Led by his former boss Howard Stringer and fellow exec Amy Pascal, the tributes to the late producer flowed fast and like Calley, loose
“The world is not the same,” said Sony Motion Picture Group co-chair Amy Pascal in opening a series of spoken and filmed tributes at a memorial for former production chief John Calley, who died on September 13 at 81 after a long illness.
Speaking to an upbeat crowd on Sony’s massive Stage 27, Pascal eulogized the real man, a “master manipulator” who could be “insanely seductive” and “made movies that he wanted to see”. She described him as an expert at delivering the “soft landing—he could pull the rug out from under you before you even knew the rug existed”.
An array of Hollywood figures like Norman Jewison, Maria Bello, Bryan Lourd, Sid Ganis, Natalie Portman and Mel Brooks, several of whom were in attendance, were seen in a short film offering wry anecdotes. The audience as sprinkledwith creative types like James Brooks and Robert Towne, as well as Calley's nurses.
The film played a bit out of sync, which Sony Chairman Howard Stringer made droll note of as he took the stage to note that Calley legendarily “loved movies and loved women”, and did his job with “a maximum of taste and a minimum of tyranny”.
Buck Henry spoke abut Calley’s ribald and randy side, recalling how the departed friend made him watch such fare as “Long Dong Silver” and made a transatlantic call, while embarked on a literary effort, to ask, “In your opinion, is blow job one or two words?”
Mel Brooks told of Calley daring him to go ahead and leave the raunchy bits in “Blazing Saddles”: “Mel, if you’re gonna go up to the bell, ring it!”
Dana Delaney laughed as hard as any of the some three hundred attendees after she asked Henry whether the term was one or two words and Henry replied, “Like you don’t know!” Calley truly did love women, she said, and said they loved him back because “he accepted you for exactly who you were.”
His love for vintage cars was perhaps “his Rosebud”, she said, because “his Dad was a used car salesman”.
Warren Beatty closed the tributes with a remembrance that Calley represented the existence of a “supportive community” among Hollywood’s talents, and “to hang around with, more fun than a barrel of monkeys.”
The guests lingered at a reception afterwards, some eating the kosher franks that had been dubbed “Calley dogs” and seemingly reluctant to leave the cavernous soundstage and the shared memories.
Earlier on Wednesday, Sony revealed, per a relase, "the naming of John Calley Park in honor of the late, former Chairman of the studio; it was announced by chairman and chief executive officer Michael Lynton and co-chairman Amy Pascal at a dedication ceremony attended by studio employees. The newly-named park is located in the center of the studio’s historic 44 ½ acre lot and serves as a central gathering spot for employees and visitors.”
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