"Kevin 'Mallrats' Smith proudly invites you and a guest to a screening of his new, little-heard-of film, 'Dogma' starring Ben 'Phantoms' Affleck, Matt 'School Ties' Damon, Linda 'Jade' Fiorentino, Salma 'Wild Wild West' Hayek, Jason 'Kissing a Fool' Lee, Jason 'Anything Kev Does' Mewes, Alan 'January Man' Rickman and Chris 'CB4' Rock. With pedigrees like this, it's just gotta be a good flick!"
...so read the invitation to the west coast premiere of Dogma on Tuesday, November 9. As could be gleaned, in the face of (over)heated controversy, Smith has not only maintained his composure, but also his good humor. It was the latter that defined the atmosphere of this refreshingly intimate and small-scale Hollywood opening.
At least the intent was something smaller than usual, for the screening of the film took place at the decidedly low-key Harmony Gold Theatre on Sunset Boulevard. But upon arriving at the venue quite-a-bit-less-than-fashionably late, it was apparent that the small screening had become something a bit more. On one side of the theatre stood the usual gaggle of autograph hounds; lined up along the wall on the other side were regulars at the discussion board of Smith's official Web site, the View Askew-niverse (in a characteristic show of generosity, Smith had Lions Gate set aside some seats for his online fans); across the street from them were other fans, including one who was the spitting image of Smith's onscreen alter ego, Silent Bob. The true tipoff that the event had ballooned into something on par with an opening for a big-budget studio effort was the amount of media that was crammed alongside the red carpet that stretched along the sidewalk in front of the theatre.
Further evidence came once I rushed up the carpet (in the process passing by Ben Affleck, the sole person still giving interviews at the late minute I arrived), went through the door (passing by Giovanni Ribisi) and the lobby and into the auditorium. After doing a quick survey for familiar faces (only Jennifer Tilly's immediately caught the eye), I saw that virtually every seat had been filled. Fortuitously enough, there was a vacancy in the third row, right on the right aisle. Only a minute after I took my seat, the screening portion of the festivities officially commenced.
A Lions Gate rep (whose name escapes me) briefly thanked his fellow staffers and all involved with the film before introducing producer Scott Mosier and the man of the hour, Smith. Mosier stood silently by as Smith gave an entertaining speech that ran the gamut from such bitingly witty remarks as saying he was proud to present his films to the "godless, soulless heathens" of Los Angeles to a heartfelt and genuinely touching tribute to his wife, Jennifer. After a well-deserved round of applause, the lights dimmed and the film began. Seeing a film for the second time, I must say that I enjoyed it a lot more. Some slapsticky gags that I didn't quite enjoy the first time played better knowing that they were coming; I grew to more greatly appreciate the performances (Linda Fiorentino's anchoring presence especially; and Smith's hilariously smart dialogue and audacious ideas had greater spark. The audience appeared to agree, giving the film an approving ovation.
Following the completion of the film (and a brief brush by Edward Norton in the lobby), it was a short drive to the afterparty, which took place at Dominick's in West Hollywood. It was there that the extent to which the event had blown up became pressingly clear--literally. The site consisted of four spaces: one indoor room with full-service bar and booths; another indoor room with full-service bar, but with sofas; a white tent with tables and a bar; and an indoor room with booths set aside for the talent in attendance. Needless to say, the place to be was in that fourth room, and in that room, the event became a bit more intimate than perhaps one would like. I found myself rubbing up against Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow, but only because it was so sardine-packed that if you wanted to make your way in that room, you had to have some up-close-and-personal contact.
The other rooms were a bit more comfortable. The entry way into the booth-and-bar room was a bit crowded, but things cleared up once one approached the bar. As I ordered a drink there, I spotted Luke Wilson across the way, chatting it up with a female. A bit more crowded was the tent, where I spotted Jason Schwartzman, not looking very much like his Rushmore character, Max Fischer. Speaking of not looking very much like himself, Jason Lee, sporting long locks and a beard, was the only member of the Dogma crew who decided to stay away from the hectic VIP room, setting up shop in a corner of the bar-and-sofa room, which stayed virtually empty the entire night.
But if one wanted to see Hollywood players hobnob, the VIP room was where it was at. Getting in to witness such activity, however, became increasingly difficult as the night progressed. Security eventually made the wise decision to control how many people were in the room at a time, making the space outside the room's doorway into a scene right from the heyday of Studio 54, with many people pleading to the guards how much they "need" to make it through. The difference here, though, is that no one was denied entry on a looks basis, which explains how I was able to get through on more than one occasion. The recognizable faces were not in short supply: I passed by Norton again before he took a seat next to Salma Hayek at her booth; Henry Thomas, best known from E.T., carried on a conversation not too far away from me; Jake Busey stationed himself at an unoccupied booth in the corner; on the opposite side was Harvey Weinstein's station; The Thin Red Line's Dash Mihok sat next to Alanis Morissette at her booth; Paltrow was spotted at Morissette's booth and that of Affleck's, mostly at the latter; Affleck carried on with friends, puffing away on his cigarette; while Smith did the latter at his table, openly engaging in conversation with any well-wishers who stopped by.
While the party lasted well into the night, some stars decided to bail early. The first to leave was Paltrow, surrounded by a few others; next in line was the stunning-as-ever Hayek, with whom I exchanged pleasantries on her way out; then Norton, who was also quite friendly to me. I didn't last too much longer than they did, but not without paying my respects to Mr. Smith, who was as cordial as he always is.
Dogma: The Los Angeles Premiere Invitation
Dogma: The Review
Dogma: The Special Edition DVD Review
Kevin Smith photos
Special thanks to Kevin Smith
Dogma: The Los Angeles Premiere/© Michael Dequina