At 12:30 p.m. on Monday, a tuxedo-clad deliveryman arrived at my doorstep carrying a matte black box wrapped up in a velvet ribbon—a sharp juxtaposition to the series of Postmates and Amazon delivery people I’ve grown accustomed to over the past nine months. But what else would one expect from Chanel and the Museum of Modern Art, who were soldiering through the pandemic to present their 13th annual Film Benefit honoring America’s sweetheart, George Clooney?
A bevy of past and current costars, from ER’s Julianna Margulies to The Midnight Sky’s Felicity Jones, regaled the audience with tales of working with everyone’s favorite movie star. Margulies credited Clooney with her big break, reminding him that he once told her, “If you could just hold off for a couple weeks, I think you’re going to get a series regular offer.” Later, Bradley Cooper appeared—seemingly on a set in full costume and bloody makeup—recounting his failed audition for Clooney’s directorial debut, Leatherheads. Sam Rockwell brought kudos, Tilda Swinton brought passion, and David Letterman brought jokes: “We met at a fundraiser for Mitch McConnell.”
“Isn’t it dumb that we can’t all be together in the same room tonight?” asked Clooney, who managed to make his virtual acceptance speech seem normal and charismatic, even without the usually crowded museum atrium audience. “We’re going to get through it… there is more than hope, there is a bright light at the end of this tunnel. We will soon say goodbye to the dark ages. Goodbye to fear. Goodbye to doubt. Goodbye to the anxiety. Once this is over and [Donald] Trump’s out of office, we should probably do something about COVID too,” joked Clooney.
To help address the devastating impact of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Monday’s event will also benefit Artist Relief, an emergency initiative created by a coalition of national arts grant-makers to offer financial support and informational resources to artists across the United States.
Closing the night was Grammy nominee Brittany Howard from Alabama Shakes, who performed four songs—and brought the house down by changing the lyrics of her song “Georgia” to “I just want George to notice me.” Don’t we all.
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