"When Hollywood puts a face on something, people pay attention," said "An Inconvenient Truth" producer Lawrence Bender (right), explaining why it's so important to rally the influential to help an entity that's conveniently local — but with a global-scope mission: turning out the next generation of environmentalists who'll save our planet.
The UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability held a benefit dinner on March 15 that drew Hollywood's elite including several green-minded celebrities. Bender, a member of the IoES board, hopes to help expand the UCLA program with the goal of "taking this from being an institute to a school." While his next film is a "very energy-consumptive" Jason Statham action movie called "Safe," due out on April 27, "We try to do our best to recycle and we do an enormous amount of things to try to save energy" on set, said the producer, who drives a Prius, has solar panels on his roof, and a solar-heated pool.
With current projects in the works in Brazil, China and India, Quincy Jones is constantly traveling by plane, but he keeps his carbon consumption down when he's on the ground. "I don't drive, I never have," he said.
Actor-musician Jared Leto doesn't drive much either, and in fact, he got a ride to the benefit. He regularly has someone drive him, to make better use of the time to make calls and send e-mails. When he first started touring with his band 30 Seconds to Mars, he had their tour bus reconfigured to run on vegetable oil. "Global warming is such a big issue to me," said Leto, who's conscientious about turning off lights when he leaves a room. "There are a lot of small things you can do. If we all did them, it would make a big difference. If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. No one is perfect, but I think it's important to keep pushing in directions that provide solutions."
Concentrating on music of late — he recently wrapped a two-and-a-half-year tour — Leto still loves filmmaking and doesn't rule out returning to it, though performing live "can be incredibly fun. It's so rewarding and we get to see the world."
Vicci Martinez, runner-up on season one of "The Voice" and the entertainer for this event, is just starting to experience that. She's releasing her first single "Come Along," featuring "Voice" mentor Cee Lo Green, on May 1 and will perform it live with Green on "The Voice." Her self-titled album will be out in June, said the singer, who grew up in the environmentally conscious Northwest. "It's something we're really passionate about. If you weren't, you were looked at funny," said Martinez, who turns the power off completely if she'll be away from home. "I unplug everything," she said.
Photos: Vince Bucci