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“I don’t know if Rupert Murdoch knew he was going to spend a couple hundred million dollars to make an environmental movie,” James Cameron (pictured right with wife Suzy Amis) said as he accepted the feature film EMA for Avatar from Eva Mendes. Realizing he was “preaching to the choir,” he nevertheless took the opportunity to speak at length about pressing eco-issues. One byproduct of the film’s global impact is his increased involvement in trying to help those who face issues depicted on screen. He’s been to the Amazon rainforest twice and “met with indigenous communities there to push back against the big hydroelectric dam they’re building, which will displace 25,000 people. We think of hydro as clean but it’s devastating the rainforest. It will throw thousands of megatons of carbon into the atmosphere, which will accelerate global warming. There are so many better answers with energy.
“This is such a critical time in the history of the environmental movement and there’s so much that needs to happen right now,” he continued, noting that he donated to the campaign to stop California’s oil company-backed Proposition 23, which would suspend the greenhouse gas emissions bill. “We really have to look at how we’ve been running our civilization and reevaluate our value system. We need a sense of conscience in what we do and the entertainment community can do that, slowly effect change in people’s lives. Our leaders in Washington aren’t going to do it,” he said, citing politicians’ refusal to mention climate change in energy legislation. “The leaders only [act] when the public tells them to and that’s our job. What happens in the next decade may well determine the outcome for life on this planet for the next thousand years so we have to step up to the challenge and accept responsibility, for our children and their children. When they look back I want them to think of us as those ancestors who took responsibility and did what had to be done and saved the planet.”
Earlier on the green carpet, Cameron put his eco-blockbuster’s carbon footprint in perspective. “Avatar was an enormous battle film that took place in a rainforest but it was 100% CG generated [by] a few people working on a performance capture stage, so the footprint compared to the visual impact of the movie was really tiny.” Even though it cost upwards of $200 million and a lot of computer power was required, he acknowledged, “You have to weigh the value of the film and its impact on the public consciousness of the entire world vs. the energy that was put into it.” Its planned sequel “will be very consistent with the message of the first film. I’m not going to make it more shrill or more strident. I‘m still going to make it work on a very emotional level, on a heartfelt, spiritual level for people,” he said, “And it’s still going to be a big kicka*ss action movie.”
Jane Fonda presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to “my favorite ex-husband” Ted Turner, an EMA founder and environmental pioneer. “The entertainment industry must persuade people to change the way they’re doing things. If we don’t do this right we’re going to be close to extinct,” he said, noting that we owe it to the next generation to save the planet.” He contributes by “using as little energy as possible,” driving a hybrid, and using solar power. “I do just about everything,” he told MNN.
The event was co-hosted by Jason Ritter (The Event) and Olivia Munn (The Daily Show), who entered wearing a green “rainforest couture” gown created by a Warner Bros. costume designer. “She tied me into it, in the dark,” Munn told us at the after-party. “The whole message of EMA is if we all just did a little bit it would change the world. Every little bit really does count,” she said. “It’s OK to do what you can do, and not feel bad if you can’t do more.” She conscripted Ritter for the gig, and although he was admittedly nervous going in, he enjoyed his first hosting assignment. Ditto his role on the mysterious Event. “It’s totally crazy, but they do give you answers. I loved Lost, but you can tell when writers are stalling.” Nevertheless, when he read his latest script, “I thought I had an idea of where the show was going,” he said, “But by the end of it I was like, ‘I have no idea what’s going to happen now.’” As for being green at home, Ritter drives a Prius and turns off the eco-friendly lights when he leaves the room.
Hot in Cleveland’s Wendie Malick, an EMA board member, and co-star Jane Leeves presented the TV comedy EMA to 30 Rock, which won for its “Sun Tea” episode featuring Al Gore. “NBC has always been very committed to helping the environment. Which is why they made me ride my bike from New York City to be here tonight, so if anyone is driving back please let me know,” kidded Katrina Bowden, accepting on behalf of the show. Earlier, she told us that 30 Rock has abolished plastic water bottles (cast and crew members get an aluminum one with their name on it), uses fluorescent bulbs whenever possible, “and there are recycling bins everywhere.” At home, Bowden uses canvas grocery bags, conserves electricity and saves water by taking shorter showers.
Wilmer Valderrama (pictured right) accepted Handy Manny’s second EMA for animated children’s TV program from good friend Rosario Dawson. “More than ever we have a responsibility to infuse these messages for the young generation,” he said. “It’s my favorite awards show to come to ‘cause I get to see all my greenies,” Dawson told us on the red carpet. She’s been campaigning to stop California propositions 23 and 26, passage of which could have a negative impact on the environment.
