George Clooney Hosts MPTF's Star-Studded 95th-Anniversary Celebration

George Clooney, host of Hollywood’s Night Under the Stars, an evening of performances celebrating the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s 95th year anniversary, welcomed the audience Saturday night at the organization’s Wasserman Campus in Woodland Hills by promising he wouldn’t sing. But while many of the celebrities in attendance were there to indeed belt out a tune or two, it was the spoken word that truly hit home.

Matt Bomer told the audience how the MPTF had been able to assist the late husband of a makeup artist in the film industry at a time where the government didn’t recognize the merits of their same-sex union. Jeremy Renner shared the story of Travis Davis, a young actor who at 39 was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer and the MPTF was there to help him and his family through his final months.

Chris Pine and Bryan Cranston each had a personal connection to the cause: Pine’s grandmother, actress Anne Gwynne, spent her final eight years where the event took place. "I remember coming here and seeing this beautiful facility, the compassionate care,” said Pine. “For someone who was in so much pain, the chance to go out and take a walk through the rose garden, and for her to see friends that she had made over her career was very moving, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart." Cranston joked that his mother, Audrey Peggy Sell, wreaked havoc as a patient at the facility, but concluded that, "she received the best care I could have hoped for. Thank you for taking care of my mother."

Musical performances included a Les Miserables medley from Jean Valjean himself, Hugh Jackman, while Derek Hough donned his tap shoes for a rendition of “Singin' in the Rain.” Loretta Devine belted out “Listen” from the film version of Dreamgirls and surprise guest Kevin Spacey — an active participant in the organization — took the stage to sing the Sinatra classic “Can I Steal a Little Love?” and “Mr. Bojangles.” Campus resident Helen Reddy evoked nostalgia with “You and Me Against the World,” as did Johnny Mathis with his signature song, “Misty.”

But the “old Hollywood” moment that perhaps best honored the legacy of the foundation came from Michael Douglas, who took the stage to wish his father, Kirk Douglas, a happy 100th birthday. “My dad is an icon, he’s a legend,” said the younger Douglas. “My dad earned that status: three Oscar nominations, two Golden Globes, over 90 films that span seven decades and not one sequel. Every role different, every character unique. Each character he brought to life on the screen was multifaceted — just like the man himself.” Douglas praised his father, the philanthropist, who has pledged an additional $15 million to the MPTF for construction of a two-story building that expands services for patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia, to be called the Kirk Douglas Care Pavilion.

In the audience, the elder Douglas joked that he had always wanted his son to be a doctor or a lawyer. “After hearing him today, I think he's a good actor,” said Kirk with a smile, as he was presented with a tower of cupcakes for his birthday, which is Dec. 9. “I'm glad I came here tonight,” continued the storied actor. “I was surprised that there was a speech that my son made. I thank you and I thank everyone that is here tonight to support a worthwhile cause.”

As the night drew to a close, Clooney returned to the stage to call attention to the chairman of the foundation, Jeffrey Katzenberg, who to date has helped raise half a billion dollars for the fund. “You’ll be sitting at home, and the phone will ring and someone will say, ‘Jeffrey Katzenberg is on the line, and your first answer is, ‘Tell him I’m not here,’ because you know he’s going to ask you to do something that’s going to cost you money,” joked Clooney. But as the host told The Hollywood Reporter before the beginning of the ceremony, being there for Katzenberg and event chair Jim Gianopulos was an easy call. “It’s a small town, and it really is a family. Our job is to make sure that family doesn’t slip through the cracks and that’s why we’re here.”  

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