George Clooney proved again how utterly charming he is, Al Pacino quoted Michelangelo, and Kyra Sedgwick talked the fifth time being the charm backstage at the 62nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards.
Maybe it was that First Amendment question that got things rolling. George Clooney, honored with the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award for his fund-raising work including this year’s multi-network telethon for Haiti earthquake relief, was asked about the conflict between wanting to maintain some kind of privacy in his life and his belief in the First Amendment.
He said firmly that, as the son of a newsman, “I always felt that the inconveniences I have are worth it rather than infringing on anyone else’s rights.”
Alrighty then, open season!
Clooney quickly deflected a question about his date – girlfriend Elisabetta Canalis — noting that “She picked me up in Italy” and yes, she was around.
He said he’d spent part of his day shooting hoops: “John Krasinski came over to my house with a bunch of guys to play basketball. If you see him later, well, he’s limping.”
Illustrating anew that the stars’ biggest fans are other stars, Clooney confessed to a moment of that star-struck feeling when he found himself with Al Pacino and Tom Selleck in the green room, and “suddenly I’m 14 years old. It’s very funny.”
He also gave the telecast its first glowing review: “The show is really good tonight. Jimmy Fallon is just really killing it. He’s just really funny.”
George on Prop 8 being lifted: “I think it’s terrific. Now it’s unlifted again…These are things that take a long time to change…People will look back on this period of history and think of it as an archaic time.”
George on his “ER” leading lady, Julianna Margulies, presenting his award: “It’s pretty great. We’ve stayed in touch. We’re good friends.”
Clooney talked about the namesake of his award, Bob Hope, noting, “It wasn’t just the USO shows. That’s something everybody remembers him for 50 years. He was one of the great charitable actors. He did it all, always a great sense of humor. He was fun. He’d just show up and do something.” Asked what he learned from Hope, Clooney, who knew the iconic comedian personally as a young man, recalled that “What you learn from him was, he didn’t take himself seriously. I really appreciated that.” Clooney recalled that Hope’s wife Dolores sang with his aunt, Rosemary Clooney, on her “Salute” show, and “she was great. She’s 101 now and really doing great.”
Noting several times that he felt a little awkward to be getting an award for doing the right thing, Clooney insisted, “I don’t particularly do more than anybody else in the position I’m in.”
Well, not everyone organizes record-breaking, multi-network telethons full of A- List celebrities to help victims of the Haiti earthquake, the South Asia tsunami and Sept. 11 — raises hundreds of millions of dollars, and then follows up to ensure that the money is being used properly as Clooney does. But anyway, he went on, “If you have a tremendous amount of heat from the spotlight, you’re able to deflect some of it onto people who could really use it. My dad calls it a ‘Celebrity Credit Card’ that you can try to cash in other places.”
Al Pacino, who won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie for his portrayal of Dr. Jack Kevorkian in “You Don’t Know Jack,” admitted that he felt a bit out of place at the TV honors. “I’m just so used to movies,” he said, noting that he considered his HBO “You Don’t Know Jack” to be a movie, though it was shown on small screen.
“You’re a little lost. You’re in the midst of all these TV people and you feel a little like you don’t belong. You still feel like a movie person,” said Al.
Holding an Emmy had to have helped.
Pacino talked about the controversial medico known as Dr. Death for assisting suicides of terminally ill patients, saying he only got to know Kevorkian after making the movie, but “I’m so glad I got to know him. He’s got that kind of intelligence where you can ask him anything and he’ll come up with something different from what you expected.”
Pacino lost weight to play Kevorkian, a notoriously finicky eater who has impassioned feelings against fat – yet is known to sneak sweets, according to Al. He joked, “Gaining weight is much easier. I wish I had to gain weight for a part. Losing weight requires exercise, and “I’m from the Oscar Wilde school…Whenever I get the urge to exercise, I lie down until it passes.”
He told press he considers it a plus to play a real-life character: “It’s great when you know somebody exists…It sort of frees you. As Michelangelo said: ‘Free me of myself, Lord, so I can please you.’ I had that with Frank Serpico when I played him. Actors like it, it’s very nourishing.”
Kyra Sedgwick, who took home her first Emmy (outstanding Lead Actress for “The Closer”) in five nominations, was asked whether she’d been afraid of turning into another Susan Lucci, notorious for always being nominated but never winning. “I love Susan Lucci,” she said. “I kind of think you think you haven’t got a chance in hell after five times, but it’s always such a gift to be invited to the party.”
Looking amazing in her purple Monique Lhuillier gown, Kyra added that she reached the point, “I started to placate myself” with remembering that a lot of great actors never won Emmys – Martin Sheen, for instance, never won for “The West Wing.” “I’d find solace in such things.”
With hubby Kevin Bacon in the press room nearby, sipping champagne while she fielded questions, Kyra was asked about competition between the famous couple.
“I think Kev’s won more….We don’t play the same roles…Of course there’s no rivalry.” She says they always joke around about whether there’s enough room for another award.
