I’m tempted to borrow a phrase from MGM to describe the star-studded reception before the first-look screening of J. Edgar on Monday night in midtown Manhattan.
The studio boasted having “more stars than there are in the heavens,” but this wasn’t an MGM party, it was a Warner Bros soirée to celebrate their latest Oscar hopeful – a biopic about the controversial and enigmatic J. Edgar Hoover, who spent five decades as director of the FBI.
To my left 60 Minutes reporter Steve Croft worked the room. In another corner Alan Cummings chatted quietly to friends. David Byrne mixed and mingled and Tower Heist co-star Judd Hirsch snacked on sashimi from the sushi bar.
Behind the food stations framed posters of some of the biggest stars from movie history looked down on the party goers.
They are keepsakes from the Warner Bros legacy; a reminder that the company has been making movies for almost as long as there have been movies to make.
Then a real life reminder of that legacy walked into the room. Clint Eastwood, J. Edgar’s director, quietly slipped into the party. Well, as quietly as one of the most iconic movie faces of all time can slip into a room. With him was Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer (“Not Arm and Hammer, but Armie Hammer,” Eastwood jokes) producer Brian Grazier and Oscar winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.
The weight shifts in the room, as though Clint’s star power has a gravitational pull all its own. At 81, he’s more weathered than when he made Dirty Harry a household name, but it is impossible to look at him and not have memories of “Go ahead, make my day...” or the Man with No Name character awakened, and everyone at the party feels it.
Inside the screening room he introduces his J. Edgar actors and creative team. After a long list of names he pauses and says, “that takes my memory as far as it will go.” Holding for the laugh, he continues, “I’ve always been curious about J. Edgar Hoover... and I still am.”
That’s it. Like his characters, Eastwood’s a man of few words. Or maybe it was the hour; it was only eight o’clock. But as someone sitting behind me joked, “He only works from nine to five.”
I guess when you’re a legend you can set your own hours.