Despite the glittering crowd at the private screening for Blood Diamond— the subject matter and the conversation over pre-film drinks was decidedly gritty. In fact there wasn't a single sexy song about diamonds or bling playing as the crowd of nearly 200 milled around the upstairs lobby at the Hearst Tower waiting for the main event- either the screening of the hotly anticipated and already well-reviewed Warner Bros film or the arrival of its star Jennifer Connelly, depending on whom you ask.
The likes of Emmy winning Linda Dano- longtime star of Another World and now Jennifer Connelly co-star in the upcoming film "Reservation Road"- mingled with major players from the media world like Hearst Magazines president Cathleen Black, a throng of fashionistas as well as television and film biggies including Blood Diamond director Edward Zwick and producer Marshall Herskovitz, Zwick's partner from TV shows "My So-Called Life," and "Once and Again".
When MC's January cover girl, ponytail swinging, made her entrance in black skinny pants and babelicious black patent boots— they were YSLs, Editor Joanna Coles later coaxed out of Connelly— the photographers sprang into action. The Oscar winner and working mother is that strange mixture of charismatic and accessible: a megawatt smile, but almost no makeup. Star material.
Talk of the commitment to this film and the subject of conflict diamonds by stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Connelly hung in the air. One guest, Igor Purlantoff (incidentally the recent fiance of MC's web editor Ashley Parrish) said, as a South African, he was well aware of the conflict diamond issue before he picked up the engagement ring. He didn't worry too much about the stone, he said, as the big name jewelers, who are all well aware of the problem, most likely wouldn't trade in the small percentage of diamonds that are so-called blood diamonds. Yet still, the question remains: Can you truly track all diamonds coming from Africa or other continents? Several people at the reception when asked questions about the trafficking of gems in Africa knew very little—but were willing to let the movie educate them.
With its non-stop action—much of it extremely violent—matched by intense performances by DiCaprio, Connelly and African-born Djimon Hounsoun (whom many recognize from Gladiator) the movie is eye-opening to say the least. MC's editor in chief, Joanna Coles, who admitted to having to close her eyes during some of the film, told the crowd during her introduction to it, that she thought it was daring and smart, and actually "stood for everything the magazine admires— except the violent part." After the 2.5 hour screening, guests settled in for a Q&A with director Zwick, Connelly, and Coles.
"I loved the idea of making a film in an environment so politically charged, with issues from child soldiers to conflict diamonds," said Connelly.
"It really did change my mind about things and led me to question my choices as a consumer, knowing the impact those choices can have on people around the world. Hopefully people will think of those things as they watch as well."
Everyone has commented on the chemistry between Connelly and co-star DiCaprio and naturally wanted to know what it was like to work with him. "He's just fantastic," said Connelly. "I've never worked with an actor as generous as he is."
And with that—and all the talk of conscientious gift-giving—people filed out with new awareness in this season of giving.