The Golden Globes weekend is well under way. I love roaming a crowded party packed with Hollywood powerbrokers and talent to watch how they interact with one another. I am the ultimate voyeur. Of course I do talk to some of them occasionally.
On the way to Friday's American Film Insititute Annual Ten Best Films and TV lunch at the Four Seasons, which celebrates winners with no acceptance speeches and many clips, I wasn't the only one who parked on Doheny to avoid the valet parking--so did Fox co-chairman Jim Gianopulos. This is always one intense, packed room. Other studio execs included Paramount's Brad Grey, Universal's Ron Meyer, Sony's Howard Stringer and Amy Pascal, Disney's Rich Ross, and Warners' Jeff Robinov and Barry Meyer--not to mention Harvey Weinstein, glorying in the ascent of "The Artist" and Sony Pictures Classics' Tom Bernard and Michael Barker, revelling in the continued success of "Midnight in Paris." These folks like to take credit when it's due. And it often is: these are not the films and series that necessarily look like winners from the outset. Bennett Miller, for example, credits Pascal for tenaciously rolling the dice on "Moneyball."
Among the tallest men in the room were "J. Edgar"'s Leo DiCaprio, Clint Eastwood and Armie Hammer. Everyone applauded AFI's superb clip reel from 1901 through 2011, from Melies to "Hugo" and "The Artist."
Steven Spielberg, Steve Zaillian and Martin Scorsese huddled in one confab, shaggy-maned Brad Pitt ("Moneyball") and "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"'s Rooney Mara and David Fincher in another. "The Descendants"'s George Clooney was button-holing Louis C.K. ('Louie"). DiCaprio was in a tete-a-tete with his "Romeo + Juliet" costar Claire Danes (cable hit "Homeland)." "Tree of Life" star Jessica Chastain introduced me to Benedict Cumberbatch ("War Horse," "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"); "Justified"'s Timothy Olyphant came over to meet him as well; he's a fan of his "Sherlock Holmes."
At Saturday's BAFTA tea, I introduced Cumberbatch to recent Academy governor Ann Coates, who edited "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Unfaithful," among many other films. He came to L.A. en route to New Zealand to shoot "The Hobbit" and landed the villain in "Star Trek," about which he is mum. She told him how much she liked living in LA and raising her kids here. He showed lovely manners. Kenneth Branagh talked to Chris Hemsworth of "Thor" fame over champagne and buttered cucumber sandwitches. I got a kick out of Bennett Miller telling Disney/Pixar's John Lasseter how much he'd like to work for Pixar. Wouldn't we all? Andy Serkis, Nigel Sinclair, Octavia Spencer, Viola Davis, and Chloe Moretz also worked the room.
Last year, L.A. resident Octavia Spencer was running the pool at her Oscar party, $5 a crack. Fresh from her breakthrough award at Palm Springs and Critics Choice win, she's keeping her head on straight. "If anything else happens after that, great, if not, I'm having the time of my life," she says. She made a bee-line to Clint Eastwood at the AFI lunch. "There's Clint, see you!" And Spielberg came over to say hello. "He's such a kind calm gentle spirit, you don't want to do anything to make a fool of yourself." Well put.
After the Globes, which both are expected to win again, Spencer's on her way to Sundance, where James Ponsoldt's film "Smashed" will debut, co-starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Megan Mullally. Spencer's character is a recovering alcoholic who helps Winstead get sober. "I've got to get a parka," says Spencer. "Mine is probably in the closet crawling with spiders." Next month she starts Diablo Cody's movie, and she's up for another feature and an animated film as well.
As for her "The Help" star Viola Davis, "she's the salt of the earth. She's always going to be honest." I ask Davis how she's handling her towering spikes. "They're killing me," she says. I look forward to doing a Tribute Q and A with her after Sundance at the Santa Barbara Film Festival.
During the AFI lunch I sat at the "Boardwalk Empire" table with Terence Winter and Tim Van Patten, who directs about four episodes a season. Scorsese gives notes on all the scripts and episodes. "He doesn't miss a trick," says Van Patten. Michael Stuhlbarg has become such an expert on Arnold Rothstein that everyone defers to his knowledge. He demanded that figs be supplied (out of season) when he learned Rothstein had a thing for them.
Among the other AFI winners on hand were Judd Apatow and Paul Feig ("Bridesmaids"), Alexander Payne ("The Descendants"), Chris Columbus and Tate Taylor ("The Help"), Sacha Baron Cohen and Sir Ben Kingsley ("Hugo"); Corey Stoll and Stephen Tenenbaum (Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris"), Michael De Luca, Bennett Miller and Aaron Sorkin ("Moneyball"); Bryan Cranston and Vince Gilligan ("Breaking Bad"), Jeff Garlin and Tim Gibbons ("Curb Your Enthusiasm"), David Benioff and George R.R. Martin ("Game of Thrones"), Michelle King, Robert King and David Zucker ("The Good Wife"), Damian Lewis ("Homeland"), Graham Yost ("Justified") Dave Becky and M. Blair Breard ("Louie"), Steve Levitan ("Modern Family"), Rob Lowe and David Miner ("Parks and Recreation"), Bérénice Bejo, Jean Dujardin and Michel Hazanavicius ("The Artist"), and David Heyman (the "Harry Potter" series).
