The shocking news of Robin Williams’ death broke just moments before the stars of “The Giver” walked down the red carpet at New York’s Ziegfeld Theater on Monday night, casting a shadow over the film’s world premiere.
Jeff Bridges, who appeared with Williams in 1991’s “The Fisher King,” addressed the audience before the movie rolled. “I’m filled with such mixed emotions tonight,” said Bridges, a star and producer of the Weinstein Co. and Walden Media release. “I play the Giver, who is supposed to hold in his emotions, but it’s very difficult for me to be here … losing a dear, dear friend, Robin Williams. I know we’ll all miss him. My heart goes out to his family.” Bridges then said he could feel Williams’ presence in the room, telling him: “Get on with it, Bridges.”
Harvey Weinstein, who produced “The Giver,” also made 1997’s “Good Will Hunting.” It was the role for which Williams won his only Academy Award. “If he were on stage, he’d want the party to continue and continue and continue,” Weinstein said. “He is well loved, and whatever the circumstances are, he was a giant in our industry and even more importantly, a great man.”
The night felt even more chaotic because the red carpet was live telecast to theaters nationwide, even though most of the cast — Meryl Streep, Katie Holmes, Taylor Swift, and even newcomer Brenton Thwaites — ducked past journalists. Due to an unexpected delay, the show’s emcee Ben Lyons awkwardly ad-libbed (“I’m sure Taylor Swift has cooled down with popcorn!”) while the stars were waiting in the aisles. “Fuck, he’s stalling,” mumbled a technician in the back of the theater. The somber opening remarks were followed by a performance from OneRepublic, who appear on the film’s soundtrack, courtesy of executive producer (and powerhouse music manager) Scooter Braun.
The road to the “Giver” was a long one for Bridges, who first tried to make Lois Lowry’s popular young-adult book 18 years ago. He originally wanted his father, Lloyd Bridge,s to play the title role. “It took forever,” Lowry said. “I just hoped it would happen before I died, because I was getting older and older. At the same time, Jeff was getting older and older, and he was finally old enough to play the role and he does it so well.”
Lowry explained the appeal of her best-seller, which was published in 1993. “I think every generation probably has their iconic anti-establishment book,” Lowry said. “Mine was ‘The Catcher in the Rye.’ I think this is that for this generation.” When asked if she’d read “Divergent,” she shook her head no.
Director Phillip Noyce said that adaptation might not have ever made it to the bigscreen if it weren’t for Weinstein’s enthusiasm, fueled by the success of other franchises based on young-adult novels (think “The Hunger Games”). Noyce said the budget for “The Giver” was in the relatively inexpensive $20-million range, and Weinstein was hands-on as a producer who secured Streep for the role of the dystopian tyrant. “Meryl liked the book,” Noyce said. “Meryl liked the script. Meryl liked the part.”
The afterparty was held at the Central Park Boathouse where guests nibbled on pizza, sliders and tacos. Swift, who had worn a red and cream Monique Lhuillier dress to the premiere, never showed up.