now, like “American Graffiti.” He joked: “I’ll have to charge $3,000 a ticket.” No joke: if the Rolling Stones command such high prices, maybe small Lucas films will, too. But he was kidding of course.

More shortly on the dinner speeches, and what everyone said.

Big exclusive news from the night: “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” will have a sequel, set in India, with two new cast members said to be joining–Helen Mirren and Colin Firth. The producers are looking for one more addition, woman, probably American. Stay tuned…




Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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