I don’t live in Hollywood, I live in the much cooler (at least temperature-wise) beachy area of Marina del Rey/Venice. But every once in awhile, since this is LA, I like to drop into the “Hollywoody” denizens of this town, like red carpet premieres. Friend Tim (my dorm mate from freshman year at Mizzou) is the executive editor of Entertainment Weekly, so, he gets the good invites.
But we are journalists, not show business people. So we get confined to sitting in the backs of the theaters or up on the mezzanine levels of these exclusive events. You know, up with the riff raff, where we belong. The thing about the world premiere of director Jon Favreau’s live-action Lion King last night is that the stars were SO A-list (Beyonce, Steph Curry, Chance the Rapper, Seth Rogen, etc) that the “riff raff” consisted of almost all celebrities. It was super weird.
The setting is the Dolby Theater, which you’ve seen if you’ve watched any Oscars ceremonies on television. Security locks up everyone’s phones in individually-sized pouches with electronic locks that only the security team can unlock after you’ve left the theater. So no snaps from the theater from me.
Anyway, we were up there in our mezzanine seats, and the following people were in the three rows in front of me: Ali Wong, Leann Rhimes and Eddie Cibrian, Megan Traynor and her husband, who was the kid in Spy Kids (no longer a kid), Chrissy Metz from This is Us, some actor from Game of Thrones I did not recognize because that’s not a show I ever watched (Update: Tim says it was Pedro Pascal), and right behind us was Raven Simone.
“That’s so Raven!” I said. “And she’s sitting behind us,” quipped the girl next to me. “That is so NOT Raven.” (Y’all may know I have used “That’s so Raven” as a recurring bit to react to things for maybe, ten years? Being able to make a Raven joke about Raven herself was a surreal high.)
Before the show got started, aka, before Beyonce had entered the building, I went up four rows to chat with Friend Eric at the WSJ. We were talking about Pittsburgh or something when I’m tapped on the shoulder by someone asking me which seat I’m supposed to be in and it’s … Tracy Morgan. “Ohhhh, I was just squatting here talking with a friend, sorry,” I had to say, to Tracy Morgan, because they put there were so few “normals” at this premiere that they had to put legit television stars with the journos.
As someone who’s seen the animated Lion King a gazillion times (I also saw the 1994 version in the theater), screening the live-action reboot gave me all the feels. Watching it at the world premiere took things to another level — the director came out and brought each cast member on stage BEFORE the film, which led to a standing ovation before the movie ever started. Given all the buzz and Beyonce in the air, the audience broke into cheers and applause after every song, which made screening a film feel more like seeing the Broadway show. I peered down at Ali Wong if she laughed at the jokes in the film, and she didn’t, which surprised me because Billy Eichner, Seth Rogen and John Oliver were hilarious in their roles.
Huge regret I didn’t selfie with Levar Burton since he seemed really open to it at the after party. Said party took place in white tent that stretched a couple of blocks of Hollywood Boulevard, in front of the Dolby Theatre. I love these industry parties for all the unlimited booze and buffet, of course. But this one being a Disney premiere also had amazing kid stuff! DOLE WHIPS (usually only available at DisneyLand), makeup artists doing safari animal face painting, projection machines so you could make your own souvenir video of walking in silhouette with Simba, Pumbaa and Timon, warthog slime-making and Pride Rock-painting crafts, the McDonald’s food truck parked to serve Chicken McNugget Happy Meals with the Lion King merch toys inside … and yet very, very few kids. Then again, it was 11 o’clock on a Tuesday night. How many children should be out at that hour?