The 19th annual “Night Before” benefit, hosted by the Motion Picture and Television Fund, was held on Saturday evening, featuring a star-studded virtual affair made up of multiple Academy Award nominees, presenters and industry influencers.
Those in attendance included multiple nominees from this year’s upcoming Oscars telecast, including Vanessa Kirby (best actress for “Pieces of a Woman”), Leslie Odom Jr. (supporting actor and original song for “One Night in Miami”) and Maria Bakalova (supporting actress for “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”).
Other attendees included DreamWorks co-founder and producer Jeffrey Katzenberg, two-time Academy Award winner Renée Zellweger (“Cold Mountain” and “Judy”), Emmy nominees Laverne Cox (“Orange Is the New Black”) and Billy Porter (“Pose”), Emmy Award winner Rachel Brosnahan (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”) and “This Is Us” stars Susan Kelechi Watson and Justin Hartley.
The event included a one-hour VIP reception where guests were treated to an at-home dinner prepared by Chef Antonia Lofaso, who has appeared on Food Network and is the owner of Scopa Italian Roots. The menu included a cocktail called The Mary Pickford (Flor de Caña Rum rum, Maraschino liqueur, grenadine and fresh pineapple juice), stuffed mushrooms, raw brussel sprouts, lasagna and mini cannolis.
The reception also featured a live performance from Broadway’s “Jagged Little Pill” star and Tony Award nominee Elizabeth Stanley.
One big surprise came during the main event where the audience witnessed a powerful vocal performance from Academy Award winner Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour”), who is nominated once again this year for his turn in David Fincher’s “Mank.”
Hosted by Wayne Brady, guests were treated to a concert featuring special musical performances, comedy and a celebration of MPTF’s 100th anniversary, as well as the organization’s receiving of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at this year’s Oscars. Coinciding with the organization’s founding, MPTF is set to be honored alongside producer Tyler Perry. Hersholt served as MPTF’s president for 18 years, from 1938 until he died in 1956.
Other performers included nominees Andra Day (“The United States vs. Billie Holiday”), singing a beautiful rendition of “God Bless the Child” by Etta James, along with other musical artists such as Macy Gray.
In the breakout rooms and public chats, a palpable excitement for tomorrow’s Oscars was felt among the attendees. Tomorrow’s ceremony, taking place at Union Station in Los Angeles, is expected to crown films such as “Nomadland,” “Promising Young Woman,” “Sound of Metal” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7” with gold statues.
Bob Beitcher, MPTF president and CEO, addressed the attendees, sharing positive thoughts about a year that has been more than difficult for many workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We take care of our own,” he said during the event. Funds are used to further the MPTF’s mission of supporting working and retired members of the entertainment community with a safety net of health and social services. By the end of the evening, 99 donors had donated, raising $1,839,848.
The presenting sponsors for the event were Penske Media Corporation, Delta Airlines and Target.