January 25th, 2009
11:22 PM ET

Starstruck "Slumdogs" at the SAG Awards

Wow, there's just no denying "Slumdog Millionaire!" I'm happily eating crow after predicting a big win for "Milk" (see previous blog post). These are heady times for the Best Cast in a Motion Picture winners.

After doing a little dance backstage, Dev Patel told us that it was a surreal experience walking down the red carpet and seeing Kate Winslet. "Titanic" was one of the first movies he really loved, and he was blown away that she recognized him. She wasn't the only star who did.

Patel: "I just couldn't believe it. They know who we are." Anil Kapoor, who plays the treacherous host of the Indian version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" in the film, had his sights on another big star on the red carpet: Angelina Jolie.

He implored his co-star Irrfan Khan (who appeared with Jolie in "A Mighty Heart") to introduce him. "Don't be a shy American," he implored, "act like an Indian!" Khan did, and Kapoor delightfully made her acquaintance.

But beyond the famous faces they're seeing, it's clear that what the "Slumdog Millionaire" cast values more is the effect its success is having on India and its film industry.

Kapoor: "This is what India needed. We needed a platform for more films to be shot in India."

On a lighter note, he said he heard from Regis Philbin, who hosted the original American version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." Kapoor said Regis joked that he wished "he could have been as nasty to his contestants."

It's full speed to the Oscars, now, and if these guys tell you it's just a thrill to be nominated, believe them.

"We were in Mumbai and Danny, Dev, and Freida (Pinto) were there," Kapoor recollects, "When it was was nominated for Oscars, Dev started dancing and getting excited. [Director] Danny [Boyle] had tears in his eyes. Danny said, 'We premiere in Mumbai, and we hear the Oscar nominations were announced.' We couldn't feel it - we were completely numb."

January 25th, 2009
10:43 PM ET

Sean Penn: Man of few words

The backstage bursts into applause when Best Actor winner Sean Penn walks in. The first question posed is, did he have any reservations when he took the title role in "Milk?" His one word answer: "No."

What can I say, he is a man of few words! But then he opened up a bit about the film and credited most of its success to director Gus Van Sant, who, he said, was "incapable of making an irrelevant movie." He called him talented, great, and an adjective you don't hear often about a director: gentle.

Van Sant, he said, did a tremendous job of creating a positive environment for the cast. Ultimately, Penn felt it wasn't the theme or the politics that drew him to "Milk," but the script and the director.

And while Penn is definitely one of our more serious actors, there was a moment of levity: he said he realizes he's getting older every time he sees those crow's feet on the big screen! The feeling here backstage is that Penn really disappeared into the role and truly became Milk. I think the word that sums it up best for me is that is was a "winning" character and performance in every sense of the word.

January 25th, 2009
09:56 PM ET

Winslet: "Understand the character"

Kate Winslet won a SAG Award for playing a character she didn't particularly like. Winslet, looking gorgeous in a Nelsio Rodriguez dress (if I misspelled that designer's name, forgive me fashionistas, I'm writing this on the fly!) was the first winner to come back stage.

She won a Supporting Actor award for "The Reader" and she said bringing her character, "Hanna Schmitz," to life was "tough" because she couldn't find anything in her life that compared to her. Thank God, huh? She was playing a former Nazi concentration camp guard! Did she sympathize with Hanna?, someone asked. "Sympathize? No. But you have to understand the character." When you come right down to it, Kate said she really didn't like Hanna all the time. Can you blame her?

On the TV comedy side of things, Tina Fey and the "30 Rock" gang were in a buoyant and boisterous mood. They're riding high on Emmy and Golden Globe success, and now SAG wins for Fey, Alec Baldwin and the entire ensemble cast. Fey joked, "Feels like everyone's really turned on us!"

