SO THAT WAS LA.
AN OSCAR PARTIES AND LA EXPERIENCE BY BRUCE HOPKINS
Admidst the rumblings of tanks in the desert half a world and many ideologies away,
with butterflies in my gullet and bearing my grossly over laden suitcase, an Air New
Zealand 747 bore me to the skies. I was headed for my initiation as an actor to the
culture that is LA, city of angels, home of Hollywood.
The purpose of the journey was to soak up the atmosphere, Oscar was in town for his
annual pilgrimage, and I wanted to check it out, plus I had parties to attend.
Twelve hours after saying goodbye to my beloved whippersnappers and the Land of The Long
White Cloud, I was reverse thrusting (along with the other 400 people on board) to a halt
on the tarmac of LA International Airport, you may know the one, "where the big jet
As arranged, I was greeted by the smiling Rebecca Kirkland, a local producer, who had
decided to take part in the "adopt a kiwi" scheme for the destitute antipodean
thespians. This woman was amazing, providing me with a sofa for 3 nights, drawing daily
maps (I hired a Rent a Wreck and hit the freeways like a natural born LAian), and Rebecca
also provided a black stretch limo (driven by the only driver to have in LA, Roy) for getting
to the functions we were attending in style, a real life saver.
Driving from the airport, LA began to sink in, this really is the home of the freeway.
Initially I wondered why the hell they are called freeways as they seem to ensnare you
like a land borne drift net, sweeping you along in their current. They seemed anything
but free. However since returning to Auckland, NZ where we have nowhere near the volume
of traffic, the LA freeways seem to have some form of sense to them and definitely move more
consistently than our clogged artieries.
Now that I was there, jet lag was not really an issue, I didn't have time. I was here for 8
days and I wanted my 8 days worth.
One of my first missions was to get me a car (so I could play the freeway game). Most suitable
to my budget was Rent-A-Wreck, where I got a beauty little Ford Aspire (I guess it aspired to be a big
Ford one day, but I liked it as a little Ford, easy to park).
Once I had transport I hit the streets of LA armed only with Rebecca's magnificent
hand drawn maps, a healthy dose of ignorance and eyes wide open (not a Tom or Nicole in sight).
In between social gatherings I met with a handful of casting directors, each with their own take
on the industry and each a real cool person. As I drove by studio after studio, acting school after
acting school, homeless person after homeless person (they're the ones driving shopping trolleys loaded with
the day's pickings, or their life belongings) it became clear how much this place depended upon
the industry, and how the industry of image has influenced the city. They are in a co-dependent
marriage serving each others insatiable desire to make money and look good. However you don't have to
drive too far to see there are some vast piles of decay, both human and material swept under the carpet.
Meanwhile, somewhere in Iraq.
It was all very bizarre, here I was revelling in Tinseltown and occasionally switching on the tele where it was like
watching what seemed to be a new Fear Factor/Survivor bastard child version of reality television. The mainstream
channels were literally throwing to ad breaks from the war story with the classic "coming up after the break we
find out...". Personally I do not think it takes a lot of courage to wage wars, especially if you are not actually
going to be on the battlefield yourself. One endearing image I witnessed was a woman walking along the side of the
actual road amidst full of traffic, holding both arms aloft, index and middle fingers in a permanent peace sign.
She looked like she had been doing this all day and was absolutely exhausted, but gave me a wonderful smile
of appreciation as I took time out from reading Rebecca's map to throw a peace sign back.
The build up to Oscar night was a series of functions/parties. Investment NZ was the first of the majors
and it was a doozy. Like being at a film gig here in NZ with some guests from overseas in for the night. It all
began with a mini red carpet, flashing lights from cameras, an interview, calling out your name etc., all
good for the ego.
Inside, I got to sit with two dudes who were up for Oscars, Mike Hopkins, sound mixing, (possibly a cousin three times
removed on my uncle's sister's brother's side of the family) and Alex Funke, visual FX. Also had the pleasure of sharing the
table with the wonderful Andy Serkis of Gollum fame. It seemed a crime not to take time out every now and then from
great conversation, fantastic food and abundant alcohol to listen to Lucy Lawless and Dave Dobbyn who were
enhancing the kiwiness with a few songs from home.
A damn fine night.
Next up was an evening celebrating the academy award nominations for The Two Towers and About Schmidt, both films
out of the New Line stable. This was held in one of the bosses of New Line's magnificent abode, atop the Hills
of Beverly (swimming pools and movie stars, but not a hillbilly to be found).
How many stretch limos can you fit in your driveway?
Again a magnificent night, all laid on a wonderful company. Sitting in the bowels of the film industry having dinner
with Grey Lynn (inner city suburb in Auckland) artist Jude Darragh and her award winning hubby Grant Major
(production design on LOTR), friends from home, it all seemed pretty damn cozy. However none of my friends or acquaintences
have Picassos on the wall, Henry Moore scultures in the garden or endless supplies of whatever liquid was required.
All very sumptuous, and all very relaxed.
Shaking hands with Christopher Walken was a nice bonus to the night. Unfortunately the expected appearance of
Jack Nicholson did not eventuate, but what the hell, he missed a good night.
Finally, the big night. It started early, an intimate gathering of about 30, mostly kiwis, watching
the awards action on a big screen, again surrounded by great food and the ever present beverages. Once more
Investment NZ played the host.
Anytime young Peter Jackson's baby was up for an award we let rip with full throated parachialism. I'm not
bestowing myself with rugby style full credit but the nominees who I shared a table with at the Investment Nz
dinner on the Friday night, came home with the goods, both Mike and Alan walked the walk that so many dream of,
and carted off a little naked golden figure of Oscar.
It was very fine indeed.
Oscar winner, Mike Moores berating of Bush, Jr. and the war machine was definitely my highlight after The Two Towers
Oscar wins. This is a time when opportunities to use the mainstream media to expose non mainstream values must
be seized upon.
This was half time in what was a double header for the night, there was only one more party to go. From the
telecast of the Oscars we limo'd our way to the much anticipated theonering.net party.
What a gathering, these people are passionate and they were in party mode. Much talk, many photos (and did I mention drinks)
later, we gathered on a stage with all the team from the awards ceremony, with Oscars in hand. I'm not sure if
I thought I was Mick Jagger or Eminem, but the party goers were having a ball and on stage we were with them
all the way.
A phone chat with Peter Jackson broadcast over the sound system was just the spice to round out the flavour of
this brew. Real cool.
Theonering.net should take a very long and well deserved bow. Well done Xoanan, Quickbeam, Ali, and all the
amazing army of fans who make you feel pretty proud to be part of helping create the Jackson vision.
Soooo, then it was recovery day, followed by a couple more days of meeting film industry people (including a wicked
ball of energy, kiwi Kris Nicholau, who after 25 years as a casting director in LA has not one hint of a US accent,
she could well be running the fish shop in Port Chalmers), driving the freeways and boulevards and buying the kids
some pressies before hitting the skies for the return journey home.