By Patty Fantasia
Photo credit: Patty Fantasia

The Stars Come Out at ShoWest

It’s true that the stars do come out at night, especially on Thursday, March 18th in the Champagne Room at the Paris Hotel during the last night of ShoWest.  Just before going into the banquet and awards ceremony, several recipients of the SHOWEST AWARDS and surprise visitor Avatar producer Jon Landau stopped by for a brief Q and A session with members of the press.
Zach Galifianakis

Conversation centered mostly on the films that were screened during the week, upcoming movie projects and of course new technology, particularly 3D.  The first people to make an appearance were Alice Mathias and Andy Landen, the excited winners of the Coca-Cola Refreshing Filmmaker’s Award.  The next to arrive was funnyman Zach Galifianakis, who appropriately was named Comedy Star of the Year.  Zach is no stranger to Las Vegas having spent six weeks in Caesar’s Palace while filming the box office hit “The Hangover” and he wasn’t shy reminiscing.  “Just walking around Vegas brings back beautiful, beautiful nightmares,” he quipped.  As for his award, which he estimated weighs about 11 pounds. “I’ll probably make a hat out of it,” Zach joked, then added  “It’s nice to win something.  I’ve never won anything in my life so it’s nice to win something”.

Jon Landau
Appearing next Jon Landau was asked about the possibility of reissuing the record breaking “Avatar” and he said that it hasn’t been them doing the speculating on this subject, but other people. “Right now we’re leaving the option of reissue up to the public.  We always said we’d think about a sequel if the public wanted one, if there appears to be a demand, if 20th Century Fox down the road decides it makes sense for them great.  We’d be thrilled with whatever they really want to do,” he explained.  No timeline has been set for the release of a special edition DVD yet either Jon said although the film’s awaited regular DVD will be out on April 22nd.

The lovely Amanda Seyfried, the ShoWest Breakthrough Female Star of the Year, briefly spoke with us next.  With her hair done up, wearing a cocktail dress and Jimmy Chu shoes, Seyfried resembled a young Grace Kelly more than the wide eyed ingénues she’s been playing in “Dear John” and “Letters to Juliet”, which we were treated to at a special screening earlier in the week.  The modest actress admitted to being insecure about her skill and commenting on her success said, “I feel really, really privileged.”   She’s very excited about her upcoming film projects “Albert Nobbs” with Glenn Close and “The Girl with the Red Riding Hood”, which will begin production sometime this summer.  “I can’t really reveal too much because I don’t really know too much,” she said with a smile.
Alex Pettyfer & Vanessa Hudgens
We were joined by both the Female Star of Tomorrow Vanessa Hudgens and her “Beastly” co-star Alex Pettyfer, the Male Star of Tomorrow. The amazingly attractive pair spoke enthusiastically about their film, which was directed by Daniel Barnz and is scheduled for release in July.  A modern day spin on the old tale of Beauty and the Beast, Vanessa was delighted with her part.  “I loved it because it was very strong and very independent and it’s kind of a new character for me to play with,” she explained.  Growing up around music and the theatre, Hudgens loved to dance as a child admitting that she used to dress up every day as Catwoman and dance.  “It was a passion of mine.  I fell in love with it,” she continued.  As for winning this award and her growing success, Vanessa said, “I got lucky.  I feel I am today where I am because I’m just doing what I am truly passionate about.  I’m going to continue to do that.”  Hudgens handsome co-star Alex enjoyed making “Beastly” because “The movie is about giving back.”  It explores the reasons why people are attracted to each other on deeper levels. “It’s not about the clothes you wear,” he emphasized.
Todd Phillips
Director of the Year, Todd Phillips, who is following up his blockbuster “The Hangover” with another comedy “Due Date” starring Zach Galifianakis and Robert Downey Jr. confirmed that while there is a sequel to “The Hangover” being planned, “It’s not going to be in Vegas.  It’s not that I don’t love this city, but in reality those gentlemen would never return to Vegas,” he explained.  In spite of this, Phillips speaks about filming “The Hangover” here in glowing terms. “For me, I shot a bunch of different cities and Vegas is one of the best times we’ve had. They were very open to it.   We never felt like we were in anybody’s way, which is how you feel sometimes when you’re shooting a movie.” Among those he praised for their support were Caesar’s Palace, the police department and Harrah’s.  He also confirmed that the desert scenes in the film were shot locally.  “It’s out there.  It’s about 15 miles out of town, “he told us although he couldn’t remember the name of the location.
Jay Roach
Sticking with the theme of funny men, Jay Roach, the Comedy Director of the Decade talked about his upcoming project “Dinner for Schmucks” starring Steve Carrell and Paul Rudd.  The creator of two of the most successful comedy franchises “Austin Powers” and “Meet the Parents”, Roach shared this viewpoint, “Comedy in filmmaking for me like a conversation. I have to be able to make a film for the audience. It’s not quite the same as making a super personal expressive movie.”  Jay also weighed in on the discussion about 3D. “Anything that propels or perpetuates the theatre experience is good for comedy,” he stated.
Sam Worthington
“Avatar” star Sam Worthington, honored as ShoWest Male Star of the Year, flashed a smile as he came in to talk with us.  Following up his role in “Avatar” with another film “Clash of the Titans 3D” led to questions about the new technology, which was a little unusual, but he responded by explaining that he believes what filmmakers are trying to do is “figure a way to immerse an audience, which is what you want to do from the very beginning.”  As for him, personally, he added thoughtfully, “It’s a puzzle to get all of the pieces and put them into your work.”
Jerry Bruckheimer
The Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Jerry Bruckheimer, arrived following a special screening of his new film “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time”. When asked his thoughts about being chosen to receive this award, Bruckheimer joked, “I think they’re telling me something.  My career is just about over or they’re going to try and get rid of me.  I’m not sure which.”  Considering the number of projects he has in the works, Jerry was asked if he ever has time for sleep to which he responded, “Occasionally.  It’s about having great executives working for you. We’ve got a great company and a lot of talented film and television executives, plus the networks have a lot of value added.  They work with us.  It’s wonderful when you have a great team.  They save me every time.”  As for the expansion of 3D, Bruckheimer believes, “It’s going to come down to the networks.  How many screens, how many TV screens are really out there, so we’re going to wait until the market gets much more saturated I would think.”
Katherine Heigl
Last, but to coin an old expression, most certainly not least, was Female Star of the Year Katherine Heigl, looking brunette and beautiful in her now infamous Donna Karan dress.  The haircolor change is for her part in the upcoming film “One for the Money”, which is being adapted from a novel that already has a following.  Hoping not to disappoint the book’s fans, Heigl decided to dye her golden locks, even though the film isn’t in pre production yet.  As for her current project “Life As We Know It”, she said, “I really love romantic comedies.  Everybody’s there to have a fun experience.  There’s a lot of levity.”  

