Michael Douglas and the Random (But Meaningful) Moments From MPTF's "Reel Lives"
The night featured emotional if not uplifting stories as told by Idina Menzel, Matt Bomer, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Bryce Dallas Howard.
A few years back during a visit to one of the facilities under the Motion Picture & Television Fund umbrella, Michael Douglas bumped into a woman as she rushed out of a doctor's office.
"She ran right into me," he recalled from the stage during Thursday night's MPTF fundraiser "Reel Stories, Real Lives" event at Milk Studios in Los Angeles. "She was embarrassed and she started to apologize, and we realized that we knew each other from Romancing the Stone."
Her name is Jeannie Epper, and she worked as Kathleen Turner's stunt double, he explained. "She did that incredible scene in the mud slide," Douglas remembered. "Jeannie is part of three generations of stunt people, including her sons."
Douglas recounted the tale as a way of punctuating this point: "Whenever I visit the MPTF, I'm reminded why it has survived for so many years. You meet people with incredible histories in the business and beyond the residents, you see working industry members going to physical therapy, going to the Saban Health and Wellness Center, going to the doctor. ... The connections and friendships we make last a lifetime and are worthy of our care and support."
This story of a random yet meaningful encounter came at the end of the nearly two-hour program, which MPTF Foundation chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg told The Hollywood Reporter is his "favorite event of the year." (The DreamWorks chief got a special shout-out from Douglas onstage for all the "incredible work" he does to keep "this charity healthy and moving forward.")
The fundraiser, the fifth annual event in the "Reel Stories" series, is clearly designed to tug at one's heartstrings, but it is produced in such a way that guests left feeling uplifted and inspired by a community that is built and strengthened around supporting its older members.
Capably hosted by Adam Scott, the program saw (in order of appearance) Idina Menzel, Dennis Haysbert, Matt Bomer, Cuba Gooding Jr., Bryce Dallas Howard, Kevin McCormack and Douglas each share special tales from real people (hence the "Real Lives" moniker) penned by prominent Hollywood scribes. Though each story focused on a different subject, the themes that connected them included love, resilience, the importance of family and a commitment to creativity and giving back.
From left: Bryce Dallas Howard, Matt Bomer and Idina Menzel attend the fifth annual "Reel Stories, Real Lives" event benefiting MPTF at Milk Studios in Los Angeles on April 7, 2016. (Photo by Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for Motion Picture & Television Fund)
Menzel performed a beautiful love story, Tony & Madi, penned by Michele and Keiran Mulroney, about the lives and second chance at love experienced by residents Tony Lawrence and Madi Smith. The two met and fell in love on the MPTF campus, marking the first major romance in the community to make it to the altar.
Haysbert introduced the Morgan Neville- and Caryn Capotosto-produced Day in the Life of a Social Worker, featuring the tireless work of MPTF staff in that field.
Following the screening of the documentary short, it was Bomer's turn at the podium. He beautifully handled another love story — this one penned by Callie Kloves and centering on George Ciacci, a Hawaii-born gay man who moved to West Hollywood and eventually fell in love and married a makeup artist named Ben. Their courtship lasted more than 50 years, and the MPTF stepped up to help Ciacci after he was denied his partner's pensions and benefits after his death.
Gooding Jr. told the Drew Pearce-written story of Albina, which recounted the challenges faced by Albina Fleishman. She faced the loss of her sister, her father and the declining health of her mother. The MPTF also stepped up to help Fleishman in her time of need. Gooding Jr. said her presence at Milk Studios served as a reminder "to make sure we know how lucky she is, how we all are to have MPTF."
Howard handled Alex, a Jeremy Doner-penned story about Alex Aguilar Jr., who has served as the secretary and treasurer of studio utility employees union Local 724. During the writers' strike of 2007-2008, Aguilar and his family were on the verge of losing their home. The MPTF helped bridge the gap, which made the difference "between falling apart and getting by," Howard noted. "It's not charity, it's a community."
Douglas ended the night, following a rousing introduction by longtime pal Danny DeVito, who not surprisingly delivered the laughs with jokes about Douglas' "third leg," but got serious when he said that "you can't find anyone who will say a bad word about Mikey D." Well, on second thought, "maybe one or two," DeVito joked.
More than two people helped put the night together. "Reel Stories" was produced by top-tier industryites like Guymon Casady, Julie Darmody, William Gerber, Eric Kranzler, McCormick, Karen Rosenfelt, Greg Sills, Courtenay Valenti and Warren Zavala. Those names, and the several hundred guests inside Milk Studios, were likely happy not to be driving around on a rainy night in Hollywood and were fortunately a few miles to the east of where President Barack Obama's motorcade had caused major traffic jams as he hit up a fundraising event at the Bel-Air home of Walt Disney chairman Alan Horn. (The POTUS also stopped by the American Idol finale.)
Delta Airlines sponsored the night, partnered with media sponsor Entertainment Weekly, and Douglas wrapped it up by encouraging everyone in the room to find their best way to be of service, using his father, longtime MPTF supporter Kirk Douglas, as an example.
"I know if Kirk were here — I'm staying with him this evening and he is happy and proud about this evening — he would encourage each of you, as he did me, to find your own way of giving back, whatever that may be for you," he finished.
Adam Scott speaks onstage during the "Reel Stories, Real Lives" event benefiting MPTF at Milk Studios in Los Angeles on April 7, 2016. (Photo by Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for Motion Picture & Television Fund)
Eric Kranzler and Julie Darmody attend "Reel Stories, Real Lives" event benefiting MPTF at Milk Studios in Los Angeles on April 7, 2016. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Motion Picture & Television Fund)
Clockwise, from left: Cuba Gooding Jr., Dennis Haysbert, Michael Douglas and Danny DeVito attend "Reel Stories, Real Lives" event benefiting MPTF at Milk Studios in Los Angeles on April 7, 2016. (Photo by Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for Motion Picture & Television Fund)