The Scene: Friday's premiere of HBO's "Don King: Only in America" at Paramount studios with a party on a sound stage afterward. There was much praise for Ving Rhames' nuanced, multidimensional portrayal of the legendary / notorious fight promoter. As one guest commented, "Sometimes you have to let the hair do the acting."
Who Was There: Rhames, director John Herzfeld, co-stars Vondie Curtis-Hall, Darius McCrary and Donzaleigh Abernathy; plus 800 guests including Billy Crystal, (who called the film "a very hard, interesting look at a complicated fascinating guy"), Diane Keaton, John Singleton, Mike Marcus, Mykelti Williamson, Lennox Lewis, May May Ali, Don Cheadle, Nick Reed and HBO President John Matoian.
But Do You Think He'll Like the Movie? Director Herzfeld said King hasn't seen the biopic, but has asked for a print. The fight promoter, in Herzfeld's words, "hated the script, hated it" and is "'very emotional" when it comes to Jack Newfield, the author of the book upon which it's based. "He hates Jack Newfield. He thinks Jack has a personal vendetta against him." In other words, the film should do wonders for keeping King's hair in an upright position.
Quoted: "The key was to play a human being and not the stereotype the media had written about Don King," said Rhames. "I found that 99.9% of what I read about him was negative. But as an artist, I had to go into the project at a neutral point and let the character grow from there."
Expert Opinion: The guest who probably knows King best was World Boxing Council heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis. He described the promoter as "a great actor" and said the film "depicts him well." When it was mentioned that his comments could be taken many different ways, the fighter smiled and said he prefers to be "ambiguous."
The Party: The sound stage was done over in two sections, one a lounge with booths, dance floor, lava lamps and fish tanks; the other, a gym complete with boxing ring, sparring partners, heavy bags and projected photos of Rhames as King in a size usually favored by North Korean dictators.
Michael Flatley Notwithstanding: When invited out onto the dance floor, one middle-aged man declined by saying: "I'm Irish. The rhythm was bred out of my people."
Overheard: Two agents discussing a much-seen Hollywood figure--"He'd go to the opening of an ATM."