CinemaCon 2019 embraces diversity

By Elisa Leonelli. April 6, 2019

A parade of actors and directors of different colors, genders and ethnicities took the stage at this year’s CinemaCon (April 1 to 4 at Caesar’s Colosseum in Las Vegas) to add variety and glamor to the speeches of movie studios executives promoting their upcoming releases to theater owners.

Diane Keaton (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for CinemaCon)

Diane Keaton, introducing Poms (STX), a comedy about a cheerleader’s group in a retirement home, playfully lifted her billowy black skirt over white boots to prove how her skinny legs prevented her from cheerleading in high school.

Helen Mirren, acting with Ian McKellen in The Good Liar (STX) directed by Bill Condon, said, “There’s nothing like sitting in the cinema. The lights go down. That incredible moment of relaxation and anticipation, because you know you’re going to be entertained for two hours.”

Bill Condon, Helen Mirren (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for CinemaCon)

Chadwick Boseman, king of the African country of Wakanda in Black Panther, who plays a NYPD detective in 21 Bridges (STX), said he chose this script because “It took me back to my theater days when you had the fast-paced language of David Mamet.” As a producer on the film, Boseman cast as his antagonist Stephan James of If Beale Street Could Talk.

Henry Golding, acting with Emilia Clarke in Last Christmas (Universal), a romantic comedy directed by Paul Feig from a script by Emma Thompson, described the films as “a love letter to the city of London.” He was back on stage with costar Charlie Hunnam for the gangster movie The Gentlemen (STX) directed by Guy Ritchie. As the Malaysian actor was named Male Star of Tomorrow on Awards night, the so-called “sizzle” reel of scenes from Crazy Rich Asians and A Simple Favor, calls him “crazy charming, crazy talented.” He thanks his directors, John Chu, Paul Feig, and theater owners, “We share a passion for movies going back to the oldest form of storytelling, when we sat in the dark looking at the star listening to stories.”

Henry Golding, Paul Feig (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for CinemaCon)

Emma Thompson, a celebrated TV talk show host in Late Nite (Amazon) directed by Nisha Ganatra from a script by Mindy Kaling, remembers the first time she went to the theater, to see the animated classic Fantasia, as a spiritual experience. Creator and star of the TV series The Mindy Project, Kaling, whose parents are from India, plays a diversity hire in Late Nite‘s all-male writing room, and the slowly building friendship between the two women from vastly different backgrounds is the heart of this comedy.

Tiffany Haddish, on stage with fellow comedian Melissa McCarthy to promote the crime drama The Kitchen (Universal) by Andrea Berloff, the acclaimed screenwriter in her directorial debut, jokes, “There are so many layers to women, we’re like onions! We make you cry, we make you laugh, we are delicious, and we can kill you!” The plot, reminiscent of Widows by Steve McQueen, is about the wives of top New York gangsters who continue to operate the family business while their husbands are in jail.

Daniel Kaluuya, star of Queen & Slim (Universal) directed by Melina Matsoukas from a script by Lena Waithe, talked about the importance of under-represented voices in movies. Waithe, the gay actress of color creator of TV series The Chi, called her film “protest art.”

Octavia Spencer (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for CinemaCon)

Octavia Spencer presented the horror movie Ma (Universal), where she plays the scary lead, with director Tate Taylor of The Help.  Receiving the Spotlight award, she was more emotional than when she won a Golden Globe and an Oscar as a producer of Best Movie Green Book. She confesses that she was so poor growing up that it was a luxury to go to the movie theater.

Actress Olivia Wilde, receiving the Breakthrough Director of the year for Booksmart (Annapurna), says: “The only thing better than being an actor is being a director, and to be able to achieve these dreams I’ve had since I was a kid.” The two young stars of the film, playing best friends in high school, Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein, share the Female Star of Tomorrow award. Feldstein says: “I was inspired by seen women be funny together on the big screen in Bridesmaids.”

Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen (Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for CinemaCon)

Seth Rogen (Jewish) plays a journalist hired as speech writer for Charlize Theron (South African), a Secretary of State running for President in 2020, in Long Shot (Lionsgate).  Upon winning the Comedy Stars award,they joked to NATO (National Association of Theater Owners) members, “Honestly we’re surprised Trump hasn’t tried to disband you yet. Maybe you should change your name…”

Another political joke at CinemaCon came from Arnold Schwarzenegger, an immigrant from Austria, former Republican governor of California, when presenting Terminator: Dark Fate (Paramount) with Linda Hamilton, “Terminate climate change.”

Jamie Lee Curtis, daughter of Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis, promoting the murder mystery Knives Out (Lionsgate) written and directed by Rian Johnson, hugged her young costar Ana de Armas, born in Cuba, as if she were her daughter Annie. As recipient of the Vanguard award, Curtis said that you cannot take away the big screen if you want to preserve the magic of movies, “I truly believe we are in this dance together.”

Click here for edited version published on Golden Globes website

About Elisa Leonelli

film journalist: HFPA-MPAA

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