Jonah Hill on Tongue-Tied Stars at HFPA Lunch: ‘Not a Single Actor in Hollywood Can Read’

Nicole Kidman, Vin Diesel and David O. Russell among the many stars who showed up to accept donations

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s star-studded, wine-on-the-table, sit-down meal in the Beverly Hilton on Tuesday had the look of a glitzy Sunday in January. But this was August — and instead of statuettes, the big names accepted checks on behalf of film organizations.

Despite being flanked by two giant golden globe statues, new HFPA president Theo Kingma — joined by Vice President Lorenzo Soria and emcee Eva Longoria — tried to steer the talk away from the Golden Globes … and toward the group’s philanthropy efforts. 

Also read: Hollywood Foreign Press Promises To Get Serious About Journalism, Gives $1.6M in Grants 

“While today is not about the Golden Globes, it’s because of the success of the show that today we are able to donate over $1.6 million to 40 charities,” Kingma (above with Colin Farrell) said from the stage.

“It’s going to be different than the last five years,” Kingma (who is very tall in person) told TheWrap while surveying the crowd during lunch.

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About 350 guests attended — a mix of talent, industry executives, producers, and media. Celebrities accepted donations on behalf of organizations like the American Cinematheque, the Lollipop Theatre Network and the Sundance Institute.

Talent included Nicole Kidman (above, doing extensive press) and Colin Farrell at the center table, Liam Hemsworth (looking bored) next to Olivia Wilde and Amber Heard, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Diane Kruger, Julie Delpy, David O. Russell, and Diane Kruger.

Jason Bateman and Elvis Mitchell found each other in the middle of the room and chatted during most of the lunch. Former HFPA president Philip Berk had Dreamworks’ Chip Sullivan riding shotgun at his table a few rows back.

Netflix’s Ted Sarandos pow-wowed with Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill in the corner following the presentations, as Fox Searchlight’s Nancy Utley cut through the room.

Amidst the crowd, strategists and publicists like Lisa Taback, Jeff Sanderson, and Ruth Bernstein (who got a welcome kiss from Hill while he dodged the press line) bolstered the awards season atmosphere.

Mark Davis/Getty Images

Referencing a contagious epidemic of teleprompter speech flubbing, Hill got the biggest laughs of the day. “If anything’s been made clear to me here today, it’s that not a single actor in Hollywood can read.”

“Rehearsal’s going well,” Jason Bateman tacked on. “I think tonight is going to be great.” Bateman accepted with Olivia Wilde.

Dressed for a casual Sunday, Vin Diesel (below) surprised with the most heartfelt presentation. He ad-libbed while accepting for the Sundance Institute.

Having negotiated with his son to leave him on his birthday to attend, Diesel recounted how he saved up $47,000 from a telemarketing job to make the film “Strays.” That film drew Robert Redford’s attention and an invite to Sundance in 1997 as a director/writer/star.

“(Sundance) is the only reason I have the luxury to stand before all of you. Otherwise, I’d still be a bouncer in New York,” Diesel said.

Diesel, one of the summer box office’s most profitable with “Fast & Furious” was joined in the room by Demian Bechir, who played in another summer winner, “The Heat.”

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Bechir (whose flub mispronouncing “Chicano” drew a heckle from Longoria) was tepid towards the suggestion that he’d had a good summer. “I grew up doing theatre. Sometimes (it’s) 70 seats, sometimes 900 seats, so to me it’s about the work. It doesn’t really matter that much.”

Getty ImagesThe Globes are TV too: FX’s Eric Schler, Bechir’s “The Bridge” co-star Diane Kruger, FX’s Nick Grad, and John Landgraf.

Of the 85 members of the HFPA, about 60 attended Tuesday’s lunch. Kingma’s mantra of “journalism, journalism, journalism” was on display as some HFPA members actually covered their own red carpet — as journalists.

The Golden Globes are set for Sunday, January 12, 2014.