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An Out-of-This-World Experience


The Scene: Tuesday's premiere of Warner Bros.' "Contact" at the Village Theater with an after-party at the UCLA / Armand Hammer Museum. This was the rarest of occasions--an intelligent, major Hollywood film debuting in mid-summer. "It's not a typical, formula science fiction movie," said director Robert Zemeckis. "It goes along with what Carl Sagan said when he was asked 'Why do we want to send these Voyager spacecraft way the hell out there?' And he said, 'To find out more about ourselves.' And that's what good science fiction has always done. It resonates about the human experience."

Who Was There: The film's stars, Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey and Tom Skerritt; producer Steve Starkey; executive producer Linda Obst; plus 1,100 guests, including Sylvester Stallone and Jennifer Flavin, Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Tilly, Ellen DeGeneres, Anne Heche, Richard Masur, Mark Johnson, David Foster, Ann Druyan (widow of Carl Sagan upon whose book the film is based), and studio execs Terry Semel, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Bill Gerber and Chris Pula.

The Buzz: An industry-wide spirit of support and generosity. Jeffrey Katzenberg called the film "brilliantly inspiring." The Oscars were frequently mentioned. One guest said, "I loved it, but I cry at those McDonald's commercials where they hire the old people."

Best Non-Hollywood Compliment: The head of NASA, Daniel Goldin (who says "and I am a rocket scientist" upon introduction), said he saw " '2001' 20 times and this is closer to technical reality."

Quoted: Foster said, "If the film does anything incredibly well, it speaks Carl Sagan's language. He was madly, passionately in love with science. I think that translates in the film. It's a smart movie that loves intelligence, but it doesn't talk down to anyone about it."

Dress Mode: Expensive after-work; lots of Armani, Zegna and Hugo Boss on display. "I always feel like the poor kid in school at events like this," said one woman.

Noted: While in the film, Foster goes where no human has ever gone before; at the museum, the late Armand Hammer seems just gone. There had been a massive portrait of the Founding Ego in the lobby. That's gone. Then there was a discreet bust. Gone as well. How hard is it to remove a name from marble?

Overheard: "Of all the blockbusters this summer, the only one with any bite is Mike Tyson."

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