March came in like a lion, with the Academy Awards bringing out everyone who is anyone (to the Vanity Fair party, at least); surprisingly, it went out the same way, with lots of awards shows, film, television, theatrical premieres, festivals and more. Spring is in the air and people are out having fun, so read on for our inside take on what’s been happening in Hollywood and beyond.
Dolby Theatre, Hollywood
You could hear the Swifties screaming from blocks away from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood as Taylor Swift took home two iHeartRadio Awards at their annual show that celebrates radio/streaming play on that global music station. And unlike Doja Cat, who wandered onto the glittery stage and told the packed house that “I didn’t write a speech” (which showed) as she accepted her Most Played Artist of the Year award, Swift was ready.
“I never a single time woke up in the morning and thought, you know what I’m gonna do today? Be innovative. But what I did do was try to make the right decision for me at the time, whether or not it had ever been successfully done before. And I think maybe that might be the key,” she said. “People [in the music industry] want an example of something working before, but I think the coolest ideas or news or choices are the new ones, the ones that set a new precedent and I’m very privileged because my fans have backed me up on the choices I made.”
Swift also took home the Song of the Year Award for “Anti-Hero,” and she looked great accepting both on the live show, wearing a gorgeous (and seriously sparkly) blue crystal-embroidered Alexandre Vauthier Couture hooded jacket, pants and boots. She didn’t perform, leaving that to Pink, who did an energetic opening for the show and then a duet with presenter Kelly Clarkson, who gave her the Icon Award.
Other exciting live performances peppered the two-hour show, including host and rock legend Lenny Kravitz ripping up a medley of his best tunes, Keith Urban bringing a soulful feel to his two songs and Pat Benatar proving that 70-year-olds can still rock ‘n roll. LL Cool J electrified the audience with a compelling hip-hop poem and by the time it was all over, the crowd was still able to clap and scream out (as prompted) for iHeartRadio one last time as the credits rolled. Stream the show on Hulu until April 17 if you missed it.
Human Rights Campaign Equality Awards Dinner
JW Marriott at LA Live, Los Angeles
The Human Rights Campaign, which is the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization, brought its annual Equality Awards Dinner to DTLA with a flourish.
Putting the spotlight on LGBTQ+ individuals who are helping to change the narrative in America, the night honored Emmy-nominated actress, singer and activist Michaela Jaé Rodriguez. She took home the Equality Award, presented by her friend and co-star on the Apple TV+ show “Loot” Joel Kim Booster, who joked that Rodriguez is an A1 “Super Smash Brothers” player.
Rodriguez thanked her family, who accepted her desire to change her gender identity at a young age and called for the LGBTQ+ community and its allies to stand strong against hate within America. She recalled her upbringing in the Christian church and how she was always taught that God is love and always referenced “I am,” and proudly ended her speech with “I am who I am.”
The BIG surprise of the night was when Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi took the stage and spoke about her support in Congress and beyond for the LGBTQ+ community. She called out specific politicians whom she deemed as hateful, including Ron DeSantis, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Greg Abbott and others. “They are trying to spread hate, but we will fight back!” Pelosi cried.
With that, the audience erupted with a loud round of applause and a standing ovation. The night ended with a performance from pop singer Ava Max who sang her hits, including “Weapons” and “Kings & Queens.” That got the proud crowd dancing and cheering, and it was the perfect way to end an inspiring evening. – Elijah Gil
NYWIFT Muse Awards
Cipriani 42nd Street, New York
“I’ve missed the mighty, badass women of New York who make the world a better place and blaze trails,” said activist and home life expert Sandra Lee during her acceptance speech at New York Women in Film & Television’s (NYWIFT) 43rd Annual Muse Awards. The event, which brought together the city’s leading women in media and entertainment, was a love letter to New York City – and to David Yurman, as everyone in the empowered audience left with their own David Yurman bracelet, which cleverly first served as a napkin ring!
