Night Before party offers pre-Oscar fun

Hollywood was feeling the heat of the Night.

For the fifth year, a capacity crowd — Oscar nominees, studio execs, filmmakers, agency toppers and stars — gathered at the Beverly Hills Hotel for the Night Before bash, which raised a whopping $7.5 million for the Motion Picture & Television Fund. Saturday’s party brings the event’s five-year total to better than $23 million.

With about 700 people partying in a small space, part of the evening’s fun lies in the glitterati rubbing elbows: Clint Eastwood conferring with George Lucas, Steven Spielberg smoking a stogie with Leonardo DiCaprio, Quincy Jones chatting with Eddie Murphy. Diverse lineup ranged from Jennifer Aniston, Cameron Diaz, George Clooney, Brad Grey and Tom Hanks to Bob Iger, Hugh Jackman, Kirk Kerkorian, Spike Lee, Will Smith and Howard Stringer.

Execs included Daniel Battsek, Jeff Berg, Jeff Blake, Jerry Bruckheimer, Mark Burnett, Richard and Lauren Shuler Donner, Jon Feltheimer, Jim Gianopulos, Brian Grazer, Alan Horn, Kathleen Kennedy, Graham King, Arnold Kopelman, John Lesher, David Linde, Richard Lovett, Chris McGurk, Frank Mancuso, Frank Marshall, Ron Meyer, Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald, Jeff Robinov, Tom Rothman, Bob Shaye, Marc Shmuger, Joel Silver, Stringer, Steve Tisch and Harvey Weinstein.

Helmers included Michael Bay, Sam Mendes, Taylor Hackford, Michael Mann and Brett Ratner.

Aside from DiCaprio, Oscar contenders included Adriana Barraza, Ryan Gosling, Jackie Earle Haley, Djimon Hounsou, Rinko Kikuchi, Helen Mirren, Murphy, Peter O’Toole, Smith, Mark Wahlberg and Kate Winslet.

Upon entering the bash, O’Toole was mostly concerned about the Target dog greeting guests. After cozying up to the canine, he declared: “The dog needs a drop of water. Can you get a drop of water for the dog?”

Sacha Baron Cohen, who stayed in character as Borat during the film’s release but then made several public appearances as himself, was pretty much himself again — but camera-shy — as photos were taken upon arrival: “I won’t take photos out of character,” he insisted, ushering his fiancee in front of the camera instead.

Bill Paxton confessed, “I parked cars here in the ’70s.”

Motion Picture & Television Fund chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg said: “Marilyn and I are deeply grateful to all the sponsors and our friends and colleagues in the entertainment community, whose generosity is the heart and soul of this benefit. The fund-raising success of the Night Before has been beyond anything I could have imagined.”

Others thesps spending the evening atop the BevHills Hotel’ temporarily covered pool were past Oscar winners Adrien Brody, Jodie Foster, Marcia Gay Harden and Gwyneth Paltrow, as well as Jack Black, Matt Dillon, America Ferrera, Neil Patrick Harris, Anne Hathaway, Jerry Seinfeld, Amy Adams, Tom Arnold, Kristen Bell, Emily Blunt, James Caan, Jim Caviezel, Chevy Chase, Michael Chiklis, Courteney Cox, Kristin Davis, James Denton, Laura Dern, Roma Downey, Frances Fisher, Joely Fisher, Andy Garcia, Jeff Goldblum, Allison Janney, Dwayne Johnson, Orlando Jones, Greg Kinnear, T.R. Knight, Lucy Liu, Heather Locklear, Eva Longoria, Derek Luke, Andie MacDowell, James McAvoy, Tobey Maguire, Masi Oka, Ellen Pompeo, Kyra Sedgwick, William Shatner, Wanda Sykes, Nia Vardalos and Rita Wilson.

From the music world were Paula Abdul, Mary J. Blige, Sean Combs, Sheryl Crow, Fergie (with Josh Duhamel) and Jimmy Iovine. Athletes Rick Fox, Matt Leinart and Serena Williams were in attendance.

“The continued success of this event is beyond remarkable,” said MPTF Foundation chief exec Ken Scherer, acknowledging event sponsors America Online, CenterStaging, Hewlett Packard, Lexus, L’Oreal Paris, McDonald’s, Target and Variety, which was represented by CEO Tad Smith, editor-in-chief Peter Bart and president-publisher Charles C. Koones.

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