There aren’t many events as prestigious, or as glittery, as
the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Governors Awards. For fans
like my wife and me it’s like being a kid in Candyland, as everyone who attends
is relaxed and approachable. To be able to make small talk with honorees Angela
Lansbury and Steve Martin is a rare treat. The room is also peppered with
likely contenders for this year’s Oscars, from directors like David O. Russell
and Spike Jonze to such actors as Chiwitel Ejiofor and Michael B. Jordan.
I happened to have my camera in hand when cartoon voice queen June Foray met Angela Lansbury for the first time. Talk about careers! June recently won her first Emmy Award at the age of 94, while it’s taken Miss Lansbury 70 years onscreen to earn an Oscar.
Martin Short proved, yet again, that he’s the funniest man in Hollywood, paying mock/serious homage to his pal Steve Martin, and the two were kind enough to let me snap them together. Martin choked up during his acceptance speech, especially when it came to thanking his wife for giving him his first child.
Gena Rowlands led the toast for Angelina Jolie, winner of this year’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, and the video outlining her work around the world made it clear that she has more than earned that accolade.
Finally, a contingent of the world’s most celebrated costume designers (including Milena Canonero, Ann Roth, Deborah Nadoolman Landis, and Michael Wilkinson) joined together to honor the man they hold on a pedestal, Piero Tosi, who wasn’t able to accept his Oscar in person. His collaborator on ten movies, the elegant Claudia Cardinale, delivered a charming acceptance speech.
This celebratory evening came at the end of an exceptional week for me. The Sunday before I spent an hour chatting with the witty, wonderful Emma Thompson at the American Cinematheque’s Aero Theater prior to a screening of her new movie Saving Mr. Banks. On Monday night I interviewed Bruce Dern before the premiere of Alexander Payne’s Nebraska at AFI Fest, in the newly refurbished Chinese Theatre. Thursday night, one of my heroes, writer-director John Sayles, brought his new film Go for Sisters to my class at USC, along with his leading actors LisaGay Hamilton and Edward James Olmos. And on the afternoon of the Governors Ball, I hosted a q&a session with the principals from 12 Years a Slave—director Steve McQueen and actors Chiwitel Ejiofar, Lupita N’Yongo, and Alfre Woodard—for the AARP Film Festival.
They were all great experiences, but I think my favorite nugget came from Quentin Tarantino, who delivered a killer intro to Bruce Dern at AFI Fest. Backstage, he told me that he enters the names of veteran actors he admires (like Dern, or Robert Culp, or Adam Roarke) into his DirecTV search box and ferrets out old TV episodes in which they appeared. Sure enough, in his speech a few minutes later he extolled the virtues of watching Dern beat the living daylights out of Lee Majors on a segment of The Big Valley! I may have to take a page from Quentin’s playbook; that’s a great idea.