Danielle Brooks, who received The Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment Award, opened and closed her acceptance speech by belting the lyrics to Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” In between the two verses, the Georgia-born actress spoke about her first time visiting the city at the age of 15 and seeing “The Color Purple” on Broadway with her father, saying, “My heart was racing. Everyone stage looked like me!” Little did she know, ten years later she would be nominated for a Tony for her role as Sofia in that very show.
Other honorees included IFC Films president Arianna Bocco, journalist Maria Hinojosa, chef Sandra Lee, filmmaker Deborah Chow, actresses Lauren Ridloff, Freida Pinto and Sharon Stone, who had a lot to say.
Stone recalled her journey from her small hometown to New York City with the dream of pursuing a career in acting. “I came to New York with $50,” she recalled. “I lived in a fifth-floor walkup above a bakery with lots of cockroaches and a roommate.” Stone went on to describe her early experiences as an actress in a male-dominated world. “When I would go to set, there would be 300 men and me. When I was doing sex scenes, they wouldn’t even clear the set. Once I heard another actor shout, ‘can you get out of the way, I can’t see her tits!'”
After carrying the “humiliation” of being a woman and not being taken seriously on set, Stone says she is now proud of the work she’s done. “If you can make it in New York City, you can make it anywhere. I am very proud to have made it here.” – Emily Vogel
GLAAD Media Awards
Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills
Stars of all stripes of the rainbow flag came out in droves for GLAAD’s majorly hot-ticketed annual fete, the GLAAD Media Awards. Now in its 34th year and hosted in the ballroom at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, the ceremony recognizes the best and brightest LGBTQ+ creators, activists and stars working in Hollywood today – as well as the straight allies that the community is proud to have in their corner.
This year celebrated the work and careers of Christina Aguilera, accepting the Advocate for Change Award; Bad Bunny, accepting the Vanguard Award; Jeremy Pope, accepting the Stephen F. Kolzak Award; and a surprise honoree and the evening’s first speaker, Jennifer Coolidge, accepting an award of special recognition.
“Here I am again, surrounded by gays,” Coolidge quipped, kicking off a funny and heartfelt speech capped with a cameo from her “Best in Show” co-star Jane Lynch. “I believe that we all have the right to be who we are and to love the people that we love and tell our stories and celebrate that in every way that we can, and that’s really what the GLAAD Media Awards are all about.”
Other attendees featured famous faces and career media figures across the entertainment industry, including Angelica Ross, Billy Eichner (whose “Bros” took home best feature film, wide release), Gabrielle Union, Harvey Guillen, Joel Kim Booster, Ricky Martin, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Vanessa Williams, Michelle Visage and GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, whose rousing speech and call to arms was a highlight of the night.
Also a highlight: host Margaret Cho, who kept things moving along while getting political jabs in about Donald Trump’s hours-old indictment and more. – Benjamin Lindsay
“John Wick: Chapter 4” Los Angeles Premiere
TCL Chinese Theater, Hollywood
At the massive “John Wick: Chapter 4” Los Angeles premiere, which shut down Hollywood Boulevard and took over the TCL Chinese Theater as well as the Hard Rock Cafe next door for the afterparty (and a big tented chunk of the boulevard, too), there were mixed emotions. For while finally bringing the wild, stunt-filled sequel to the big screen (in IMAX here, in fact) after the pandemic’s causing a four-year delay since 2019’s “Chapter 3: Parabellum” elicited joy and excitement, the unexpected death of star Lance Reddick just days before also brought sadness to the event.
Everyone wore blue ribbons to evoke his memory and leading man Keanu Reeves joined director Chad Stahelski in exhorting the packed theater to stand and remember Reddick, calling him “a gentleman of grace and dignity, who deserves a round of applause.” Everyone did just that, and burst out again in cheers when Reddick came on screen.
There were more yells and laughter as the long action flick unspooled and cheers as the credits rolled, cementing the “John Wick” franchise for Lionsgate as the jewel in that studio’s crown. And despite the ominous ending, we’re certain there will be more chapters to come.
