Hollywood elites gather to celebrate American Film Institute’s birthday

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES &#8212 Warren Beatty leaned down to chat face-to-face with Kirk Douglas. Sylvester Stallone chomped on pineapple and glanced across the bar at Clint Eastwood. Angela Lansbury gawked at Jack Nicholson. Julie Andrews laughed with Billy Crystal.

The American Film Institute threw itself a 40th birthday party on Wednesday night, inviting 11 Hollywood luminaries to introduce screenings of their classic films at the ArcLight Theatre.

Oh, and movie fans were welcome, too – tickets were $25 including popcorn and soda.

Reporters prodded Nicholson to measure the significance of the movie he was there to introduce, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975).

“It certainly is one I get complimented on a lot of the time,” he said. “But I personally don’t make lists.”

Douglas, likewise asked about “Spartacus” (1960), said the film was most memorable for him because screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who had been on Hollywood’s McCarthy-era blacklist, used his real name in the credits.

But the emphasis for the invitees was on catching up with, in Beatty’s words, “old friends.” At a theatre bar before the screenings, Douglas sat as Andrews and others sidled up to say hello. Stallone posted up by the fruit plate before shaking hands with Lansbury, who popped a cheese square into her mouth.

George Lucas called the invitees “an august crowd.”

“Being from San Francisco, I don’t get down here very often, so I don’t really get to see a lot of these people except once in a while at big events like this,” he said. “We had time to chat, so that was good.”

After the chats, the projectors rolled. In his introduction for “Star Wars” (1977), Lucas was accompanied by storm troopers.

“When the movie came out all these people said, ‘Oh, it’s all about special effects, special effects. That’s why everybody wants to see it,'” Lucas remembered. “I said, ‘That has nothing to do with it. It really does have to do with the story, the psychological underpinnings and the fun characters.’ And obviously after that they made about 500 bad special effects movies. . And even today, they don’t seem to get it.”