It was the toughest assignment the Hollywood Life Party Girl has ever had: Go to star-studded event with Oscar nominees Taraji P. Henson and Viola Davis honoring ladies in cinema at a Bel Air mansion owned by Peter and Tara Guber, and drink champagne whilst standing next to Anne Hathaway. I know. My job is hard.
As we drove up in to the hills of Bel Air, our destination became apparent with each Jag and Mercedes parked on the side of the road. We pulled into a circular parking lot and checked our non-Mercedes in with valet (valet! Don’t you wish your house had valet? Yeah, me too). We passed the last of the red carpet offerings, where a few actresses were gamely giving good quotes, and hurried inside the library-like sitting room. Extremely handsome men weaved in and out of the crowd with glasses of bubbly on hand (and we only saw bubbly).
In the center of the room, a petite brunette held court. This was Cathy Schulman, who won an Academy Award for Best Picture for Crash two years ago. Along with Donna Gigliotti, Wendy Finerman, and Lili Zanuck, she was one of the hosts of the party.
Schulman gave an impassioned speech with feminist overtones, telling her audience of powerful women in the biz that younger women in the industry are “looking at you as the possibility,” and knocked the notion of being assimilated. “What about differentiation? Collaboration?” And she noted, that last year 47 women were nominated for Oscars; this year it was down to 31. “We have a lot of work to do,” she said.
Serious section finished, she told a juicy story involving George Clooney. She asked the actor, how did he get up on the podiums at award shows and thank people. Clooney revealed his secret: Look at one person in the front row and talk to them.
That year, when Crash won, Jack Nicholson announced the winner. Positive she heard Brokeback Mountain, it slowly dawned on her that it was her time at the podium. She got to the stage and remembered George Clooney’s advice, and looked down for the one person to focus on. And sitting in the front row was… George Clooney. Everyone laughed.
It was only the second year of the Women in Film pre-Oscar party, but it already seemed like a longstanding tradition, as the ladies–those who work behind the scenes and in front of the cameras–all seemed to know each other and chatted in a friendly way. Oscar nominees Hathaway, Henson, and Davis gamely posed for pictures. And just so you know, Anne Hathaway is ridiculously perfect looking in person. Well, they all are, actually.
Over in the corner, I kept looking at this one woman because she was beautiful and looked sort of familiar, but also because she was wearing a very distinctive bright fuschia- colored dress. Then, another woman walked by wearing the exact same color, a stunning fashion accident in a sea of blacks, and tans, and neutrals.
I realized the original woman was Nia Vardalos, she of My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame. I went up to her and asked her if she has a movie coming out–turns out she does: My Life in Ruins, a romcom set amongst the ruins of ancient Greece (nice double entendre), coming out in May. Vardalos was easygoing and friendly and totally someone you’d wanna hang with. She plucked a mystery hors d’oeuveres from a passing waiter’s plate and promptly dropped some of it on the floor, and ate the rest, anyway. What was it? I asked. She contemplated what she’d just eaten: “Pate.”
Just then, her sort-of doppelganger walked by. Vardalos’s eyes lit up, and without missing a beat, she laughed and posed for a photo behind the woman’s back. Nia Vardalos, I love you.