Earlier in the day, some of these same celebrities and several others joined in the festivities at the CBS Films luncheon as well. Hosted by CEO Amy Baer, Steven Friedlander, EVP of Distribution and Robert Kaplowitz, the SVP of Distribution, clips of several upcoming films were shown including: “The Back Up Plan” starring Jennifer Lopez and Sylvester Stallone’s new film “The Expendables”.

Marketing and Distribution executives spoke proudly about the new slate of films being planned by CBS Films and how the studio has the advantage of being supported by other members in the CBS media family. Sister division CBS is supplying networking, radio and cable opportunities for broadcasting online and for outdoor advertising, while other divisions of CBS have provided inventory access and promotional contacts extending the reach and value of their marketing plans

One of the highlights of the luncheon had to be a personal appearance made by Jennifer Lopez, who spoke excitedly about her new film. She said, “It was really fun.  It was great to get back to work and it was a really great project.  It was an exciting project.  I know a lot of you guys know I need to work more.  Anyway I am a big fan of watching romantic comedies and making them and this is the first one I’ve been in since Monster-In-Law.”  

CBS will be supporting a slate of 25-30 films covering a wide range of genres including a couple of potential franchises.

The Knight Rider Festival Hits High Gear On Fremont Street

Just like the old fashioned heroes used to ride in on their white horses, modern day versions in the form of the revolutionary car of the future known as KITT drove down Freemont Street for the beginning of the second annual Knight Rider Festival held on March 19th and 20th.  Actor David Hasselhoff, who played KITT’s crime fighting partner Michael Knight on the original series from 1982 – 1986 and appeared in 84 episodes, demonstrated that he can still make an entrance behind the wheel. Climbing out of the car and waving to the fans, he joined special headliner guest, producer Glen A. Larson and former cast mate Ann Turkel and the other KITT owners and drivers for the festivities.

The goal of both KITT owners and Knight Rider fans is to use the “World’s Greatest Celebration of Knight Rider” in order to raise proceeds for a very worthwhile charity, The Children’s Miracle Network” and they take their fund raising very seriously, much the same way the heroes we grew up admiring accepted their challenges   The open event was free of charge to attendees, who came from as far away as Japan and Europe, making it a fun, family friendly outing.  Aside from the celebrity appearances, other highlights included: a Las Vegas strip “cruise” with KITT, a TV Cars display, The Cars of the Future Car Show and several drawings and giveaways. 
David Hasselhoff
Spreading the message that one man can make a difference and give a family hope, many happy onlookers watched the parade of vehicles as they drove down to the designated area by Stage One.  Before the procession of automobiles arrived the Lone Ranger himself rode in with a hearty hi ho silver.  However, the crowd was told that unfortunately Tonto was unavailable to make it.  

Next came the showgirls and Mayor of Las Vegas, Oscar Goodman, who surrounded by his special attendees on stage,  proclaimed March 19th to be Glen Larson Day and March 20th to be Knight Rider Festival Day.  He then presented plaques to both Larson and David Hasselhoff and announced that he’s not the happiest mayor in the country;  he’s the happiest mayor in the universe.  After receiving his award, David walked around the area where all of the KITT cars were parked, posing for pictures and autographing all of the vehicles.
David Hasselhoff inside KITT
Following the ceremonies there was a “Party With KITT” VIP Reception held at the Golden Nugget for special guests and friends of the festival, while entertainment was provided to the public on the 1st and 3rd Street Stages both Friday and Saturday nights from 8pm until 11pm. The KITT cars continued to be on display all day on Saturday.  In addition, there was also a celebrity Q & A autograph session and “The Knight Rider Companion” book signing.
The KITT Cars on Freemont Street

Stressing the importance of helping the children and thanking the car owners participating in the event and the celebrities, who came to be a part of it, Knight Rider Festival prodcer Paul Casey seemed pleased by the turnout.  The Children’s Miracle Network, a nationally recognized charity, assists children and their families. All funds that are raised go directly to the charity and many sponsors donated time and product.  Perhaps the event was best summed up by Hasselhoff when he addressed the crowd from the stage and said “This is what television was about and should be about.”  He also added that wherever he travels not everyone mentions his other popular TV show “Bay Watch”, but that everyone remembers “Knight Rider”.

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