Malia Obama, Oscar-winning directors The Daniels and “The Mandalorian” star Pedro Pascal were just a few of the notables who turned up in force for the first Los Angeles screening of A24’s holocaust drama “The Zone of Interest” on Tuesday night.
The intimate gathering at West Hollywood’s London Hotel was something akin to a bucket of ice water in a social Mojave, as the ongoing Hollywood strikes have shuttered red carpets and made party RSVPs into war room fodder for talent publicists and studio communications executives.
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But “Zone of Interest,” from indie darling Jonathan Glazer, would not be ignored. Jamie Bell and Kate Mara, Simon Rex (“Red Rocket”) and DGA president Lesli Linka Glatter were all spotted mingling with the director and the film’s male lead Christian Friedel. Filmmakers David Lowery (“The Green Knight”), Catherine Hardwicke (“Twilight”), Hiro Murai (“Atlanta”), Raven Jackson (“All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt”) and Sebastian Silva (“Rotting in the Sun”) also came to catch the first glimpse of the film after buzzy screenings at film festivals in Cannes and Telluride.
Guests mingled in the London’s lobby and screening room foyer over drinks, stiff ones they would need for a film that Variety chief film critic Owen Gleiberman called “chilling and profound” in his Cannes review. “Zone” stars Friedel and Sandra Hüller as Rudolph and Hedwig Höss, heads of a Nazi commander family living out an idyllic country life in a home that shares a wall with the Auschwitz concentration camp in German-occupied Poland. As Rudolph, Friedel executes the most unspeakable human atrocities with a level of banal detachment that has gripped early audiences. Many were keen to meet Friedel, also a member of the band Woods of Birnam.
A low-key Glazer greeted the crowd in a T-shirt and jeans, joking that the “scary tastemakers” had him nervous, referring to the phrase used for VIP-populated screenings that aim to spark word-of-mouth campaigns for the Oscars. Glazer only has three other feature films to his credits, though all are widely praised: Ben Kingsley’s “Sexy Beast,” Nicole Kidman’s “Birth,” and the Scarlett Johansson cult hit “Under the Skin.” Of those three, only “Sexy Beast” nabbed an Oscar nomination though many in the industry think his follow-ups deserved more consideration.
Glazer, Friedel and producer James Wilson sat for a Q&A following the screening. As guests trickled out into the evening, chatter in the valet line turned to the turbulent present. A24 is not a signatory to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the group currently battling with the Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA over new contracts. The film itself was shot in Europe and did not work under a SAG-AFTRA contract. While the event for “Zone of Interest” was a safe space for guild members, several attendees couldn’t help but wonder how similar screenings will play out for “struck” companies in the coming weeks.
That would include this year’s golden trophy coveters like Netflix (“Maestro,” “May December”), Apple (“Killers of the Flower Moon”), Warner Bros. Discovery (“Barbie”) and NBCUniversal (“Oppenheimer”). SAG-AFTRA has specifically asked its union members not to promote past, present or future work with those studios until a deal is reached. Presumably, the union cannot police its members’ social diaries, but sharing sentiments on social media and any kind of photography might draw ire (for the second year in a row).
A SAG-AFTRA spokesperson did immediately return a request for comment on the matter.
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