Tom Hooper already has an Oscar—Best Director for 2010’s The King’s Speech—so he could afford to kick back and enjoy the artwork Thursday night at the Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills, California.
“I love this show. It’s fantastic,” the tall Brit told me as he stood amid the roiling mob—a lot of meticulously clothed aging men with expensive haircuts, cleavage-flaunting former models, some bona fide art enthusiasts, and a sprinkling of movie folk—and surveyed the Cowboys series by contemporary American painter and photographer Richard Prince. Hooper’s movie Les Misérables and a couple of cast members, Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, are nominated this time, but Hooper is not.
“It’s the idea of reprocessing the icon,” the director continued, politely not alluding to all the conspicuous “reprocessing” evident on the faces (and perhaps other body parts) in the well-heeled crowd. “It’s taking such an American icon, recovering images from the past and giving them a new lease on life—sort of reframed in paint.”
Art dealer to the stars Larry Gagosian, one of those expensive-haircut guys, picked the hotter-than-hot Prince, whose paintings go for from $350,000 to $900,000, according to an aficionado among the partygoers, to headline his traditional Oscar-week opening.
The party—which, true to the socially exclusionary, importance-certifying imperatives of Hollywood, featured a rooftop VIP room inaccessible to the hoi polloi, where Gagosian and Prince hid out—drew such glitterati as blonde vixen Pamela Anderson, dashing hotelier André Balazs, movie producer Steve Tisch, cult director John Waters, and onetime Best Actor winner Adrien Brody, who showed up squiring a willowy lady whose minidress looked as painted on as any of Prince’s canvases.
“I do like his work, but I’d rather not do an interview,” the long-nosed Brody sniffed when I ask what he thought of the paintings. “I’m not here to give interviews,” he added.
Anderson was far more charming, or at least less annoyable. When I mentioned we have a mutual friend, PETA activist Dan Mathews, Anderson cooed her blush-worthy best: “He always hangs out with tall, handsome men—I could have guessed.” Really? Not really. Was she excited about Oscar week? “I like to stay in Malibu.” Any thoughts on what will win? “It’s never the movies I love,” she said, adding that her favorite Best Picture nominee is Beasts of the Southern Wild.
Waters, meanwhile, told me he normally gives Hollywood a wide berth but can’t stay away during Oscar week. “I come here every year for this—it’s the only time I come to L.A.” The reason he makes the effort? “Fame maintenance!” Waters explained.
As for Richard Prince, “I love his balls,” Waters said. “My favorite thing he ever did is when he asks if he can do a portrait of you and asks you to show him three pictures of yourself that you like, and he takes a picture of them. That is the greatest thing I ever heard. He infuriates people. That’s what contemporary art is supposed to do.”
Hooper, for his part, praised the Prince aesthetic. “He’s good at negative space. As a director, I quite like that,” he said, standing before a cowpoke kneeling in prairie grass, actually the cover illustration of an old pulp Western novel, photographed, blown up, and coated energetically with ink jet and acrylic on canvas. “He knows how to do it really well.”
Is Hooper a Richard Prince collector?
“I wish I was in a position to do that, but no,” he said sadly. As for the Oscars, he seemed chill and wasn’t raising expectations. “I think by this point, probably, you have a good sense of the way things are going to play on Sunday, so I’m not too jittery,” he confided.
And how are things going to play on Sunday?
“I’m not going to be drawn into that,” he grinned.