Neil Diamond, Meryl Streep, et al.: Kennedy Center Honorees Loved Mingling…
Neil Diamond's tribute on Tuesday's 34th Annual Kennedy Center Honors was enough to bring tears to the eyes of Diamond fans — especially if they happen to hail from Boston and have a soft spot for the Kennedy family.
At least, according to producer George Stevens Jr., that was the heartfelt response among many attendees inside the Washington, D.C., gala when it was recorded earlier this month.
Diamond's segment of the festivities include a film clip of the singer-songwriter performing on the pitcher's mound at Fenway Park and performances by Rafael Saadiq, Jennifer Nettles, Lionel Ritchie and Smokey Robinson, who sings "Sweet Caroline" along with the entire audience plus 150 Red Sox fans bused down from Boston for the event.
"And at the end, Caroline Kennedy comes and sits down next to Lionel Richie," says Stevens of the song's namesake. "It just seemed like the right thing."
Among the highlights of this classiest of awards shows, viewers of the two-hour special on CBS can see Robert De Niro and Tracey Ullman in comedic form as they honor their pal Meryl Streep, along with Anne Hathaway, Kevin Kline, Stanley Tucci and Emily Blunt.
Bill Cosby launches a tuneful tribute to jazz great Sonny Rollins; Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick introduce Broadway's Barbara Cook; and cellist Yo-Yo Ma is feted by a group including James Taylor, Elmo of "Sesame Street" and … Stephen Colbert?
"It turns out that Yo-Yo has been on Colbert's show twice, so they're acquainted, and Stephen is a great admirer of his, and he's absolutely wonderful," Stevens declares.
"Yo-Yo's is the last tribute. Everyone expects it to be Neil Diamond's, but it's his. And they expect that some long-haired musician is going to come out and start talking about him, and then it's Stephen Colbert, being hilarious and touching at the same time."
That final tribute moves through the array of musical worlds that Ma inhabits, from classical through bluegrass, traditional Chinese to kids' songs. "It's this whole idea that he is expanding our musical universe," explains Stevens, who co-produces the event with his son, Michael.
Research and planning begin in September, and the Stevenses delight in bringing together disparate artists for the affair, which includes a weekend of smaller events leading up to the gala.
"It was so much fun, and we had the cast together afterwards," Stevens says. "The classical musicians love to meet the pop musicians. Actors love interacting with the jazz legends. This intermix of artistic lives, really, that's the essence of the Kennedy Center Honors,"
According to him, Streep and Diamond, who sat together at the event, seemed to hit it off. She was already friends with Ma; "They had just been in China together on a cultural mission."
Stevens would love to make the 34 Honors shows available to the public for posterity on DVD or download. "It should be. I can't think there's any better repository of cultural history in the United States," he says. "I hope we get it sorted out."
THE BIG-SCREEN SCENE: Speaking of Kennedys, Robert Kennedy Jr. is among the characters being depicted in the forthcoming feature, "Beyond the Snow River Flows." It's based on a true story of a man who stood up against government and corporate forces that threatened to pollute and destroy tribal land. A January production start is planned.
MAN OF MANY MEDIA: OK, so now 81-year-old Oscar winner Clint Eastwood will be turning up on reality television — in the planned Bunim/Murray Productions show focusing on his wife, Dina; their 15-year-old daughter, Morgan; and Clint's 18-year-old daughter, Francesca (whose mom is Frances Fisher).
That doesn't mean he's forsaking his filmic pursuits, however. Eastwood has "Trouble With the Curve" heading into production in March in Atlanta — he'll be playing a veteran scout for the Atlanta Braves who is about to retire. With his vision not what it once was, he takes his last scouting trip accompanied by his daughter (Amy Adams), with whom he has had a troubled relationship. Several subsidiary roles are being cast now.
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