SAN FRANCISCO SEES STARS AT 50th INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
San Francisco rolled out the red carpet for its International Film Festival’s 50th Anniversary. All the action centered in the heart of the city at the Westin St. Francis Hotel in Union Square, where the star-studded gala honored George Lucas, Spike Lee, Robin Williams, and playwright Peter Morgan.
The legendary George Lucas received the Irving M. Levin award, named for the festival’s founder. Nancy Livingston and Fred Levin served as chairs along with Karen and John Diefenbach, with Mrs. Irving Levin as celebratory chair and William R. Hearst III as honorary chair.
In a career spanning four decades, Lucas has directed more than his share of blockbusters; his second film, American Graffiti, won the Golden Globe for Best Picture. I’d almost forgotten that Ron Howard, who was sitting right next to me, was in that film!
But it was Star Wars, in 1977, that made him a Hollywood “force” to be reckoned with. Perhaps the most successful independent film of all time, Star Wars broke all box-office records, won eight Academy Awards, and gave Lucas the freedom to remain as independent as he wanted to be.
And he was. Lucas continued the Star Wars saga with The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Then – proving the Jean-Luc Godard assertion that every story has a beginning, middle, and end, just not necessarily in that order – Lucas released the prequels, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and The Revenge of the Sith. And the world anxiously waits to see if he releases the final films of the triple trilogy and learn once and for all if good triumphs over “Darth”-ness.
Lucasfilm went on to produce Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first Indiana Jones classic, directed by his old friend Steven Spielberg and starring Harrison Ford (aka Han Solo). Its vast filmography ranges from the steamy Body Heat with Kathleen Turner to the animated Land Before Time. Lucas’s Industrial Light and Magic special effects company rewrote the script for Hollywood FX standards.
Skywalker Ranch, his production center north of the city, has recently been joined by a new Lucasfilm headquarters in The Presidio. The locals love the way he’s transformed the site of the former military base.
Presenting Lucas with his award was John Lasseter, chief creative officer of Disney/Pixar Animation Studios, and director of Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and Cars. He said, “George Lucas was the first to revolutionize film. Luckily, in 1983 I was fired from Walt Disney, but in 1984 I was hired by George Lucas’s film company. I saw how he entertained audience of all ages, and this is what I wanted to do.”
Next up, actor/director Ron Howard – A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code –presented the Kanbar Award for excellence in screenwriting to Peter Morgan. The two are currently collaborating on a film adaptation of Morgan’s latest Broadway smash, Frost/Nixon.
It’s been some year for the prolific Englishman! Morgan had two Academy Award-nominated screenplays, The Queen – for which he won a Golden Globe – and The Last King of Scotland. The stars of both films, Helen Mirren and Forest Whitaker, received Oscars for Best Actor.
The Film Society Directing Award was given to New York’s Spike Lee and presented by All-American football player-turned actor, Jim Brown, star of He Got Game and She Hate Me. The festival was one of the first to screen Lee’s early short, Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads in 1983, and hosted the world premiere of She’s Gotta Have It in 1986. Lee is also noted for such poignant films as Malcolm X, Do The Right Thing, and Inside Man with Denzel Washington.
Last but never least, comedian Robin Williams, another San Franciscan, received the Peter J. Owens Award, presented by his Jumanji co-star Bonnie Hunt. Williams, always in top form, accepted with his inimitable mania. The award-winning actor has been nominated for Best Actor in The Fisher King, Good Will Hunting, and Good Morning, Vietnam. Then there was Dead Poets Society, Mrs. Doubtfire, Patch Adams, and Disney’s Flubber. And don’t forget his breakout performance in the TV classic Mork and Mindy!
I was fortunate to be the guest of my longtime friend, Maurice Kanbar. The multi-talented inventor/philanthropist is a Board member the San Francisco Film Society, a San Francisco Film Commissioner, and creator of the first multiplex cinema, the Quad Cinema in Greenwich Village.
He’s endowed The Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film and Television at New York University, and invented SKYY vodka (“hangover free,” although I can’t personally vouch for that). He also invented the D-Fuzz-It comb for sweaters (which I can guarantee) and even produced the animated film, Hoodwinked.