Later I headed East to Paramount's pre-Globes/100th anniversary celebration, which took over two soundstages on the Melrose lot, and was packed with older Academy members from Ernest Borgnine, A.C. Lyles, and Scott Glenn to Sally Kirkland, sitting with Dale Wasserman. Future AFI life achievement winner Shirley Maclaine saluted Glenn Close, and Jane Fonda worked the room. Younger generation Zachary Quinto took congrats on "Margin Call" and has shaved his brows for "Star Trek," which started yesterday. He's disguising them with horn-rimmed glasses. His co-star Karl Urban was also on hand. Sacha Baron Cohen talked to "Hugo"'s VFX whiz Rob Legato, Scorsese, producer Graham King and editor Thelma Schoonmaker. Other attendees included Elizabeth Shue and Davis Guggenheim, Kevin Costner, Ken Kamins, Mark Wahlberg, Anton Yelchin, Billy Bob Thornton, and Tyrese.
From there I hit the Los Angeles Film Critics awards ceremony at the Intercontinental in Century City. On my way in, Michael Fassbender was taking an outdoor cigarette break. Later as he accepted his award for best actor for his multiple performances in 2011, from Mr. Rochester and Magneto to Karl Jung, he remembered coming to LA 10 years ago; he landed a job shrink-wrapping saddle steak and returned to London with his tail between his legs. "I'm grateful for the people who took a chance on me," he said.
Jessica Chastain also accepted for multiple roles, although she reserves a special spot in her heart for Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life," which won best director and cinematography for Emmanuel Lubezki. "Hail, Terry, full of grace!" said presenter Peter Dubruge to non-attendee Malick.
"It's great to be at an event that pays tribute to both Doris Day and the Chemical Brothers," tweeted critic Andrew Barker later that night. Doris Day was memorably feted in absentia in Carmel although she was present via echoing one-way video Skype (she could see us, but we could only hear her), as her "Send Me No Flowers" director Norman Jewison paid her tribute. Day gave him his start in the business 49 years ago, he said. "Rock Hudson and Jim Garner and whoever you worked with loved you." Day said she was crying. "The Artist" star Uggy also performed an hommage to the dog lover.
The power table (#9) of the night held critics Todd McCarthy, Pierre Rissient and Michel Ciment, filmmaker James Toback, producer Ed Pressman, Telluride's Tom Luddy and Julie Hunsinger and Cannes' Thierry Fremaux.
"We're all in this together, critics and filmmakers," said "The Descendants' best-picture winner Alexander Payne, who was clearly enjoying himself, singing along with "Che Sera Sera," perfomed by Robert Davi. "Please keep me on track."
For the first time the LA Film Critics gave their screenwriting award to a foreign film, "A Separation." "Cinema is the most powerful language in the world," said Asghar Farhadi.
Christopher Plummer, accepting supporting actor for "Beginners," charmed the group by telling them: "One of the first things my mother told me: never get too close to a film critic." Tonight's a truce, he said.
Saturday brought the Indie Spirits nominee brunch celebration; "Midnight in Paris" star Corey Stoll said he just had to let arrogant Ernest Hemingway take over in order to battle any insecurity he felt; he has moved from Brooklyn to LA and stars next in Tony Gilroy's new Bourne movie.
Brit "My Week with Marilyn" director Simon Curtis was getting less attention than his leggy American wife Elizabeth McGovern, who soaked up praise for Masterpiece Theatre hit "Downton Abbey." Mark Duplass admitted that he slimmed down for his intimate scenes in Lynn Shelton's superb "Your Sister's Sister," which hits Sundance next week.
Also on hand: Jay Duplass with his "Cyrus" star John C. Reilly, Focus Features' James Schamus and his former partner David Linde, now with Lava Bear, Sid Ganis, Michael Donaldson, Linda Lichter, Laura Kim, James Jacks, Gail Mutrux, Lynnette Howell, Adepero Oduye, Reza Safai, John Hawkes, Elizabeth Olsen, "The Artist"'s Michel Hazanvicius and composer Ludovic Bource. New Film Independent co-presidents Sean McMamus and Josh Welsh, in matching grey suits, Stephanie Allain (who is becoming more important inside the organization), Mark Duplass and Sarah Paulson went on stage to award "a shit ton of money" via the Someone to Watch Award to Mark Jackson ("Without") and the Producer's Award to Sophia Lin ("Take Shelter"). The Nokia Truer Than Fiction Award ($25,000) went to director Heather Courtney.
Next up for FIlm Independent: finding a replacement for outgoing Los Angeles Film Festival chief Rebecca Yeldham.