Stars line up for the leading man
IF THERE is one thing Hollywood understands, it’s casting.
That’s why the industry’s Democratic activists are rallying behind Illinois Sen. Barack Obama as November’s leading man, with some still open to the idea of a supporting role for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Sen. John McCain will be lucky if he gets the walk-on part for which he now seems to be angling in his search for Hollywood dollars.)
Obama’s support has grown in Hollywood throughout the campaign (recent numbers showed him exceeding Clinton in dollars raised, albeit by a slim margin), and Democratic Hollywood plans to support the ticket, whether Clinton is on it or not. The days of wooing McCain because they saw him as an independent maverick are over.
The industry’s elder statesman, Norman Lear, declared Obama’s victory Tuesday night as “another giant step for mankind.” (Through his group, Declare Yourself, Lear has been busy signing up young voters who seem eager to turn out for the presumptive Democratic nominee.)
Clinton supporter Chad Griffin, who works as a consultant to Rob Reiner and Steve Bing, said there was a “common belief that the most important thing is defeating John McCain. I can’t imagine anyone in the entertainment industry going from Hillary Clinton to John McCain.”
But that hasn’t stopped McCain from putting out calls. After all, he was a Hollywood darling in 2000 -- before he supported the war and sided with George W. Bush on a multitude of issues.
One of Clinton’s top California fundraisers, businessman Sim Farar, said McCain called him Wednesday to request a meeting. Farar said he would meet the Arizona senator later this month mostly “as a courtesy.” He said he was holding out hope that Obama would offer Clinton the VP slot. “They complement each other in a lot of ways,” Farar said. “Hillary brings a lot to the table that Obama doesn’t have.”
Both Griffin and Farar are hoping to attend Clinton’s staff gathering in Washington today in anticipation of her concession speech Saturday. Then it’s back to work raising money. “People are already wanting to know where they should send their checks,” Griffin said.
In the weeks ahead, expect some flashy fundraising in Hollywood. At least one mega concert is already in the works. (Bruce Springsteen, anyone?)
Engaging in global affairs
Donna Bojarsky’s understanding of Hollywood and politics goes back to the Tom Bradley era, when she served as the four-term mayor’s liaison to the entertainment industry. Since then she’s played the same role for Bill Clinton and a raft of A-list private clients, including the founder and chairman of radio giant Westwood One, Norm Pattiz, and perennial Hollywood activist and leading man Richard Dreyfuss.
A year or so ago -- after a lot of traveling oversees -- she began to look for ways to extend Hollywood’s political reach where its economics have already gone: global.
“Hollywood is an important community,” she said. “They’re storytellers, political advocates and charitable contributors. They’re often in dialogue with political leaders. It’s important for them to be engaged in global affairs and to play a role in tackling global challenges.”
She decided to begin holding a series of ultra-high-level foreign policy briefings that bring international officials and thinkers together with a list of top-level executives and stars in their homes.
Last week, Bojarsky hosted her latest salon to discuss China at the Pacific Palisades home of producer-director J.J. Abrams and wife Katie McGrath, who have become one of young Hollywood’s most politically involved power couples. (They’re big Obama supporters.)
On the balmy evening in the Abrams’ leafy backyard, John Pomfret of the Washington Post and Chinese pollster Victor Yuan -- who functions as his country’s George Gallup -- explained public opinion in the People’s Republic in a seminar-like atmosphere; participants included Sally Field, Willow Bay, Michael Lynton, Patty Wettig, Kelly Meyer, Matt Reeves and Fred Specktor.
“We have to take the time to understand each other,” Field said. “The world is getting smaller.”
“Mission: Impossible III” director Abrams skipped the finale of his hit series “Lost” (not to mention the deciding match-up between the Lakers and San Antonio Spurs) to listen to Pomfret and Yuan discuss the Summer Olympics and China’s ties with the Sudanese government -- a key issue in the Darfur crisis.
With support from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Bojarsky organizes events every few months, and they’ve become quite a hot ticket. She’s busy working on another seminar, to be held in October. No announcement yet, but don’t be surprised if it involves a studio head hosting a celebrated international journalist.