BEVERLY HILLS–In the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s (HFPA) grants and installation luncheon at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Tuesday, Vin Diesel, who accepted a grant for the Sundance Institute, spoke enthusiastically about his Manila trip when we bumped into him.
The actor, who graced the Manila premiere of “Fast & Furious 6” in May, told us a “secret” that would excite his Filipino fans. Our lips are sealed for now.
The actor, who stars in “Riddick,” said his twin brother Paul Vincent is married to a Filipina—so he has young Fil-Am relatives. Told that a photo of him riding a jeepney had gone viral in social media, Vin replied that he would post another Manila-related picture.
Vin was a surprise but fitting choice, it turned out, to accept HFPA’s $100,000 grant to the Sundance Institute’s career advancement program. In heartfelt remarks, Vin recalled that he
was a bouncer in New York when “Strays,” a 1997 movie he directed and acted in, got accepted to the Sundance Film Festival. In fact, it was nominated for a grand jury prize.
A guy brushed Vin’s shoulder at a screening venue (the Egyptian Theater); in New York, the actor said, that might signal a provocation to fight. But he saw that the man was Sundance fest founder Robert Redford. Vin related: “He said, ‘I saw your film ‘Strays’ and I’m a big fan of your work.’ I could not speak for two days. I felt a sense of validation that I had never felt before. Sundance is very close to my heart. It’s the only reason I stand before all of you. Otherwise, I’d still be a bouncer in New York.”
His spontaneous recollection earned Vin applause, although like most stars who came to accept grants for film schools and nonprofit organizations, he faced teleprompter issues when he had to read scripted spiels. Stumbles over teleprompter intros quickly became the day’s running gag.
“If anything has been made clear to me today, it is definitely the fact that [not] a single actor in Hollywood can read,” Jonah Hill cracked, earning him the biggest laugh and cheers. He accepted grant checks for American Cinematheque, International Documentary Association, Latin America Cinematica of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Levantine
Nicole Kidman, who represented Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation, which received $350,000 for the restoration of classic films, said, “‘The Wizard of Oz’ inspired me to become an actor. I wanted to play the Wicked Witch.”
The luncheon, emceed by Eva Longoria, began with a video showing some of the grant recipients, led by Martin Scorsese who thanked HFPA for its support in restoring historically important films.
Olivia Wilde and Jason Bateman represented the LA County High School for the Arts, Inner-City Arts, Inner-City Filmmakers, Young Storytellers Foundation and California State Summer. Rising stars Liam Hemsworth and Amber Heard came in behalf of several nonprofit orgs, including The Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (CAPE), which holds a writing fellowship program to discover and nurture Asian-American and Pacific Islander voices and talents.
Vince Vaughn and director David O. Russell showed up for several grantees, including UC Berkeley’s Pacific Film Archive, which supports an international filmmaker program.
Theo Kingma, new HFPA (a nonprofit org) president, said the donations were the result of the success of the Golden Globe Awards show. Theo announced that a record $1.6 million in grants and scholarships were awarded this year, with recipients ranging from UCLA, Los Angeles City College and Columbia University to the Ghetto Film School. Over the years, the HFPA has given over $18 million in grants, provided more than 900 scholarships and helped restore 80-plus classic films.
Other stars who turned up forfilm-related philanthropic orgs were Colin Farrell, Diane Kruger, Julie Delpy, Blair Underwood, Demian Bichir, Marsha Hunt, Tab Hunter, Dermot Mulroney and Piper Perabo.
Theo also announced the new HFPA officers: Lorenzo Soria (vice president), Meher Tatna (treasurer), Lilly Lui (executive secretary), and the board members: Yoram Kahana (chairman), Vera Anderson, Luca Celada, Helen Hoehne, Dr. Aida Takla-O’Reilly and Jack Tewksbury.
On behalf of the HFPA, Olivia gave a gift, a video camera, to Vince, whose second child was born two days earlier. Theo told Vince, who often costars with Owen Wilson in comedies, “You can start documenting the most important film of your life—without Owen Wilson.”
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