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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

September 13, 2009 at 4:52 AM

At TIFF: Dining with George Clooney

TORONTO — If you are a journalist at this festival, you get invited to a lot of parties; seemingly every movie here comes complete with a swanky cocktail party, dinner gathering or late-night bash (many of the parties start at 11:30 p.m.). If you are me, you decline pretty much all of the invitations, because a) between moviegoing, interviewing, blogging, and getting a nice restful four hours of sleep a night, who has time? and b) I am a shy, bookish type for whom hell is a roomful of strangers. But I did accept an invitation for a seated dinner in honor of Jason Reitman’s “Up in the Air” last night, because it didn’t start too late and because my editor, hearing that this bash involved George Clooney, said “Oh, you have to!” So I did.
First things first: No, I didn’t actually get introduced to Clooney, but he was there all evening, in a smart gray suit and with a bandaged hand, smiling his rakish smile. The setting was a beautiful downtown Toronto restaurant, and the evening included perhaps a hundred guests, seated eight per table — with place cards. (My heart goes out to whoever had to make that seating plan, surely filled with last-minute RSVP’s.) The cast and crew of the movie, along with invited journalists, were parcelled out among the tables.
I know not what act of karmic righteousness got you a seat at George’s table (were bribes involved?), but I enjoyed meeting my tablemates. Across from me was Chicago-based actress Amy Morton, who plays Clooney’s sister in the film and told me she got the part when Reitman called her up after seeing her in the Broadway play “August: Osage County.” She said she was astonished that he just offered her the role, without auditioning. Morton, who mostly works as a stage actress and director, said she had just seen the film for the first time that night (the cast had come directly from the film’s public premiere), and that she was astonished at how moved she was by it — she had thought it would play as a light comedy, but it’s also a poignant look at how the economy is affecting American white-collar workers.
Producers for the film sit on either side of me, both friendly and excited for the film’s reception, and one seat over was the film’s costume designer, the man who knows exactly what Clooney, in the movie (he plays a constant traveller), has in his suitcase. Also at the table was the very charming critic John Powers, whose column in Vogue I had just read that morning. Dinner was heirloom tomato salad, gnocchi with lobster, and braised short ribs; all heavenly for someone who’s been mostly living on popcorn and Diet Coke. At 11:30, I said my goodnights and hopped into a cab, fearful of turning into a pumpkin. It was a surreal evening, and surely just one of many such evenings in Toronto last night.

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