At the afterparty, guests jammed into the Hard Rock Cafe, which was transformed into the New York Continental Hotel (see the movie to get that reference), as well as other locations in the flick. There was a church altar tucked downstairs, while upstairs front and center were the women running the switchboards and chalkboard that the High Table uses to put bounties out on assassin fugitives like Wick (and others). It was a fanciful and fun way to close out the night, which saw the film’s stars come out in droves, including Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, Shamier Anderson, Rina Sawayama and many more making the hot-ticket scene in Hollywood.
“Air” Special Screening/”Air” Los Angeles Premiere
Pacific Design Center, West Hollywood/Village Theater, Westwood
After a glitzy, star-studded debut at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Amazon Studios showcased their A-list basketball story “Air” to an intimate crowd of critics and industry influencers at the Pacific Design Center. The film focuses on the attempt from Nike recruiter Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) to endorse young basketball player Michael Jordan, and the creation of the legendary Air Jordan Nike sneakers line.
The crowd enjoyed shooting hoops at a small tabletop basketball game area before the screening, while also finding time to nosh on sliders and deep-fried mac-and-cheese balls.
“Air” star (and director) Ben Affleck, co-star Matt Damon, and Viola Davis were not in attendance, no doubt because they were in New York City that morning for an appearance on “Good Morning America,” but a small Q&A was held after the movie with actors Jason Bateman, Chris Messina and Marlon Wayans. The trio riffed on everything from chasing their dreams to using improvisation on the set.
“We didn’t really need to do a lot of improv,” Bateman said. “You need to be kind of nimble with that stuff.” Messina and Bateman were in particularly fine form, with the former discussing how Bateman would feed him bits of business to do off-camera. – Kristen Lopez
A few days later, all eyes were on power couple Ben Affleck and his megastar wife Jennifer Lopez, who did turn up at the world premiere of “Air” in Westwood. Attendees were quickly ushered to their seats before the arrival of JLo, who made quite the entrance in a green gown accentuating her legendary curves, arm-and-arm with husband Ben.
Two-time Oscar winner Affleck does double duty on “Air,” both starring as Nike CEO Phil Knight and directing the film, which recalls how Michael Jordan got his legendary Nike shoe deal, the deal that would revolutionize the sneaker business.
The film is one of the first Best Picture contenders of 2023, with Matt Damon starring as the Nike exec Sonny Vaccaro who pursued Jordan and signed him to his deal. Viola Davis plays Michael’s mom Deloris Jordan and her performance is sure to garner nominations come next awards season. Davis was ravishing in a sequined Roland Mouret shamrock green dress; her strong performance got plenty of claps throughout the film.
The film’s other standout stars, including Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans, Chris Tucker and scene-stealer Chris Messina (who plays Jordan’s agent David Faulk) also made the scene. Before the film unspooled, Affleck thanked his wife, “who means more to me than anything in the world. You’re fabulous, you’re amazing, you’re wonderful, good, kind, magnificent and I love you.” – Umberto Gonzalez
“Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” Los Angeles Premiere
Regency Village Theater, Westwood
The stars brought the fantasy to the premiere for “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” on a rare dry night (this winter has been rough) in Westwood. Coming off their SXSW premiere, Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Regé-Jean Page, Sophia Lillis, Justice Smith, Hugh Grant and Daisy Head all rolled into Los Angeles for the big premiere of their hot-buzzed action-adventure flick.
TheWrap caught up with Chris Pine on the red carpet, who revealed his love for the “D&D” universe. “What I like about the world so much is that while there are characters and creatures, everyone still has their own distinct story,” Pine shared.
Daisy Head, the villain of the story, gushed to us about her experience with the star-studded cast. “They are just great people, everyone was so much fun, so lovely, so welcoming! It was a great group of people to be around and create with,” she exclaimed.
With tons of action in the film, one might think that would be the most difficult thing for the actors, but not according to star Justice Smith. He told us that his biggest difficulty was actually doing what he was told by the directors. “It was letting go and trusting John [Francis Daley] and Jonathan [Goldstein],” he wryly admitted. “When I work with directors I often improvise, but they were like, ‘No. Just trust the jokes and trust the process.’ So that was the most difficult, to listen to what I’m being told to do.” – Elijah Gil
“Renfield” New York Premiere
Museum of Modern Art, New York
“Are you ready for Nick motherf-cking Cage?!” cheered director and producer Chris McKay before the curtain rose at the premiere of Universal’s “Renfield” as guests – including a group dressed as vampires – chewed on their complementary bloody-red Red Vines. They were all psyched to be the first to see Cage as Dracula, a role he was clearly born to play.
