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Things I Learned at HBO's Emmy Party, from Sorkin's 'Newsroom' Status to Soderbergh's 'Glue'

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood September 23, 2013 at 4:23PM

HBO knows how to throw a good bash, and their annual Emmy after-party at the Pacific Design Center was a huge improvement on the sad and gloomy death-obsessed 65th Emmy Awards, which nonetheless drew the largest audience in eight years. Who are these mythical TV Academy voters who misled most of the Gold Derby Emmy predicters? I did terribly on my picks but came out ahead of many others, it turned out.
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Marcia Gay Harden, Jeff Daniels, Jane Fonda
Getty Marcia Gay Harden, Jeff Daniels, Jane Fonda
Mick Jagger and Laura Dern
Getty Mick Jagger and Laura Dern

HBO knows how to throw a good bash, and their annual Emmy after-party at the Pacific Design Center was a huge improvement on the sad and gloomy death-obsessed 65th Emmy Awards, which nonetheless drew the largest audience in eight years.  Who are these mythical TV Academy voters who baffled most of the Gold Derby Emmy predicters? I did terribly on my picks but came out ahead of many others, it turned out.

The Emmys work the opposite of the Oscars. In other words, the larger group picks the nominees while smaller groups pick the winners. This accounts for such strange wins as Jim Parsons ("The Big Bang Theory") over Louis C.K. and Jeff Daniels ("The Newsroom") over Kevin Spacey ("House of Cards").

As usual, HBO did well, taking home 27 primetime Emmy awards, the most of any network, thanks to 11 wins for Steven Soderbergh's "Behind the Candelabra," five for "Boardwalk Empire," three for Alex Gibney's "Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God," two for "Game of Thrones," two for "Veep" actors Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tony Hale, and one for "The Newsroom" star Daniels. Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow's popular "Girls" went home empty-handed. 

Daniels' win might give "Newsroom" creator Aaron Sorkin the boost he needs to commit to writing another season, something he admitted to me he has not yet done. "I need time to think about it," he said. He did not pay heed to criticism of the show's treatment of women when writing the just-concluded second season, he said. Thinking about what people will think of his characters never works. He does admit to have tied up many loose threads in the just-aired season finale. Daniels, who I first met on the set of "Terms of Endearment," admitted he was as surprised as everyone else at his win. And Thomas Sadoski, who has several movies lined up, sounded confident that Sorkin would come back.    

Sofia Vergara
Getty Sofia Vergara

Enjoying "Behind the Candelabra"'s 11 wins including Outstanding Director of a Mini-Series, Soderbergh feels strongly that making "Behind the Candelabra" at HBO was the best way to go; he prefers television to movies and will go back to TV, he said, as it gives you more control. HBO asks what you want to do, he said, while the studios tell you what they want you to do. He doesn't see the studios picking up indie talent anymore. So for now the 50-year-old is sticking to his planned retirement from moviemaking. After "Magic Mike" and "Side Effects," he's done, although he did say "never say never."

He still plans to mount "Cleopatra" as a theater musical ("Traffic" and "Side Effects" star Catherine Zeta-Jones is interested). And his self-published book "Glue" (the one he has been tweeting at @bitchuation) is completed and as of Monday is ready to read online in full.

His "Behind the Candelabra" winner Michael Douglas--who gave a shoutout to his absent wife Zeta-Jones from the stage-- was happy with his Emmy win and snappy repartee with his co-star Matt Damon in the audience. But Douglas was still nursing his disappointment that he lost Best Actor at Cannes to "Nebraska" star Bruce Dern. (I hear Douglas had arranged for a room at the Majestic Hotel complete with pressed tuxedo in case he won.) Douglas made sure to inform me that he has four feature films coming up: Jon Turtletaub's comedy "Last Vegas," opposite Robert De Niro, Kevin Kline and Morgan Freeman (November 1) and three 2014 pictures, "The Reach" with Jeremy Irvine,  Rob Reiner's romantic comedy "And So It Goes," opposite Diane Keaton, and Mike Newell's "Reykjavik" in which he plays Ronald Reagan opposite Christoph Waltz's Mikhail Gorbachev. 

The "Nebraska" star's daughter Laura Dern (hanging with Mick Jagger above), who memorably starred in Alexander Payne's"Citizen Ruth," was delighted with the success of her father, who I first met back at United Artists in 1978 when he starred in "Coming Home," for which he earned his only Oscar nomination, for supporting actor. He may well get another one for Best Actor for "Nebraska" in a pitched battle of the 77-year-olds with Robert Redford ("All is Lost"). In another universe Douglas would be in that Oscar race. 

"Game of Thrones" executive producer David Benioff, who lost an expected writing Emmy for the bloody "Red Wedding" episode to the late Henry Bromell of "Homeland," is too committed to his showrunner/writing duties on "GoT" to think about taking on directing his Russian World War II novel "City of Thieves." There's no room in his brain. I'm always bugging him about this. The book is so satisfying and cinematic and now that Benioff has several TV episodes under his belt, he could totally rock it. When he's ready. 

I had a pleasant interlude with "Entourage" star Rex Lee (Lloyd), who said several stars were still holding out on the Warner Bros. feature film which was announced with writer Doug Ellin at the helm back in January of 2012. Jeremy Piven is signed up. But they want the whole team, including Adrian Grenier, Kevin Connolly, Jerry Ferrara and Kevin Dillon. Lee would love to be on board. 

Before I went to watch the "Modern Family" gang dancing up a storm (see Sofia Vergara above), I talked to Time Warner Chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes, who was accessible and relaxed (he also chatted up The Wrap's Sharon Waxman). While many in the film industry see a disturbing creative brain drain from movies to TV, from Bewkes' POV, Time Warner owns HBO, so he's coming out ahead in any case, along with other studios with TV networks. He says many stars without enough movies to do now go back and forth from films to TV, and that's a good thing...There's no love lost between Bewkes and departing motion picture executive Jeff Robinov, who is now free to join Fox's Jim Gianopoulos, as many are urging him to do. 

See all of HBO’s Emmy wins below:

This article is related to: HBO, HBO , Emmys, Game of Thrones, Game of Thrones, Behind the Candelabra , Michael Douglas, Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin, Awards, Awards, Emmys


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.