Even if this year's AFI Fest in Los Angeles proves to be entirely frontloaded -- I had such a ball on opening day with the Saving Mr Banks festivities -- the trip will have been worth it. My adventure began with an exclusive pre-screening cocktail party with the Saving Mr Banks team where I met Emma Th-- no, no, she gets her own post... I'm still processing that one! For now two quick tidbits about the men.
Director John Lee Hancock, no longer The Rookie on his fourth picture, was standing tall and proud while we chatted over drinks. I don't mean that metaphorically but literally since he towered over me - so tall! Thoughnot intimidating, I must add, what with his warm smile, and alarmingly good manners. We were interrupted while he was telling a story which is so common at cocktail parties that you think nothing of it as the celebrity is whisked off to meet another well-wisher or member of the press. You certainly never expect to hear the ending of the anecdote but he sought me out later to finish it.
I couldn't resist asking The Blind Side director what he thought of Gravity. "My girl, Sandy!" he blurts out, the grin even grinnier. "I haven't seen it yet!" he adds with a touch of surprise and apology. He'll rectify that as soon as his press schedule for Saving Mr Banks lightens up. Next week, he hopes.
A few minutes later I had a brief chat with Colin Farrell, also in very good spirits but that's probably easy when your movie has Best Picture buzz. He plays the alcoholic father of the author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) in flashback, but it's a substantial role since the flashbacks run parallel to the A story of the making of Mary Poppins, a way of illuminating the author's deep personal attachment to her Poppins creations ("they're family") and why she's so hesistant to sell them to Walt Disney. In the Best Supporting Actor Oscar race Farrell is most likely to be overshadowed by Tom Hanks who gets the plum Disney role (or, as Hancock put it an hour later as he introduced his cast at the screening "an icon playing an icon") but I'm personally confident that one day Farrell will get the right role for the Academy to notice his gift (and not just his celebrity). I told him he'd make my list of Hollywood's Most Underappreciated to which he jokingly replied "I'd make my own list of most underappreciated!"
We ended the conversation reminiscing about his surprise Golden Globe win for In Bruges (2008). I tell him that's one of those rare deserving moments in awards history that pundits and cinephiles like me point too with 'anything is possible!' optimism. "I'M A HARBINGER OF HOPE!" he volleys back.