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German-born filmmaker Roland Emmerich — whose cinematic evocations of apocalyptic disaster have sold more than $3 billion worth of tickets around the world — opened the gardens of his Moorish-style Hollywood Hills house Saturday night to assist the victims of a real-world apocalypse — the children of Cambodia.
The occasion included dinner and an auction that raised nearly $1 million to benefit former Fox and Sony executive Scott Neeson’s Cambodian Children’s Fund. Sony co-chief Amy Pascal, CAA managing director Bryan Lourd and producer Mark Gordon co-hosted the event that drew an A-list Hollywood crowd to support the work of their one-time colleague Neeson (who once oversaw the release of blockbuster films like Braveheart, Titanic and X-Men) in what has become his life’s focus since a stop-over in Cambodia nine years ago.
In 2003, the then high-flying film executive was traveling through Southeast Asia when a friend told him he had to see Cambodia’s Steung Meanchey garbage dump. “He said, ‘you won’t believe the suffering there,’” Neeson said. “The need is so great.” The executive was, indeed, shocked by what he saw: Deserted children combing through a poverty-stricken nation’s garbage in search of something to eat. He sold everything he had to move to Cambodia to start a school for the children that since has earned international accolades for its work with the children — four of whom attended the fundraiser with Neeson.
Emmerich, director of The Day After Tomorrow, Independence Day and the upcoming White House Down, has supported Neeson’s efforts from the start. The 150 Hollywood insiders who attended Saturday’s occasion dined on food provided by celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa and listened and danced to music provided by Annie Trousseau, the multi-lingual world music sextet led by Colombian/American singer/songwriter Ana Maria Lombo.
One of the evening’s highlights was the sight of Heather Graham, a member of the children fund’s board of directors, dancing with the four Cambodian teens who attended the fundraiser. Another came during the auction, when celebrity auctioneer Gordon cajoled potential bidders on items that included a South Seas cruise on Emmerich’s yacht with lines directed at the director’s lawyers: “You make 5 percent on Roland’s movies, right?” he quipped. “You can afford it.”
Event attendees included: WME’s Rob Carlson, former Fox Filmed Entertainment CEO Tom Rothman, Legendary Pictures head William Fay, actor Jeff Goldblum, Sony Pictures vice president of production Rachel O’Connor, Emmerich’s movie producers Reid Carolin, Dean Devlin, Ute Emmerich, Brad Fischer, Larry Franco, Harald Kloser and writer/producer James Vanderbilt.
“It is an honor to have such influential Hollywood voices supporting our cause,” said Neeson, who only rarely has returned to the United States since founding his school. “Their contributions have made an immeasurable impact on the impoverished families of Cambodia.”
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