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series winner Eric Stonestreet talked eloquently and movingly about reaction to his portrayal of a dad with a same-sex partner on “Modern Family.” “I can tell you what people say to me – I get amazing compliments from kids of same sex families.” He cited a “gentleman who was raised by two moms” who had recently adopted another daughter. He thanked Stonestreet, saying that now, if bullies ever taunt his sister, “she can say, ‘Look at Mitch and Cam – you like them.”
Mitch and Cam, of course, are the couple played by Jesse Tyler Ferguson and himself. Ferguson and cast mate Ty Burrell were also nominated in the same category, so one reporter wondered whether there’d be awkwardness on the set Monday.
“No, not at all, we had all joked around abut that before — if any one of us won whether it would be fun to punch each other in the stomach or walk out.” However, “This was a win for the show…We love our job, so it won’t be awkward at all.”
Stonestreet and “Modern Family” executive producer Steve Levitan – who came into the press room after the show won Outstanding Comedy Series honors – both stressed that the upcoming episode in which Cam and Mitch kiss was planned a long time ago. That is, before the controversy grew over their lack of physicality on the series. Although, as Stonestreet acknowledged, it’s going “to look like we caved to public pressure, it was planned before.”
Asked about where he found inspiration for his portrayal, Stonestreet pointed to his mom – “spell it right” – Jamey and her excitable, emotional, passionately caring ways. After he keeps it for a couple of weeks, he’s sending his Emmy to her and his father Vince to keep, he says.
He’s had a lot of women tell him that they identify with Cam.
“Nurse Jackie’s” Edie Falco came right out and said what a lot of people were thinking about her winning as Outsanding Actress in a Comedy – over a group of funny ladies that included Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Lea Michele, Toni Collette, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Said Falco: “Tina Fey, for heaven’s sake. It’s ridiculous!” She also said, “The women I was up against are hysterically funny, talented comedians. I’m not playing coy here. I’m just dumbfounded by the events of the evening.” She added, “But I’m happy to be here nonetheless.”
As for what she planned to do to celebrate? “I hadn’t planned on celebrating. I’d planned on going home and ordering room service,” Falco said. But she was glad to make a change in her plans.
For those die-hards who care about the coarsening of public discourse in America today, Betty White’s “What the hell are you looking at” during the opening number of the Emmy show this year no doubt felt like a let down. Et tu, Betty? Later, after his “The Pacific” won the Emmy for Outstanding Miniseries, Tom Hanks dropped the F-bomb backstage. At least he apologized right away. He got carried away when a reporter mentioned how HBO and his Playtone production company continue to be winners, and Tom answered with “$#%-in’ A!”
Hanks also talked about the fact he was sorry there were only two nominees in the category, since there are certain stories that so well suited to the form. He hopes “The Pacific” serves as a model. As for what will come next from the firm that has gifted the public with a phenomenal string of artistically, intellectually and emotionally satisfying productions (“From the Earth to the Moon,” “John Adams,” “Band of Brothers” to name three), Hanks said they’re still three or four years away from unveiling any new projects.
When it comes to the night’s most overtly competitive personality, honors have to go to “Top Chef’s” Padma Lakshmi. She made it clear that she’d had enough of “Amazing Race” winning “Outstanding Reality – Competition” honors year after year. “I was really mean to the host on the red carpet. I think I hit him twice with my purse,” she said. “I said, ‘You’re going down.’” And so they did – and “Top Chef” got the Emmy.
“It’s always nice to see someone who is getting old with you,” said Anthony Edwards, asked about his former “ER” cast mate George Clooney being honored the same night that Edwards’ “Temple Grandin” won seven out of 15 Emmy nominations, becoming one of the huge winners of this year’s awards.
Edwards is one of the executive producers of the telefilm that won Emmys for Made for Television Movie, Outstanding Lead Actress for Claire Danes, Outstanding Director for Mick Jackson, and Supporting Actor and Actress Emmys for David Strathairn and Julia Ormond. Getting the bio-pic made was a ten-year effort. “I was very involved from an early part of the journey…Trying to sell a movie about a woman who is autistic and designs slaughterhouses – it’s not the easiest sell,” Edwards admitted.
Clearly, however, it was worth it. Grandin herself was in the press room, and pointed out that the telefilm has a lot to say about autism and clearing up misconceptions about the nature of the malady. She noted that autistics range from “Silicon Valley geniuses” to severely afflicted persons who can’t even speak.
She also said she had faith in Emily Gerson Saines, the lead Exec producer and driving force behind the film of “Temple Grandin.” Saines’ own son is autistic, and she founded the Autism Coalition for Research and Education that’s now a part of Autism Speaks.
Said Grandin, “I knew a mom would get it right.”
Asked what made this win special, Claire Danes declared, “I don’t think I’ve ever worked harder on a performance. It was epic in its scope. And I don’t think I’ve ever been as inspired by any part I’ve played.” She feels that Grandin and the film of her story “encourage positive change in the world. That’s wonderful. I don’t expect to have another opportunity like this.”
Danes admitted that her shimmery golden Armani Prive gown was “not as uncomfortable as it could be.” She wasn’t complaining. After all, “It’s a party dress and we’re gonna party!”