Another perk of Kanbar’s table was that Spike Lee, Ron Howard, Jim Brown, and Peter Morgan were there, too. Basketball fanatic Spike constantly checked his Blackberry to monitor the Golden State Warriors vs. Dallas Mavericks game.
Not just another chicken dinner, either. Award-winning chef Michael Mina, owner of the eponymous restaurants in the hotel, served a feast worthy of the Governors Ball on Oscar night. Eat your heart out, Wolfgang!
And no auction, thank you very much.
Big supporters of the evening were Doris and Don Fisher, George Gund III, Robert Mailer Anderson and Nicola Miner, Karen and Frank Caufield, Priscilla and Keith Geeslin, Kochis Fitz, Dede Wilsey and Todd Traina, Frances Bowes, Carolyn Davis and Alex Mehran, Arlene Inch, Jan and Howard Oringer, Susie and Pat McBaine, Katie and Claude Jarman, Anne Kaiser and Robert Taylor, and O.J. and Gary Shansby.
By the way, Claude Jarman was past Executive Director of The SF Film Fest (1967-1979) and is credited with making the festival what it is today. No way would he miss the 50th!
The star-studded evening continued as the artsy late-nighters headed off to Tosca, the historic bar where everyone shmoozes — evidenced by the hundreds of photos that line the wall. Proprietress Jeannette Etheredge, whom Sean Penn called “The mayor of the San Francisco night,” held court. Jeannette, by the way, was a great friend of the late ballet great Rudolf Nureyev, who practically lived at Tosca when in town.
When we left, well after midnight, people were still pouring in. All those gala-goers lining up gave new meaning to the term “Star Wars.” I hope the force was with them. And with you, too.
JERSEY BOYS FETED AT PARTY HOSTED BY JOEL GOODRICH
More than 150 people joined realtor Joel Goodrich in his Nob Hill penthouse for the Jersey Boys send off. They had just performed at the Emmys in the live broadcast that wowed the crowd. Now, after a 10-month SRO run in San Francisco, the Tony Award-winning Best Musical is heading to Chicago for two years.
Jersey Boys, based on the lives and loves of the seminal Sixties pop group, the Four Seasons, features Drew Gehling, Michael Ingersoll, Jeremy Kushnier, and Jarrod Spector. It’s music everybody loves – Frankie Valli singing Rag Doll, Dawn, Big Girls Don’t Cry, and Let’s Hang On.
Craig Laurie, who plays songwriter Bob Crewe, was also there celebrating the birthday of talented Frankie Valli alternate, John Michael Dias.
Representing Mayor Gavin Newsom’s office, Beth Schnitzer proclaimed it to be “Jersey Boys Day” as the group raised over $60,000 for various causes including the Richmond Ermet AIDS Foundation.
The evening rivaled Wimbledon, with guests bounding back and forth between Joel’s and Dallasite philanthropist, wildcat Nancy Hamon’s Texas-sized partyat the de Young Museum. Welcome back, Nancy!
Spotted in the crowds: Erica and Joseph Alioto, Harry de Wildt, Gail and Dr. Harvey Glasser, Chris and Amber Marie Bently, Bella Farrow, Heide Betz and Scotty Morris, Linda Cannon, Carolyn Chandler, Jorge Maumer, Vicky Winston, John Hadeed, David Gorski, actress Cassandra Cass, Harry Denton, Claudia Ross with her father Jorge Castillo, Marie Carr, Joanie Edwards and Roberta Sherman, Nina Tiari and David Mohammadi, Johnny Moallempour, Delia Fleishhacker, Sunny Akhtari, Daru Kawalkowski, Diana Dalton, Justin Fichelson, Sophie Azouaou, Ron Crosetti, and fashion designers Bacca Da Silva, Mark Calvano, and Jason Christopher Peters.
By the way, Joel’s got a $65,000,000 listing for a neo-classical mansion on Broadway with those fabulous bay views. Anyone interested?
Photographs by Drew Altizer and Jeanne Lawrence.