Compliments at black-tie dinners are usually delivered personally, via video or through telegrams, but as a testament to the diversity of Jodie Foster's career, some of the kinds spoken at Saturday's 14th annual American Cinematheque Motion Picture Ball in Hollywood came by phone from a California prison.
Following the grim, legally mandated recording declaring that "this call is from a state correctional facility," the crowd at the Beverly Hilton heard the cheerful voice of Robert Downey Jr. saying he was "on location" but wanted to tell Foster "you're the goods."
The call was a clever twist at a dinner that had begun more traditionally with remarks from co-chairman Mike Medavoy and Peter Dekom, emcee David Hyde Pierce and a smooth rhythm of presenters, including Robert De Niro, Jonathan Demme, Lisa Kudrow, Adam Hann-Byrd, Laura Dern, James Garner, Stockard Channing and Gillian Anderson, who introduced clips from Fosters career.
The evenings highlights (besides raising $500,000) came from presenters who either had better lines or went off script.
By far the most brilliant of the off-script remarks came from James Woods. He began by saying that Fosters been in showbiz so long, he thinks "she was the baby Butterfly McQueen delivered in 'Gone With the Wind.'"
The award presentation was made by Foster's "Silence of the Lambs" co-star Anthony Hopkins. In accepting, Foster spoke of the code of etiquette she'd learned in a life on the set ("Always hang up clothes in the trailer" was one lesson) and how this "might not be the code of a rebel," but it has served her well.
Among the approximately 750 people on hand to hear Foster were co-chair Bill Mechanic; director Barbara Smith, James Robinson, Sandy Climan, Laura Ziskin, Lawrence Bender, Lloyd Rigler, Salma Hayek, Jonathan Dolgen, Rob Friedman, Anne Sterling and Al Ruddy.
TNT will air the ball on Sunday.