Jonah Hill and Eva Longoria Help HFPA Hand Out $1.6 Million in Grants at Luncheon

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Eva Longoria and Jonah Hill

A-listers including Vin Diesel, Nicole Kidman and Olivia Wilde stepped out for a good cause at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's annual Beverly Hills event, where teleprompter issues became a running gag.

By the time Jonah Hill took the microphone at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's annual installation luncheon in Beverly Hills, a parade of celebrities had handed out most of the $1.6 million in grants being made to 40 different organizations, universities and non-profits, with many stumbling while trying to read the teleprompter.

That prompted Hill to declare, “If anything has been made clear to me today it’s the fact I don’t think a single actor in Hollywood can read,” which brought a hearty laugh from the crowd in the Beverly Hilton ballroom.

The stars' problems reading off the teleprompter and complaints about how the script was presented to them was a running gag through the afternoon.

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Hill then proceeded to accept a grant on behalf of the American Cinemateque and several other organizations before concluding by pumping his fist in the air and declaring, “I can read.”

He got one of the bigger laughs in a program that began with the introduction of the new officers of the HFPA, led by the group’s recently elected president Theo Kingma.

Over the years the HFPA has given out more than $18 million, which has resulted in 925 scholarships and the restoration of 82 movies.

“While scholarships support future filmmakers,” said Kingma, “some of the best lessons can be learned from our past. The HFPA cares deeply about preserving our history.”

Kingma introduced the HFPA’s new officers and board members: vice president, Lorenzo Soria; Treasurer, Meher Tatna; executive secretary, Lily Lui; board: Yoram Kahana, Vera Anderson, Luca Celada, Helen Hoehne, Aida Takla-O’Reilly and Jack Tewksbury.

Nicole Kidman accepted a check for $350,000 on behalf of the Film Foundation only minutes after one of its founders, director Martin Scorsese, had spoken on video about the importance of its work and how much the HFPA donations have meant.

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Kidman said this year's funds would go towards restoring Salvatore Giuliano, Francesco Rosi’s story of the Sicilian bandit, and Stanton Kaye’s work of cinema verite, Brandy in the Wilderness.

Eva Longoria acted as mistress of ceremonies, dropping in a few ad libs. When she introduced Amber Heard and Liam Hemsworth, stars of the upcoming movie Paranoia, she quipped: “We can’t forget the next generation of stars who will take our jobs.”

Vin Diesel had his own problems reading off the teleprompter, but turned it into a memorable moment by recalling his own beginnings. He was accepting a $100,000 check on behalf of the Sundance Institute, and recalled that in 1997 he took his first movie, Strays, to Sundance.

After recalling he had been working as a bouncer in New York while writing, directing, producing and starring in the movie, he said on the street in Park City he bumped into someone and turned to find it was Robert Redford.

“He said ‘hey, I saw your film Strays and I’m a big fan of your work,’” recalled Diesel. “I couldn’t speak for two days after that. I felt a sense of validation I never felt before. O.K. back to the prompter.”

Then at the end he went off prompter again: “Sundance is something very close to my heart. It’s the only reason I have the luxury to stand before all of you. Otherwise, I’d still be a bouncer in New York.”

Other stars who appeared to accept the grants included Jason Bateman (Arrested Development), Demian Bechir (The Bridge), Colin Farrell (Saving Mr. Banks), Diane Kreuger (The Bridge), Dermot Mulroney (August: Osage County), Piper Perabo (Covert Affairs), Olivia Wilde (Rush) and Vince Vaughn (Delivery Man), who said he had to tear himself away from his family only two days after the birth of his second child.

Olivia Wilde presented a special gift to Vaughn, a video camera.

“Once you come home,” Kingma told Vaughn, “you can start documenting the most important film of your life……..without…Owen Wilson.”

Longoria declared the afternoon “a lot more fun than the Golden Globes. You get to see everybody and nobody’s drunk.”