There are accidental benefits to showing up to a party 30 minutes before the scheduled start time. That's a lesson Bradley Cooper learned on Oct. 6 when he was the first guest to arrive to Brian Grazer's Santa Monica residence along with his agent, CAA's Dave Bugliari, for a fundraiser for Ghetto Film School, a bicoastal nonprofit that provides an education on all things film to underserved high school students.
Cooper was so early, in fact, that catering staff had yet to take their positions around the spacious lawn. "He got here very early so I showed him the whole pad," Grazer explained to THR of giving Cooper a private tour of his new home. He was joined by wife Veronica Grazer on the gravel driveway leading up to the home, the exact spot where they were married nearly eight months ago, added friend Rachel Roy.
"He brought Bradley Cooper into my dressing room!" Veronica Grazer laughed.
Brian Grazer also made sure to show the actor his office, which has no doors. "I was afraid to be alone there and I didn't want to shut myself out," he said. For his part, Cooper politely didn't shut out a pair of students who, presumably, did their best to keep the party chatter light.
"How old are you?" asked one woman, who identified herself as 20 years old. When Cooper answered with 41, she replied, "That's Dad age. When you were born I wasn't alive yet."
Other guests, of parental age, who attended the event included longtime GFS supporters and board members James Murdoch (one of two honorees of the night, along with Heart of Los Angeles' Tony Brown) and David O. Russell, along with Lachlan Murdoch, J.J. Abrams, Fox's Stacey Snider, Elizabeth Gabler and Emma Watts, Brett Ratner, Fox's Gary Newman, Gail Berman, Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Adam Shankman, Sterling K. Brown, Terry Crews, Alyssa Milano, Universal's Teri Everett, Frank Frattaroli, Hannah Simone and Evan Shapiro.
Not everyone got a private tour of the Grazer's home, but they did get an education on GFS, just like Veronica Grazer in the months leading up to the event. "We honestly didn't know a ton about the Ghetto Film School and when we found out more, we were blown away," she said. "This is the next generation of storytellers."
Brian Grazer admitted that he first learned of the organization through Russell and Murdoch, both "cause-oriented people," he said. "This is a great organization that helps kids understand the vocabulary and the tools available to express a message that, in the end, could have lots of very positive effects," he added.
Boone Isaacs keyed up one of those benefits. "It's important for inclusion," she told THR. "It's important for young folks to learn about our business and all of its opportunities. Also, it's a great organization and [founder] Joe Hall is fabulous."
Several of the directors in attendance were not only showing support for Russell and Murdoch, but there on behalf of their own work with the youngsters. Ratner said he visited some of GFS' classes, which he described as "incredible," because it offers valuable experience for students who might not be able to afford an education in the film department at institutions like NYU, USC or UCLA.
Shankman said he has taught classes for GFS. "I spent a lot of my time trying to give back with information that you don't really learn in the classroom … about what it's really like out there," said Shankman, who learns something new about himself in the process. "I'm revitalized when I'm with them, and I have a renewed sense of energy and a renewed sense of my place in this crazy business. I see myself and all my dreams in them."
It's fitting to end a night - one that started with a very early Bradley Cooper - with his close friend and frequent collaborator Russell. The filmmaker, who remains one of the biggest champions of GFS, remembers its more humble beginnings, which stand in stark contrast to surroundings on this Thursday night. "I remember 14 years ago, it was me and Ben Stiller and the Beastie Boys. We were in some restaurant in Chelsea and we gave out like two $5,000 checks," he recalled. "It's a very big journey now, and they've had hundreds of graduates from a freestanding structure in the Bronx. And now they have a new program here that James Murdoch helped bring over because he saw a good thing."
Just exactly what is that good thing?
"We start out in the community like an afterschool program," he said. "Diversity is going to come, and it's starting from the bottom. Imagination and storytelling has no color and no sexual preference. Art lives in the eyes of people who see it."
Stosh Mintek, executive director of Ghetto Film School Los Angeles, no doubt agrees with the filmmaker. "Thursday's benefit was a great success for GFS, and a testament to the important role our students and program have to play in the future of L.A.'s film, television and media industries. We're thrilled to have the support of our hosts Brian and Veronica Grazer, as well as our event co-chairs Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Peter Chernin, David O. Russell, and all the top filmmakers, industry leaders, parents and alumni who came out to support and celebrate our organization's mission and work."
A version of this story first appeared in the Oct. 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.