"Mad Men's" leading man Jon Hamm came out next with the cast of his show. After thanking AMC for sticking by the show and noting its "notoriously huge ratings,” he took a very serious question about a potential actors' strike from the Los Angeles Times. "Do you want to take that one, Aaron?" he said, gesturing to the little boy who plays his son on the show. Then, turning serious, he said he hoped the new political atmosphere would lead to a softened approach to labor and that the guild was negotiating in good faith.

Then he took a REAL serious question: What do you think about your "Dom Draper" hair? "It's low maintenance. It literally does not move." He said a piece of the set once fell on him, he took seven stitches in the head and the hair was still perfect!!

January 25th, 2009
07:09 PM ET

Backstage at the SAG Awards

Good evening, everybody! I'll be blogging backstage here at the SAG Awards, sending along any snacky bit of Screen Actors Guild goodness that comes my way. The awards are being held in L.A.'s famed Shrine Auditorium, and folks, they ain't kidding - it is super "Shriney" in here.

I've got Moorish style balconies, chandaliers, and stain-glassed windows surrounding me. And I'm sitting not far from the "Silver Scimitar Wall of Honor." Somebody get me a fez so I'll feel right at home.

Right now all of us media types are settling in. I'm sitting shoulder to shoulder with a couple of journalists from a rival news service and we're pondering who will win the big trophy of the night: the Cast in a Motion Picture award. It's the equivalent of Best Picture at the other kudo-fests and we're thinking "Milk" might grab it, even though "Slumdog Millionaire" is gathering momentum with Golden Globe and Producers Guild Awards wins. The logic being that the Hollywood buzz surrounding "Slumdog" is mainly centered on director Danny Boyle, not the largely unknown - but hugely talented - cast. We'll see what the night brings. Maybe there's just no betting against Slumdog - and destiny - this year.

January 25th, 2009
03:45 PM ET

Chris Rock: Obama speech was just OK

Reviews are still coming in for President Barack Obama's inaugural address. Chris Rock is weighing in, and his reaction might be summed up in one word: "eh."

He told CNN International producer/reporter Katie Walmsley, "He's got like five better speeches in his pocket for when he needs them."

Rock said he thinks President Obama made a tactical decision not to use his best oratory during the speech, because he'll need to draw on even greater rhetorical firepower if the country really hits the skids. OK, he didn't exactly say "hit the skids." He used a more colorful term to suggest the dire condition we will be in if the economic situation worsens.

Rock didn't travel to D.C. for the inauguration. He watched the proceedings at the Sundance Film Festival, just before he did an interview with Walmsley about his new documentary called "Good Hair" (it explores how African-American women perceive themselves and their hair).

I talked with him at a dinner party hosted by Bon Appetit magazine for the filmmakers in Sundance and if he was excited about Obama taking office, I had a hard time detecting it. He did take a swipe at the outgoing president, however.

When I asked him if he had any hopes or fears regarding Obama's presidency he responded, "Fears? How could it get any worse?"


- Matthew Carey, CNN Entertainment Producer

Filed under: Uncategorized
January 25th, 2009
03:41 PM ET

'CSI: NY' actor on politics

Many stars showed up for Barack Obama’s inauguration in D.C. this week. CNN caught up with President Obama’s close friend, Hill Harper from "CSI: NY," on his political involvement as an actor.

According to Harper, the best currency on the campaign trail wasn’t money. "Well, certainly being on a TV show like 'CSI: NY' where 15 million people watch the show every week is what I call a currency or platform from which to speak. It’s almost like a currency of celebrity,” said Harper.

Although he’s a best-selling author and holds two degrees from Harvard, Harper says most people listen to him because of his role as an actor. “[Being an actor] gives a platform to actually speak and talk about something … that’s part of the key. You convince them to know about the relationship and let them know how good he will be.”

- Aspen Steib, CNN Producer

Filed under: Uncategorized
About this blog

Our daily cheat-sheet for breaking celebrity news, Hollywood buzz and your pop-culture obsessions.