Each year the award season is ushered into existence with the very first event of the season - The Palm Springs International Film Festival Gala. The film festival society of Palm Springs recognizes the best in the filmmaking industry. Often their awardees go on to be nominated for coveted Oscar. Last year 10 out of 11 honorees from the festival did just that.
Before the party begins, my first stop is to cross the street and visit all the fans that wait as long as 24 hours to get a glimpse of their favorite stars. Years ago, I used to be among this crowd and I know how exciting it is to see such top talents in film today up close and in person. Many of these fans come with a hope of an autograph or a selfie, but all are there just excited to be a part of the film festival's gala event.
Along with the honorees, the press is always surprised to the other celebrities that grace the red carpet each year. This year was no different. Here are my interactions on the red carpet, as I am known on the red carpet as The Movie Gal.
My very first guest to visit me on the red carpet was the legendary Carol Channing. In all my hopes and dreams I never thought that I would be holding her hand and having a moment to chat with her.
When I ask what movie she is most forward to seeing, it was clear that her life has been an amazing one, "I most looking forward to seeing 'The Outrageous Sophie Tucker.' We would have breakfast every morning in Las Vegas. She was the warmest. She was the mother to everybody as she got older. She was great."
When I told her how adored she was, she looked shocked and her assistants told me that they are always telling her how she is adored. She posed for pictures and was on her way. Sometimes in the business, they say the last is the best, but in the case of this red carpet experience the first topped them all!
Actor Allen Leech was next to visit me on the carpet. He was part of the Ensemble Award for his work in "The Imitation Game," but the fan in me wanted to glean anything I could from the season five premiere of "Downton Abbey," which starts this weekend.
With his lovely Irish accent he said, "I don't know when Branson will be finally taking over the Abbey, but I am ready. He was good at fixing cars and now he is good at fixing estates."
Australian Filmmaker Leigh Whannell was the next to stop by and chat. His current project is "Insidious 3," which he wrote the screenplay and directed.
When asked what he thought of Palm Springs Film Festival, it was clear he was red carpet ready, "I know how I am supposed to answer that, because when anyone comes to Australia they are asked 'What do you think of Australia?' The few people have made the mistake of saying 'Well, it's quite boring.'
"I love being here. This is my first time here and I am surprised at how
prestigious this event is and it really feels like the first event in the award season."
He went on to describe his new film, which is the third installment of "Insidious" franchise, "James Wan, who directed the first two installments of 'Insidious' went on to direct 'Fast and Furious 7' which was a little bit of a hurricane for him. So, there was no one to fill the job and the producers asked me if I wanted to direct it.
"I have never directed a film before, but I had a great time. I treated it as though it wasn't a sequel. I just wanted to pretend that this was a standalone film, and people seem to be really responding to it."
He indicated that no one ever likes the part 3 of any film franchise and gave "The Godfather 3" as an example. As the Movie Gal, I had to tell him that "The Godfather 3' was my favorite installment of 'The Godfather' franchise. He was surprised by this and after telling him my take on the film I had this Austrian filmmaker curious to see 'The Godfather 3' again.
Actor Matthew Lillard ('The Descendants) was my next visitor on the red carpet, "My new film is 'The Match' with Sir Patrick Stewart."
He warned me that now that Stewart has been knighted, it was best not to refer to him as Captain Picard, "He doesn't like that. He is a Sir now, but you don't have to bow or curtsy!"
I had a very brief chat with Kaye Ballard. This almost 90 year-old veteran of screen and stage was also a founding member of The Palms Springs International Film Festival and I asked her what she thought Sonny Bono would think about how his festival has flourished, "His dream came true, it's just a shame he isn't here to see it."
Suzanne Somers graced the red carpet in her very own 3-way poncho, which she sells on infomercials on television. The 68 year-old actress looked so beautiful and when asked about her beauty secrets she said, "I take hormones. I take natural hormones, supplements and organic foods. I honest to God walk my talk. I like just real food. If you can pick it, pluck it, milk it or shoot it than I eat it!"
The best chat I had of the night is with J.K. Simmons. He was being honored with the Spotlight Award for his work in "Whiplash," and he was very gracious and kind to stop by and talk for a moment. Not only is J.K. Simmons the talk of the town, he is the one true for certain soon to be next Oscar winner. But our chat was about the film itself, "It's really a story of finding true excellence. The journey is a rough one, but who is to say if the approach that this man I portray is not an accurate depiction of how brilliant performers are found?"
Unfortunately, most the top stars were whisked by the print press in order to get on stage on time. But there is never a disappointing time on the red carpet at the Palm Springs International Film Festival Gala and I, The Movie Gal am ready and excited to next year.