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Industry Figures Talk Fighting Sexual Harassment at LACMA Art + Film Gala

Only at LACMA’s Art + Film Gala could Kim Kardashian West enter a cocktail reception without any fanfare and fail to gain the interest of photographers, who were preoccupied shooting the likes of Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Barbra Streisand, not to mention the evening’s honorees George Lucas and painter Mark Bradford.

Needless to say, she looked downright lost without the attention. Eventually, however, Jared Leto recognized her despite the lack of flashbulbs, and walked over to exchange air kisses with the reality star and her date for the evening, mom Kris Jenner.

Given that the man responsible for “Star Wars” was being celebrated, global CEOs and Oscar-winning directors at the event were reduced to fanboys. Marco Bizzarri, the president of evening sponsor Gucci, was temporarily at a loss for words after meeting Lucas. “What can I say? I’m so excited, of course. For all of us, he’s a legend from when I was a kid until now,” Bizzarri told Variety. Added Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu: “He really transformed the whole visual affects approach to cinema, so he has a legacy in that sense.”

However, even Lucas himself was talking about the industry’s darker legacy: The history of sexual harassment in Hollywood, and the ongoing discussions seeking to end it. “It’s definitely shaking things up,” Lucas told Variety. “But you know, you’re talking about a problem that’s been around for 5,000 years — it’s not going to go away. And the issues, the real issues, hopefully they put a dent in them.”

“And of course this is much less than what it was in, say, 16th century England or in a lot of places where women are just chattel,” he continued. “At least they’ve come a long way and now they’ve got a voice, which is good. And they’re standing up to it, which is the key. But it’s hard when your job is at stake and your career is at stake — all those kinds of things — and you’re there with somebody who can destroy your whole world. It’s hard to fight that. And I’m glad they actually broke that open.”

Even Luke Skywalker agreed that it’s no longer business as usual. “But it’s not specific to Hollywood,” Mark Hamill said. “It’s a societal problem from the waitress who relies on tips to stewardesses. But gosh, it’s a light year’s jump in awareness, which is only a good thing.” That said, Hamill wasn’t convinced that it’s the end of an era for the casting couch. “Oh, probably not,” he admitted. “Even in subtle forms, you know — going out to dinner with a director because you want to cultivate his good graces. It’s just part of the whole package. But I think now with people really aware, it can’t help but get much better than it’s been.”

Jane Fonda, however, seemed more optimistic that the status quo is history. “We’re reaching a tipping point and I think that women — and a lot of good men — want it to end and so will not stop until the various laws and policies are in place that will make it much rarer than it is now,” she explained. Guillermo del Torro similarly suggested making policy changes that would hopefully ensure a safer working environment for women in the industry. “I think that it will be important to actually create some legislation — you know, for this to be regulated.”

For Zoe Saldana, the topic is a personal one, and she’s taking a hands-on approach with her own children. “I want to be compassionate,” she said. “I’m raising three boys, so you know, it’s important for us to keep an open mind. It’s taught us so much about how to teach our sons to view women, to treat women, to value themselves as well, and to conduct themselves appropriately around women on every level, whether personal or professional.”

But despite the heavy cocktail conversation, the mood inevitably lightened inside during dinner after it was announced that almost $4.5 million was raised to benefit the museum. Anderson Cooper wasn’t there in person, but he feted his friend, the artist Mark Bradford, via a pre-taped video, and Kerry Washington introduced Lucas. Annie Lennox, who played the piano and performed a medley of hits afterward, chose to end the night on a somber note, and her final song selection seemed to be an inspired choice: “Sweet Dreams.”

“Everybodys looking for something,” she sang. “Some of them want to use you, some of them want to get used by you. Some of them want to abuse you, some of them want to be abused.”

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