More of This Double Life

So, two Thursday’s ago was a particularly trying day. As I wrote previously – or maybe I hadn’t, but I’m too lazy to check – I left work around noon to get to the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills for The Yellow Handkerchief Press day. It was being run by my colleagues at Block-Korenbrot PR – fantastic and professional people. Anyway, I got there early to take advantage of the hospitality suite where the hotel feeds hungry journos like me. The one dish I always look forward to is the Four Seasons’ egg salad. It’s absolutely delicious! They cut the eggs into tiny, tiny rectangular pieces that I assume have to be machine-sliced, because I don’t know anyone who can cut eggs so perfectly. Anyway, just my luck, they weren’t serving any, which was probably for the best since I was suffering from some terrible gastrointestinal problems. I don’t think I need to go into further detail.

Like most things in this industry, Press day was running a little behind schedule. I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often, actually, since journalists will often try to squeeze in an extra question even after the moderator has already called time. The talent, of course, is always happy to answer more questions – usually with something interesting, albeit longwinded. Sometimes they just prattle on and even forget the point of what they’re saying, like Tim Burton did during the Alice in Wonderland Press conference. I’ll get to that in a second. So, we – the journalists – ate our fill, grabbed some Fiji water and stood around in the hallway until the TV interviews were done. See, the Press gets broken down into different groups. Typically the groups are TV, radio and print/online. I presume this is done because of the different needs of each group. Sometimes radio sits in with print/online, but I don’t see that much. When I share a roundtable with the radio people, their microphones and recording equipment dominate the tabletop, dwarfing my tiny Olympus digital voice recorder. The TV people definitely need their own time, because of all the equipment they have to lug around and set up.

After a few minutes the TV journos finished and the rooms were converted for the rest of us, with radio Press splintering off into their own room while the print/online journos did our best to fit into another room with chairs set up in rows Press conference-style. That was when the musical chairs situation with the Euro-journo happened. Anyway, the talent for the day was the director Udayan Prasad, producer Arthur Cohn and actors William Hurt, Maria Bello, Kristen Stewart and Eddie Redmayne.

You know, I’ve been doing this long enough now that I’m no longer star struck when I sit down in front of a celebrity. Instead, I’ve come to appreciate other things about these people, which don’t really have much to do with their celebritydom. Mainly, I pay attention to the way these people speak. I’m always impressed when talent can answer a question on the fly without using an “uh” or “um” to fill the silence while they think about what they’re saying. Udayan Prasad has that ability and he’s got a great accent to boot. I’m also impressed when foreigners use American accents on film and then speak with their native accent during Press day. If I hadn’t read the production notes for The Yellow Handkerchief I’d never know that Eddie Redmayne was British. His American accent is spotless. He also loves to talk. He sat down with Kristen Stewart and we interviewed them together. Since Kristen is the bigger star considering her Twilight fame, I’d expected her to be the chatterbox. So much for expectations.

You know what I like about Kristen Stewart? She’s got kind of an edge to the way she looks. I like how her hair isn’t evenly cut. Not that it looks lopsided or anything, but it’s got a great style to it so that it hangs thinly in all the right places. There’s also something around the eyes that I like – a certain amount of darkness…? I don’t know. It’s hard to say. Finally, I like the angles of her chin. They’re very sharp. Oh, and instead of verbal fillers, she sometimes uses visual fillers, like screwing up her face when she’s trying to find the right word or phrase.

I also like William Hurt’s attitude. He came in late during the interview with Maria Bello and had a playful attitude, commenting on all the recorders on the table and saying, “So many trinkets for us!” Or something like that. He’s pretty easy-going and an ardent supporter of the United States armed forces. He has family currently serving. Mario Bello also had kind words to say about the military in regards to their performance and assistance in Haiti.

So after The Yellow Handkerchief junket, which I think ended around 3:30 p.m. or so, I rode down the elevator with a group of journos and we all discussed our schedules for the rest of the evening. Almost all of us were going to the Alice in Wonderland Press screening at the El Capitan Theater by the Hollywood & Highland Center. I’m not sure if some of the journos were from out of town or what, but a few of them didn’t know how to get there. One of the radio journos advised to drive up Doheny and make a right on Sunset before I could suggest to make a right on 3rd and make a left on La Cienega and then a right on Sunset. Since I’m always willing to try new routes, I took his advice. Bad mistake. Once I got to Sunset I found that construction crews had shut down one of the two lanes going east, which meant that I had to sit in the traffic of the damned. The cherry on top was that the construction ended at the cross street of Sunset and La Cienega. I don’t know why I doubt myself sometimes.

