Given the heated presidential race these days, it hardly came as a surprise that the American Cinematheque’s tribute to Ridley Scott on Friday night got a little political at times.
Still, you could hear the sharp intake of breath in the International Ballroom of the Beverly Hilton Hotel when the first words out of the mouth of emcee Russell Crowe were these:
“All right, American Cinematheque, let’s grab the night by the pussy!”
Crowe went on to ask if everybody in the room was registered to vote. “It’s a huge year,” he said. “So don’t forget to vote … for the Academy Awards, when that comes around.”
With that, the night shifted back to show business – at least until Sigourney Weaver took the stage a few minutes later and told a story about filming a scene in the movie “Alien,” when director Scott told her that she was going to be attacked by somebody who would shove something up her “hooter.”
“Up my hooter?” said Weaver quizzically, thinking back. “I felt like I was in the bus with Billy Bush.”
And then Weaver got back to praising (and occasionally making fun of) Scott, which is what the night was really all about. Her talk, along with those of Crowe, Josh Hartnett, Ben Kingsley, Kristen Wiig, Noomi Rapace, Matt Damon and others, painted a picture of Scott as a demanding director with an unmatched visual sense, and a sometimes testy relationship with actors.
“I’ll never forget two things he said to me [on “The Martian”],” said Wiig. “One was, ‘Can you try something else?’ … And the other was, ‘Please don’t do that again.'”
Added Crowe, “Ridley Scott not only knows the language of film, he speaks all its dialects. He speaks camera, he speaks editing … And he’s getting better at speaking actor.”
Film clips covered Scott’s heroes, heroines, historical movies, present-day movies, futuristic movies and battle scenes, which made for a lot of overlap. But when films like “Blade Runner,” “Alien,” “Gladiator,” “Black Hawk Down” and “Thelma and Louise” show up repeatedly over the course of several film packages, that’s hardly a bad thing.
“Everybody just said the most stunning things,” said Scott when he took the stage at the end of the night. “Why don’t you say that to me on the set, on the day?”
The movie industry, he concluded, “is not for the weak of heart,” but then he referenced what he said was one of the greatest ad campaigns ever.
“Just do it,” he said. “That’s been my guiding mantra.”
The show also included the presentation of the Sid Grauman Award to Warner Bros. Pictures’ President of Worldwide Marketing and Distribution, Sue Kroll. The second recipient of the award after Jeffrey Katzenberg last year, Kroll was celebrated in videotaped testimony by Ben Affleck, Clint Eastwood, Gal Gadot, Warners’ CEO Kevin Tsujihara and producer and New Line president Toby Emmerich (who called her “the Bruce Springsteen of marketing”), among others, and on stage by director Christopher Nolan and actor Bradley Cooper.
But Sandra Bullock got the biggest laugh when a video praising Kroll ended with the actress saying, “The best piece of advice Sue gave me is, ‘Always make time for shopping when you’re doing press.’ And she is the best shopper. Expensive, but great taste.”
The daughter of Newsweek movie critic Jack Kroll, and a marketer who got her start promoting wrestling matches (just as Sid Grauman did with boxing matches), Sue Kroll saluted the late director Curtis Hanson in her speech. “At its best,” she concluded, “a creative campaign comes from the gut and goes to the heart and mind of the moviegoer.”