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HFPA luncheon toasts $1.6 mil in grants

DiCaprio, Butler, Wahlberg among stars at annual giveaway fest

The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. rounded up Leonardo DiCaprio, Gerard Butler, Lea Michele and sundry other stars Thursday afternoon to fete the org’s charitable efforts, which this year totaled a record $1,579,500 in grants to film schools, nonprofit orgs and other entertainment-related charities.

A lean, shaggy-headed Butler was first to take the stage at the Beverly Hills Hotel, giving way to a succession of Hollywood talent who accepted or presented checks on behalf of orgs including the Film Foundation, Film Independent, Sundance Institute, LACMA, MoMA and several universities, foundations and scholarship programs.

Butler, on hand to present a grant to the Art of Elysium, introduced newly elected HFPA prexy Aida Takla O’Reilly, who succeeded Philip Berk in June.

“After today’s festivities,” O’Reilly said, “we can proudly say our organization has donated more than $13.5 million over the past 17 years through our grants program.”

Coin comes from the HFPA’s Golden Globes show, which airs on NBC.

Following a shoulder-to-shoulder champagne cocktail reception, Kevin Bacon, Mark Wahlberg, Jessica Chastain and others appeared in rapid succession, concluding the briskly paced program in an hour’s time.

DiCaprio, presenting a $350,000 grant to the Film Foundation for its preservation efforts, ribbed Wahlberg as he yielded the stage, calling him “Marky Mark.”

Wahlberg was quick to retort.

“I’m sitting next to a guy over there, Leo, who’s better looking than you and in better shape than me,” Wahlberg said, pointing to “Twilight” hunk Taylor Lautner. “We’re screwed, man. ‘Titanic’ and ‘Boogie Nights’ were a long time ago.”

All in all, 46 film schools and non-profits received grants ranging from $5,000 (the Pablove Foundation, a photo project for sick children) to $350,000 (the Film Foundation). Donations also included relief to benefit victims of natural disasters around the world. “Over $250,000 was donated to those affected by the Haitian and Chilean earthquakes and the Japanese tsunami,” O’Reilly said.

Event also celebrated the election of the HFPA’s 2011-12 officers, introduced by O’Reilly, who swiftly rattled off their names as they stood up from their plates of filet Mignon, Chilean seabass and gnocchi for a quick wave. They included: Jorge Camara (VP), Ali Sar (treasurer), Serge Rakhlin (executive secretary). The board of directors members include Berk (chairman), Yoram Kahana, Yukiko Nakajima, Ruben Nepales, Meher Tatna and Theo Kingma (alternate).

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