It’s said that time heals all wounds, even in Hollywood where scabs are created daily and scars can last a lifetime. Because at the Westwood premiere of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, attendees tell me that Brad Grey was praising Steven Spielberg, and the Dreamworks director was praising the Paramount chief’s movie. Amazing since not long ago, Paramount and DreamWorks were engaged in open warfare. But now that the once married studios have divorced, public civility returns to their relations. …Even if DreamWorks privately still questions the delayed release of its award-buzzed The Soloist until April 2009 by distributor Paramount. DW suspects it was to lavish even more money and attention on the Oscar campaign for Benjamin Button and to throw any potential competition under the bus. (I heard snarky comments were made during a recent Soloist marketing meeting on the lot.) The Paramount people in turn wish that DreamWorks would just get over it already.
But none of that negativism was apparent at Monday night’s premiere, which was inexplicably black tie even with the economy crashing around Hollywood’s and the rest of the country’s knees. But the studios must have thought Brangelina would photograph better for the paparazzi dressed-up at the benefit for The Film Foundation (dedicated to preserving motion pictures and protecting the rights of the artists who create them). So here’s what happened inside: Brad Grey walks up to the podium in front and, for once, he’s able to take credit for a Paramount movie instead of staking a claim to DreamWorks films and pissing off bigwigs there. (Who doesn’t remember the fiasco at the Dreamgirls premiere?) Brad welcomes everybody on behalf of Paramount and Benjamin Buttons partner Alan Horn and Warner Brothers. And then thanks everyone who worked on the film. And then surprises the crowd: “It is my distinct pleasure to introduce a board member of The Film Foundation, and one of the greatest directors of all time, my friend Mr. Steven Spielberg.”
Then Spielberg says good evening and, on behalf of the board of The Film Foundation, thanks Brad Grey, John Lesher, and Paramount Pictures; Alan Horn, Jeff Robinov and Warner Bros; and David Fincher, Frank Marshall, Kathy Kennedy, and Cean Chaffin. Oh, did I forget to mention that his longtime pals at Kennedy/Marshall will be working for DreamWorks 2.0 soon? Or that another pal helped founded The Film Foundation, Marty Scorsese, whose deal is at Grey’s Paramount?
Anyway, Spielberg speechifies how he’s happy to be there to support this film and why The Film Foundation means a great deal to him. Yada, yada, yada… Well, then Spielberg ends his remarks by saying “Your coming here will help preserve so many foreign and American classics, including the one you are about to see now, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button.”
So there you have it: Steven Spielberg himself gave a major boost to Paramount’s Oscar campaign for its movie. I bet that quote will wind up in The New York Times and Los Angeles Times full-page ads by this weekend. Plus, I heard it meant so much to Grey that Spielberg was there that Brad kept gushing about it to people at the after party. I’m too cynical to believe that the grudges between Paramount and DreamWorks have disappeared. But they have gone underground.