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Starry night for Michael Moore

The West Coast premiere of 'Fahrenheit 9/11' draws a big (and famous) crowd.

June 10, 2004|Robin Abcarian and Elaine Dutka | Times Staff Writers

It was the kind of crowd you might expect at the premiere of a Michael Moore film: larger than life, left-leaning and grungy -- much like the filmmaker himself.

Moore, clad in black but minus his trademark baseball cap, sat in a back row at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences theater in Beverly Hills on Tuesday for the West Coast premiere of his antiwar, anti-Bush documentary, "Fahrenheit 9/11."

Some industry folks noted that the celebrity turnout -- which included Larry David, Meg Ryan, Jodie Foster, Ellen DeGeneres, Spike Jonze, Norman Lear, Rob Reiner, Martin Sheen, Michael Bay, Brett Ratner, Steven Zaillian and Joe Carnahan -- topped even the Golden Globes, although fashion designers might have wept.

The casually dressed crowd (there wasn't a gown in sight) was so taken with Moore that it gave him a standing ovation before the movie even started.

Miramax Films chief Harvey Weinstein paid a brief tribute to President Reagan before the 7 p.m. screening, then alluded lightheartedly to his company's troubles with its corporate parent, the Walt Disney Co., which has refused to distribute "Fahrenheit 9/11" and is rumored to be willing to sell Miramax back to its founders, Weinstein and his brother, Bob.

Harvey Weinstein joked that he'd placed an ad in Wednesday's Los Angeles Times: "Two executives looking for company to run. Resumes on request."

The documentary, which explores ties between the Bush clan and the Saudi royal family, revisits the Bush administration's rationale for the war against Iraq and contains graphic images of violence. It is scheduled to open in 1,000 U.S. theaters on June 25 and will be distributed by Lions Gate Films and IFC Films.

After the film, Moore publicly thanked the Weinsteins for their support. He introduced his father, asked his crew to stand, and talked about how encouraged he was about the future of the documentary form, noting that "Super Size Me" had ranked 10th at the box office last weekend.

For some at the academy, the evening was something of a family affair: Sharon Osbourne came with Jack and Kelly. Arianna Huffington brought her eldest daughter, Christina. Danny DeVito and Rhea Pearlman were there with a teenage son.

A second screening, which took place at the nearby Music Hall theater at 10 p.m., (presumably for TiVo-deprived Laker fans) was considerably less star-studded, although Chris Rock, Catherine O'Hara, Billy Crystal and Jack Black lent the event some cachet.

Moore noted in remarks after midnight that "Fahrenheit 9/11," which won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in May, will be released in many more theaters than his Oscar-winning "Bowling for Columbine."

"Americans will see this film in every city," he said. "Hopefully, it will help anyone who's undecided.... That would be a small contribution to the country."

Moore said his inspiration for the film came as he read a New Yorker story in November 2001 about how members of the Bin Laden family left the United States just after the Sept. 11 attacks. "They got a free plane while my wife and I were stranded in L.A.," said Moore.

"At that point, it became personal."

In response to a question from the audience, Moore expressed remorse for playing off the title of Ray Bradbury's famous novel "Fahrenheit 451" without permission.

Bradbury, said Moore, "was bummed out I didn't call him first. I'll call him tomorrow. I so admire the guy.... The title is an obvious homage." (In Tuesday's Variety, Bradbury said he was offended that Moore did not ask permission to borrow his famous title. "He steals things without permission," said Bradbury. "He's not a very nice person, is he?")

When Moore was asked whether the movie had been screened at the White House, he said no, but he noted that "Roger & Me," his first documentary, had been shown to President George H.W. Bush at Camp David, in Maryland.

"I'd love to show it to George W.," said Moore. "He has the best lines in the movie ... all the comedy comes from him."


Times staff writers John Horn and Sorina Diaconescu contributed to this report

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