Every year, the 80 or so members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. fly back and forth across the U.S. and around the world, taking in upward of 150 movies, attending up to half-a-dozen press conferences a week and talking to movie stars about their latest film. Despite the punishing schedule and memory-defying list of interviews and junkets, vivid high points remain.
The most outrageous in 2012? Nearly every member agrees that it had to be Sacha Baron Cohen for “The Dictator.”
“We were in New York for his press conference and he arrived in costume, with two beautiful women dressed as combat-ready bodyguards,” reports Herve Tropea, who writes for TV Guide and Gala in France. “And before we could even ask him questions, he asked one of the journalists, ‘What is the length of your penis?’ Then he asked another one to ‘Please pull your pants down.’ And then he asked some of the HFPA ladies, ‘Are you a man or a woman? You look like a woman, except I see you have a mustache.’ It was just wild.”
Tropea admits that he was “a little worried” that some of the older female members might have been offended, “but, and I was a bit surprised, everyone played the game and got into the spirit of the thing, and everyone loved him being so outrageous and over the top.”
Jorge Camara, who writes for the Dominican Republic’s Cineasta, says talking to Sally Field was “a big highlight. She told us that she stayed in character, along with Daniel Day-Lewis, even when they weren’t shooting ‘Lincoln,’ and talked to each other in character all the time. We all know how Daniel likes to submerge himself in each new role he plays, but Sally Field? So it must have really rubbed off on her. And she reminded us of the famous time at the Globes when she came dressed as a nun and flew across the ballroom on a rig, landing on John Wayne. Only us old-timers remember that!”
For Aussie member Jenny Cooney, the highlight was the May junket to historic Arundel Castle in England for “Snow White and the Huntsman.”
“It was pretty awesome sitting in these beautiful, perfectly preserved rooms, interviewing the cast, and they even had guards around to make sure no one touched the priceless works of art, antiques and armor in the grand banqueting hall,” she recalls. “We did the TV interviews outside because of the beautiful grounds, and Charlize Theron got very excited about all the goats eating the grass. The only uncool thing about the trip was that we had to bus it back to London as there were no hotels close by big enough for all of us to stay in.”
A trip to Scotland was a big highlight for Gabriel Lerman, who writes for Spain. “Disney invited us to their international junket for ‘Brave’ in Edinburgh,” he reports. “I had been there many years ago for ‘Entrapment’ when we talked to Sean Connery, but what made this trip so special was that on this occasion, the studio worked closely with the Scottish tourism office to create a very special event, not only for us but for all the journalists who came from all over the world. They took us on a train ride to the Highlands and in the train a band played Scottish music. They also had a lovely dinner with local delicacies — how can I forget the haggis? — where John Lasseter spoke about the film and we watched folk dances and other traditional customs. That was an amazing junket.”
For Judy Solomon, who reps Israel and writes for Women’s World, her most memorable interview was with Steven Spielberg.
“We did it at his mother’s restaurant, Milky Way, on Pico, in April, and she even sat down with us for a few minutes,” Solomon reports. “It was about the man behind the artist, and he was working on ‘Lincoln’ at the time and we discussed his filmmaking and life in a lot of detail — everything except ‘Lincoln.’ He didn’t want to discuss it as he was in the middle of it, but he was happy to talk about his childhood and what drives him.”
Angelina Jolie provided another high point for Solomon.
“I talked to her for an hour at the Roosevelt Hotel, about her career and private life, and she’s so straightforward and open compared to a lot of people we talk to,” adds the scribe. So much so that Solomon’s subsequent story came in at 18 pages long. “And my editor went crazy! They had to shorten it in the end.”
“Talking to Diane Keaton for ‘Darling Companion’ was a highlight, because she’s so unpretentious,” says Scott Orlin, the U.S. correspondent for Germany’s Cinema Magazine. “It’s like being at a dinner party with her, just chatting away about how she related so much to the film’s story about a woman searching for her lost dog. She told us all these great stories about how she’d be driving through Brentwood or wherever and see a lost dog on the street, and she’d pull over immediately to rescue it. It was also very refreshing because this business is necessarily so narcissistic, with everyone talking about themselves all the time. But she has this whole other thing going on, and it was great to hear her talk like that.” n
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