After the screening at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City, VIPs and cast members made their way to Haswell Green’s for the official after party. They were greeted there with signature drinks including a purple “Protection Circle,” made of pea blossom gin, fever tree elderflower tonic, peach bitters and topped off with a pair of plastic vampire teeth. “I need this drink,” whispered a guest to their friend. “My abs hurt from laughing so hard during the movie.”
Cage was one of the first to arrive – and the first to leave the afterparty. The actor spent his time laughing and chatting with friends in a corner booth but made sure to stop and say goodbye to his co-star Nicholas Hoult (who is actually Renfield in the horror-comedy flick) on his way out.
Hoult stayed throughout, moving like a shark through the entire party, chatting with friends, producers and co-stars including Ben Schwartz, Adrian Martinez and Brandon Scott Jones. Although star Awkwafina was MIA at the premiere, other celebs including comedian D’Arcy Camden stopped in to enjoy the fun, closing down the party. – Emily Vogel
“Yellowjackets” Season 2 Premiere
TCL Chinese Theatre, Hollywood
At Showtime’s “Yellowjackets” Season 2 Premiere at the TCL Chinese Theatre, the audience ate up the first episode of the addictive drama, which was followed by a Q&A with creators and cast including its top stars, Melanie Lynskey, Christina Ricci and Juliette Lewis.
“I’ve never been on a project where everybody is so driven to perform their best. The bar was set so high by the writing on this show, and you want to live up to the caliber of the writing,” Ricci gushed to the attentive crowd. And Lewis got emotional, remembering her drive to give a believable performance in “Natural Born Killers” and the resulting double standard that hit her hard back then; read that whole story here.
At the afterparty, held at Lavo | Fleur Room in West Hollywood, guests grabbed a “Tasts Like Teen Spirit” tequila cocktail, piled into the photo booth and boogied down to music spun by multiple DJs. Ricci danced to New Order’s “Blue Monday,” while Samantha Hanratty, who plays her teenage counterpart, got down to the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe” along with Sarah Desjardins, who plays the daughter of Lynskey’s character.
Desjardins told us she was disappointed that the explosive second episode wasn’t shown at the premiere, but said “fans will lose their minds” when it airs. Although she’s in the contemporary storyline, she’s closest to the younger cast in the 1996 timeline.
Kevin Alves, who was with his “Yellowjackets” onscreen younger brother Luciano Leroux, revealed to us the ultimate bonding trip the two were planning. “I’m taking him to Disneyland this weekend. It’s his first time!” Alves laughed.
Liv Hewson, who plays the teenage character of Van, and Lauren Ambrose, who first appears as the adult Van in Episode 4, also hung out, posing for photos and lamenting that they don’t share any scenes. – Sharon Knolle
“Murder Mystery 2” Los Angeles Premiere
Regency Village Theater, Westwood
Fans gathered in Westwood for the second installment of action-comedy “Murder Mystery 2.” The film stars Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston as a dynamic duo crime-solving couple. This is the third time the duo has paired up together for a film with the first being “Just Go with It” along with “Murder Mystery” and this sequel.
The decor of the premiere was well put together with a yellow Lamborghini parked on a Parisian-style street. Fans surrounded the shrubbery-barricaded red carpet just to get a glimpse of the two stars and they did not disappoint. Sandler even took the time out to greet them, taking pictures and giving autographs.
TheWrap spoke with Sandler, who recently received the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. He reflected on his long-lasting career, admitting that, “I feel good, I get to do so many things, when I shoot my films it’s always my favorite thing at the time.” When we asked him which of his films are his favorite, he cracked, “If I had to pick which ones I liked the most, probably the old ones – because I was skinnier!”
