Hollywood kicks off Oscar weekend with political rally
LOS ANGELES — Unlike other Oscar weekend events taking place in Los Angeles on Friday, the one thrown by United Talent Agency didn’t have a dress code. But it did have a message.
“We’re standing in unity with our artists, and we’re standing in unity with all people who are concerned about what’s happening with our government and in this country right now,” Jeremy Zimmer, CEO of United Talent Agency, told CNN before the start of a much-talked about rally that the company sponsored in lieu of holding its annual pre-Oscar bash.
The United Voices rally featured celebrity speakers like Jodie Foster, Michael J. Fox, Wilmer Valderrama, and Keegan-Michael Key.
Foster said she doesn’t usually feel comfortable using her “public face for activism,” but thought the rally was “a great idea.”
“This year is a very different year,” she said. “It’s time to show up.”
She added: “When we get to celebrate excellence in film like we’re doing today, like we’re doing this week, we can’t forget that this industry is in the business of humanism. It’s that compassion that makes us strong.”
Speakers largely spoke against President Donald Trump’s stance on immigration — including his travel ban — and the administration’s decision to withdraw federal protections for transgender students, among other things.
A handful of protesters were present at the event. Two declined to be interviewed by CNN.
UTA made the decision to forgo its annual bash earlier this month, and instead donated $250,000 to the American Civil Liberties Union and the International Rescue Committee.
David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, said the money will go toward funding programs that aid refugees in the process of resettling in the United States, as well international programs that help people in the greatest need.
“The Hollywood community is, I think, always extremely generous and extremely active and extremely vocal when it comes to the rights of humans and the right of freedom of expression,” Zimmer said.
Other attendees at the rally included California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, actor Nick Offerman and Bill Nye, also known as The Science Guy.
A special video from Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi was also screened for the crowd. Farhadi was nominated in the best foreign film category for his movie “The Salesman,” but earlier this month he announced his intention to boycott the ceremony in protest of Trump’s travel ban.
The ACLU is expected to have a strong presence on the Oscar red carpet.
The organization is offering up blue ribbons to Oscar attendees who wish to show their support for the organization on Sunday.
The ACLU is also set to receive a portion of the funds raised through a Crowdrise campaign being held in conjunction with the rally.
Zimmer said UTA’s decision to hold the rally instead of their party came to him on recent Sunday morning while reviewing his Oscar party invite list. As he began checking off names, he wondered, “Does this make sense right now?”
“I love parties and I’m all for celebrating the Oscars. I think people should have a great time this weekend,” he said. “But I did feel, at this time, for us to take some of the money we spend on the party and donate that to some great causes and to have a rally and have a place for our colleagues and friends and clients to come together and voice their concerns — it just felt like the right thing to do.”
The Academy Awards takes place Sunday in Los Angeles and will broadcast on ABC.