In the TV drama category, Bones won for the episode “The Tough Man in the Tender Chicken,” in which the murder victim was the heir to a factory farm inhumanely treating its animals. Star Emily Deschanel came up with the idea, “but it really resonated with all of us while we were making it,” said Michaela Conlin, who accepted from Amy Poehler and Aubrey Plaza of Parks & Recreation. Deschanel, a vegan who drives a Prius in the show, “makes all of us very aware, and I think that’s a really awesome thing. She really puts the bug in our ears for a lot of issues,” said Conlin, whose character Angela is pregnant. With a pregnancy prosthesis in her future, she won’t be wearing anything like the formfitting black-with-sheer-panels Georges Hobeika sheath she sported at the EMAs. “I’m enjoying it while I can,” laughed the actress, who told us she carries her own water bottle, composts and vows to get a hybrid for her next car. “I got a solar fan for my attic so I don’t have to run my air all the time. My bills have gone way down.” She’ll be seen opposite Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei and Bryan Cranston in The Lincoln Lawyer next March, playing a homicide detective.
“It’s the green Oscars so it means a lot,” said Ed Begley Jr., before he and wife Rachelle accepted their second reality TV EMA for Living With Ed. Planet Green has yet to green-light another season, but if it does the episodes will cover the new green house the Begleys are building. Just back from shooting an episode of the ABC midseason drama Off the Map in Hawaii (he plays a dentist), Begley guests as Colin Hanks’ uncle in this week’s episode of Fox’s Good Guys. He encouraged film and TV productions to download EMA’s green checklist of suggestions like recycling scripts and waste, using efficient vehicles and lighting, and buying green power. “There’s a lot you can do and a lot of it is very cheap,” he said.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar (pictured left), who with Erika Christensen presented the live action children’s program award to Lights, Camera, Take Action!: Backstage With Disney’s Friends For Change, is learning a lot about living green from his kids, who set him straight if he misplaces a recyclable item in the wrong bin. “They come back from school with great ideas,” he said. Now shooting the TNT lawyer show Franklin & Bash with Breckin Meyer and Malcolm McDowell, set to premiere in June, Gosselaar noted that the scripts are recycled and water bottles are banished on set. He specifically requested that his character drive a Prius “to show he’s responsible and to set a good example, and they were totally into it.”
Charlotte Ross also talked about learning from her son, who has busted her for plastic water bottles. “It’s great that they’re learning about it,” she said. “I’ve talked to some other moms about having an environmental class where we can discuss it and work together” to reduce waste in school lunches, among other things. Ross has a pair of films coming up, Street Kings 2 with Ray Liotta and Drive Angry, opposite Nic Cage. The 3D action movie, due out in February, marks her full frontal nude debut. “I work out really hard and I own that I’m not 20 anymore, so I’m proud,” she explained of her decision to disrobe.
In the midst of a green remodel of her home, Kathryn Morris is currently developing a green-themed reality show with EMA chief Debbie Levin. The Lexus hybrid driver wasn’t out of work long when Cold Case was canceled -- she just wrapped the baseball flick Moneyball, playing Brad Pitt’s wife.
Morris presented the documentary film EMA to Josh Fox, whose movie Gasland is an exposé of the onshore natural gas drilling industry. The extraction process “injects millions of gallons of water laced with toxic chemicals into rock formations, breaks them apart and releases natural gas. The problem is, all those chemicals end up in people’s water supplies, and contributes to emissions and global warming.” Fox, who is working on a sequel now, noted that if you missed seeing it on HBO, Gasland will be out on DVD in December but is in selected theaters now -- visit gaslandthemovie.com for details.
“Entertainment can play a part in creating a better world. I believe that storytelling can make change,” said Jack Kroll of Participant Mediaafter Natalie Portman presented him the Corporate Responsibility award for producing such landmark environmental films as An Inconvenient Truth, The Cove, Oceans, and Climate of Change. “I’ve been coming to the EMAs for seven years now and it’s always my favorite awards show because it’s about something important in the world, the environment,” he told us earlier. “To be a part of it tonight is a real thrill.”
A newcomer to EMA, Grey’s Anatomy’s Sarah Drew, wearing her grandmother’s vintage bangle bracelets and carrying a vintage embellished velvet clutch from her grandmother-in-law, said she was “inspired by people who are working to leave as small a carbon footprint as possible and to keep our planet intact for the generations to come. I think that’s the responsible thing to do as human beings.” Following co-star Sandra Oh’s lead, she now brings her own water bottle and ceramic mug to the set every day.