My focus at the Golden Globes, as I wrote in Part I, was to connect with Robert De Niro and Warren Beatty so that I might ask them to write the Introduction to “Stella! A Life in Art.” Here’s how it went down: I would get two to three minutes during commercial breaks to negotiate my way into a shiny clique of celebrities mingling amongst themselves. During each break, just getting from my nosebleed seat into the orchestra section where the celebrities were seated took a good minute, leaving me two minutes tops to introduce myself and pitch the Introduction.
The only other person besides my husband that I knew in the room was Mark Ruffalo. His career was just taking off when I began running the Stella Adler Academy of Acting in Hollywood. We had met a handful of times and he participated in a one-act play series I inaugurated at the school for which I was arrogant and foolish enough to direct my own play. “Backstage” was unforgiving in its review, which I won’t repeat here. Back at the Globes, Mark was sitting with the cast of The Kids Are Alright with Annette Bening who was up for best actress. Warren was also at that table. Bingo!
I had just enough time to hug Mark and hear an anecdote about Stella and Brando, Mark pulling off a great imitation of Marlon before I had to return to my seat. At the next commercial break I headed back to their table where I congratulated Annette and reminded her that we had met once at USC. I had told her then about being in the first stages of a biography on Stella and she had told me she would put me in touch with Warren who was a student of Stella’s. I doubt she remembered, which didn’t matter. I was just biding time while Warren finished his conversation with Steven Spielberg. I had just enough time to tell Warren about the first biography of his great teacher and would he consider writing the Introduction. I went back to my seat with his personal email, to which he would never respond.
At this point in the evening I felt official as if I were actually a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association with full rights to wrangle whomever I needed to talk to. I wanted to spread the word to as many people I thought might be able to promote the book as possible. My first choice to play Stella in the movie version of my book is Cate Blanchett, but when I saw Nicole Kidman I remembered her performance playing Virginia Wolfe in The Hours and reminded her as much, telling her I know she would play a terrific Stella Adler. Unlike my temporary bout of duplicity in the bathroom with Angelina Jolie, I sincerely believed Nicole could pull Stella off from youth to old age. Kneeling down by her seat (as there wasn’t an empty chair near by) I glimpsed that alabaster skin, which confirmed my instinct. Stella was known for her flawless skin. Kidman actually seemed flattered and I left my card with her.
As the orchestra seaters mingled during commercial breaks, I couldn’t always get through the crowd to my next pitch and had to retire back to my seat. However, I was determined to talk to De Niro who had also studied with Stella. When my turn came, I again had to kneel as I introduced myself.
“Call my assistant, Chase Manhattan,” De Niro instructed, writing the number down on the back of my business card. I looked at him askance. Surely he was putting me off: Chase Manhattan? And I said as much, after which I was sure he was going to pull a “you-talkin’-to-me?” face, but instead he offered an avuncular pat on the shoulder and repeated his instruction to call Chase.
It was after 11pm by the time we left the show. I had to know if De Niro had played me. So without thinking that it was after 2 am in New York I dialed the 212 area code for “Chase Manhattan.” A young woman’s voice answered. “Chase?” I said. “Yes,” she answered, instantly deflecting all my doubts. Chase listened to my business and asked me to email her exactly what I wanted. It took another six months before Chase could arrange an actual interview. I didn’t necessarily want to interview De Niro as the book was completed and I didn’t need more content. At least that’s what a first-time biographer exhausted with years of research had thought. When I did get the chance to ask him about writing an Introduction, De Niro explained he didn’t have enough time to read my book, which one glance at his IMDB page and all his projects in production would have told me. Still, we had a nice conversation. You can read an edited version here.
All in all, I’d say my night with the stars was successful, but nothing in comparison to the last decade with the star of my life, Stella. When I began this biography with nothing more than an interest in Stella’s father and his role as the King of the Yiddish Theatre, I had no idea I would end up excavating the life of Stella herself, which spanned the entire 20th century. It has taught me about perseverance, which is exactly what I needed because now that the book is completed, publishing and promoting it is just beginning.