The Scene: Hollywood's animal-loving contingent descended upon Paramount Studios on Tuesday evening for the premiere of "Congo," a film based on Michael Crichton's novel of gorilla warfare set in the African rain forest. The film pits a motley crew of technologically endowed humans and a sign-language-literate gorilla named Amy against a savage horde of beasts bent on protecting the site of King Solomon's Mines--also known as the "Lost City of Zinj." The screening was followed by a reception in the Zinj-decorated studio lot. The event was a benefit for the L.A. Zoo and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, dedicated to understanding and protecting the last 650 mountain gorillas in the world.
Who Was There: About 800 guests showed up, including "Congo" director Frank Marshall and cast members Dylan Walsh, Laura Linney, Ernie Hudson, Wale, Grant Heslov and Willie Amakye. On hand for a little pre-screening primate consciousness-raising was Dr. Terry L. Maple, president of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and Zoo Atlanta (whose gorillas supplied the film with its grunting noises). Familiar faces in the crowd included Mike Ovitz, Harry Hamlin and Lisa Rinna, Tori Spelling, Colleen Camp, David Keith, Alan Thicke and L.A. Raider Anthony Smith.
Chow: A seemingly endless line of camouflage-covered buffet tables offered such subtropical delights as orange olive chicken, roasted eggplant and couscous, gourmet sausages dipped in peach chutney and sun-dried cherry barbecue sauce, and fried plantain. Desserts included "Rain Forest Trifle," various tropical shortcakes and tarts, and vanilla and coffee ice-cream sundaes.
Quoted: "I think when you go to a film like this, you get so excited and aroused that when you come out of it you're kind of vulnerable to doing something," Maple said. "And I'm hoping they'll all do something for the real gorillas that live today."
Hottest Non-Gorilla-Related Topic: There was a laudatory buzz over the ultra-suave accent actor Ernie Hudson used to play the mercenary rogue, Monroe Kelly. "In the book, the guy has a British accent," Hudson explained. "He's from Kenya. He studied in Europe. When they decided to go black with the character [who is white in the book], they took all that away. I went to Frank Marshall and said, 'I really think we should stay true to the book. It makes it kind of interesting to see a black character be hip and fun and not be urban and with a lot of slang.' So he went for it."
Money Matters: Tickets were $250 apiece. More than $140,000 was collected for the L.A. Zoo and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.