Screenings shine bright with stars

Pete Hammond on why local film events lure huge celebrities out of hiding.

Jack's back

About 600 strong filled every seat and then some for the rare opportunity to see Jack Nicholson do a Q&A at a North Hollywood screening. (Sidney Baldwin / Warner Bros. Pictures)

Jack is back!

Warner Bros. had to turn away at least 50 Screen Actors Guild members at an overflowing screening of "The Bucket List" at the TV Academy in North Hollywood last night.

About 600 strong filled every seat and then some for the rare – and we mean rare -- opportunity to see Jack Nicholson do a Q&A.

The session immediately followed the very enthusiastically received showing of his latest film, costarring Morgan Freeman and directed by Rob Reiner who joined Nicholson on stage for the SAG Nominating Committee event.

When we introduced Nicholson he came out a bit surprised to see such a large crowd.

Apparently no one had explained to him exactly what he was getting into.

"I have to tell you, I thought they said I was going to be talking to a committee of a few actors. I had no idea it was this," he said, to lots of laughter.

Paparazzi made it difficult for him to get through the doors, but once he did, he took off on his own for what can only be described as a "Jack tour" of the premises. Eventually, he emerged onstage and settled down for a 45-minute chat with the actors voting on this year's SAG nominations.

On the topic of awards, he said he never knows what to expect whenever he is nominated for an Oscar (it's happened 12 times with three wins, a record for male actors). He did allow that every time he loses he thinks he's been "robbed."

Nicholson also kept needling Reiner, saying the director didn't have the faith initially that he could play the colonel in the first collaboration between the two friends, "A Few Good Men."

He also mentioned that he loves the Coen brothers and would have been perfect for "No Country for Old Men."

The crowd ate it all up. Not a single person left and Jack graciously signed autographs for another 20 minutes after the Q&A.

Asked by an actor in the audience if he was planning on making a "bucket list" of his own, Jack explained that at age 70 he still planned to live a little longer and didn't need to make a list of things to do before he dies (unlike the characters in his more recent film).

"If I can find something I want to do tomorrow, I am just gonna go out and do it, baby," he said.

Judging from the reaction to him and the poignant comedy/drama, Warner Bros. could find themselves not only with a major hit picture but a surprise awards contender once the film opens on Christmas Day.

Although this was certainly one of the most memorable Q&As this year, it's not the only one that has had voters like the "SAG nom comm" excited.

In fact, a key component of awards season strategies is the emergence in the past few seasons of the guild screening Q&A – full disclosure, many of which we have moderated ourselves.

Needless to say, the 'in person' appearance has become an essential piece of the campaign puzzle.

The practice really began in 2001 when Dreamworks consultants persuaded Russell Crowe to make a personal appearance after a screening of "Gladiator" at the AMC theater in Century City (which academy members were invited to attend).





Look for this special section in your
Baltimore Sun newspaper on Dec. 29, 2013.
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