The stars came out in Hollywood Thursday night for the fifth annual “Reel Stories, Real Lives” event, of which EW was the official media sponsor, to celebrate the work of the Motion Picture & Television Fund. The MPTF’s mission is to “support the entertainment community in living and aging well, with dignity and purpose, and in helping each other in times of need.”
The evening began with a cocktail reception featuring an art exhibit depicting the work of MPTF over the last 95 years — a group of silent film actors and filmmakers, including Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin, founded the organization in 1921. Following the reception, Adam Scott hosted the main program, in which stars read aloud the true stories of individuals who have benefited from the services of MPTF.
“I’m here to introduce you to some family members you may not have been aware of,” Scott joked, but the idea of the industry as a great big family was a recurring theme throughout the evening. The speakers at the event may have been A-listers, but most MPTF beneficiaries are behind-the-scenes, below-the-line workers. MPTF’s slogan is “taking care of our own,” and the solidarity felt across the entertainment community is what makes the organization thrive. Kicking off the proceedings, Scott said, “We are all MPTF.”
Idina Menzel read the first true story, “Tony & Madi,” about two industry retirees who met while living at MPTF’s retirement community. They got married, at the ages of 88 and 75, and continue to write and create — because “there should be no age limit on creativity.”
Matt Bomer read a moving piece, written in the first person, about George, a man who “didn’t give a f— about Hollywood” but whose partner, Ben, worked in the industry. They were together for more than 50 years, but it wasn’t until soon before Ben’s death — and quite soon after same-sex marriage had been legalized — that the two of them were married. After Ben died, George stopped receiving spousal union benefits because they had not been married for the requisite two years.
“I never thought, after five decades with someone, I would have to prove the legitimacy of our relationship,” Bomer read. MPTF, however, did recognize their marriage, and George now receives financial help and the services of a social worker from the organization.
MTPF Foundation Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg was in attendance (and received many shout-outs from the podium), and Dennis Haysbert, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Bryce Dallas Howard all took the stage to share more inspiring stories about MPTF’s work in Hollywood. “It’s not a charity,” Howard said. “It’s a community.”
The evening ended with a special tribute to Michael Douglas, a longtime supporter of the organization. Douglas’ friend and collaborator Danny DeVito gave him an affectionate, hilarious introduction. “You can’t find anybody who will say a bad thing about Mikey D.,” he said. “Well — maybe one or two.”
The landscape of the entertainment industry has changed enormously over the past century — and it will inevitably, constantly continue to do so. But over decades of the evolution of the biz, “the through-line for this industry is the MPTF,” Douglas said. “No other industry takes care of its own the way the entertainment industry does.”