We caught up with Aniston, too and she recalled the scene in the movie where the two of them have to roll around in a fire. Scary, right? Nope. “We were always laughing during that scene, but screaming and looking like you’re scared can also look like you’re laughing, so it worked out okay.” – Elijah Gil
OutFest Fusion Gala, Opening Night Outfest Film Festival
Japanese American Cultural Community Center, Los Angeles
The Outfest Fusion Opening Night Gala kicked off the Outfest Film Festival in downtown Los Angeles at the Japanese American Cultural Community Center by celebrating up-and-coming filmmakers who are a part of the Queer, Trans, Black and Indigenous People of Color communities.
Filmmakers honored included Elegance Bratton, Bird Runningwater and more. Bratton, who recently wrote and directed the critically lauded film “The Inspection,” received his award from director/writer Patrik-Ian Polk.
Bratton thanked Polk for being a pillar of inspiration in his career and for opening the doors for other Black queer filmmakers. He went on to give an awe-inspiring speech which had the crowd lasered in on his words.
“If you have a dream, show up every day, because the minute you stop showing up that dream starts to die,” Bratton exhorted everyone, to cheers and whoops. Next up came an unspooling of a variety of short films made by up-and-coming QTIPOC individuals and finally, the afterparty that featured various food trucks, music and female go-go dancers on a stage. Although the evening was a bit chilly the vibrance of the atmosphere brought the heat. – Elijah Gil
Cirque du Soleil “Corteo” Opening Night
Microsoft Theater, Downtown Los Angeles
It was a big night in DTLA as Cirque du Soleil celebrated opening night of their “Corteo” show, but it was not in a bigtop tent, as us Angelenos are used to experiencing our Cirque fixes. Instead, the fanciful, acrobatic-heavy theatrical experience has taken over the Microsoft Theater in LA Live with its 7,100 seats, and just about every seat was filled for the first night’s show.
Plenty of thespians turned out to see the tale of a dying Italian clown who is remembering many aspects of his life, including one wiggy sequence starring a female little person who is attached to very big balloons, which is sent off into the theater. She floats across the audience, who help her go by gently pushing her feet to keep her moving. Only at a Cirque show!
We spotted Broadway Tony Award-winner Jason Alexander (of “Seinfeld” fame too, of course) despite the mask he wore throughout the VIP pre-party and the show itself – it’s hard to miss him, even with his face covered.
We sat with “Sistas” star Novi Brown, who told us why she came to experience the magical night of theater. “I studied theater in New York and acted in plays there, so I love getting to see productions here in Los Angeles,” she explained. “And Cirque is always amazing, isn’t it?”
It is, and based on the audience’s happy reactions, everyone seemed to agree, including the other well-known faces in the crowd like LaKeith Stanfield, Josh Henderson, Adriana Lima, Kesha, Casper Smart and many others.
“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” Takeover at Shake Shack
Shake Shack DUMBO, Brooklyn
A “Super Mario Bros.” fan and a Chance the Rapper fan walk into a Shake Shack . . . while this may sound like an intro for a joke, it was the reality on Water Street in Brooklyn this week. “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” Takeover at Shake Shack hosted by Chance the Rapper kicked off as an exclusive VIP event, with unlimited burgers and fries, cinematic photo ops and special prizes.
Chance, who spent most of the evening in a roped off area of the restaurant with his entourage, seemed to be having the time of his life snacking on burgers and fries while dancing and chatting with fans. During the event, the Grammy award-winning artist and long-time Mario Bros. video game fan spoke about his love for Shake Shack. After shooting his first music video “Juice” in New York City 10 years ago, Chance recalled meeting the director Austin Badgley to celebrate at Shake Shack. “I was running late so I called him and said, ‘Save me a spot in line!'”
The “YAH Know” singer also encouraged guests to visit theaters to check out his friend Chris Pratt as Mario in “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” in theaters April 5. In the meantime, fans can visit the four-day pop-up event at the DUMBO Shake Shack and who knows, maybe Chance will just randomly be back in there getting his burger-and-fries fix again! – Emily Vogel
Please send all party/events invites to Jenny.Peters@TheWrap.com