Once safely parked in the Hollywood & Highland Center garage I found that I had a couple of hours to kill before the show. I hadn’t been sleeping well the few nights before because of the stomach issues and I was fond of sleeping in my car so I thought I’d get a few winks in before heading to the surface. Unfortunately, whoever builds multi-level garages apparently makes them really flexible – just in case of an earthquake, I guess – because every time a car drove by I felt like I was on a boat in the ocean. Sleep wasn’t going to happen so I killed time walking around the courtyard and watching the stage crews set up for the next day’s Alice in Wonderland Ultimate Fan Event. I felt like garbage. I was tired, cold and my intestines were three sizes too big. While waiting, I got an email from my Editor-in-Chief Richard Elfman, reminding me to go to the movie early since they were overbooked. I looked over to the El Capitan and saw a long line forming along the sidewalk. It was no doubt the line for the Jimmy Kimmel Live! show, but it unnerved me enough to get me to head over.

Walt Disney’s El Capitan Theater

When I got there the people manning the check-in table said they weren’t checking anyone in yet. Strangely, there was a line of non-journalist-looking people leading up to the check-in table, so I asked someone in line if they were Press. He looked at me confused and shook his head. I stepped back and just people watched for a few minutes as the line to the check-in table grew longer. Curious, I asked the check-in people if there was a separate line for Press and they said no. I sighed and walked to the back of the line. A group got in line behind me and I guess they were industry people because they were discussing which studio was flying them where and why they couldn’t make it to what screening.

At last, I got inside the El Capitan Theater to pick my seat. Interestingly, only the first five rows in the middle section were available, which meant I’d have to choose between getting a stiff neck or sitting in one of the side sections and watching at a skewed angle. I opted for the former.

If you’ve never watched a movie at the El Capitan Theater let me tell you now that it’s a mixed bag. Imagine flying coach. Think of how uncomfortable those seats are and how little reclining you get. Now remove the leg room and bring the seat in front of you all the way up to your knees. That’s what it’s like to sit in the El Capitan Theater. The seats are so tight that the ushers would have to ask Kevin Smith to leave if he tried to watch a movie here. Also, it’s impossible to get by anyone if you have to get up to use the restroom or, in my case, leave. As soon as the credits were rolling I got up and tried to barrel my way over the guy to my left and his family. No good. He politely said he would stand and I got through, but then I got caught behind an old lady with a cane being helped by her daughter. I’m not a jerk by nature so I slowed to their pace until I found an opening to get around without putting them off. The one awesome thing about the El Capitan Theater is the organist that comes rising out of the theater stage to play Disney tunes for half an hour before the show. I didn’t catch his name, but apparently he’s some kind of world champion. Admittedly, his performance was delightful.

Anyway, I was in a hurry because I had one more event to get to before the night was over. Raleigh Studios – they’re right across the street from Paramount Studios – was throwing an exclusive party to celebrate the grand opening of their studio in Budapest. My friend and colleague Parimal Rohit had been there since 7:30 p.m. and was expecting me to show up around that time, not realizing that I was at the Alice in Wonderland screening. I was dead-tired, but I’m not one to leave my friends hanging so I made for Raleigh Studios as quickly as I could. By the time I got there I had already missed the main events and all of the food was gone. Ironically, I got there just in time for goodie bags, which had information about the new Raleigh Budapest studio, some Budapest confections and a Rubik’s cube, which is apparently a favored toy in Budapest. The bag also had some towels with FotoKem branding on it. I assume they also use towels in Budapest.

Raleigh Studios shares the wonders of Budapest.

Parimal and I didn’t stay long. I glad handed some publicists and met the president of Raleigh Studios, Michael Moore – a different one – and then I stood in the parking lot with Parimal to rehash Alice and talk about our respective futures in the entertainment industry.

I got home a little after 1 a.m. and then got up for work the next day. I wonder how long I can keep this up before I go insane.

Editor’s Note: While proofreading, I realized that I didn’t cover the Alice in Wonderland Press conference. Oh well. Something to look forward to in a future post, I guess. Sorry about that. -René

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