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Winter 2004 Bruin Walk

Illustration of man at theater
Illustration by Adam McCauley

Guess who I saw?

Here we are in the film capital of the world, and the closest we get to the movie biz is the front row of the local multiplex. For Angelenos who want to feel like Hollywood insiders, UCLA Extension has the answer.

Each quarter, Extension offers a course called “Sneak Preview.” A combination of Inside the Actors Studio and a private movie screening, the course offers exclusive previews of films before they hit the theaters, followed by conversations with the filmmakers and actors.

“Sneak Preview” attracts real Hollywood heavyweights — the kind you brag to your friends about seeing. Kevin Spacey stopped by in November to talk about his 12-years-in-the-making biopic of the late singer Bobby Darin, Beyond the Sea, which he directed and starred in. A few weeks earlier, Billy Crudup fielded questions about his latest film, Stage Beauty. Director Peter Weir discussed the challenges of making Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Mel Gibson fans were thrilled when the actor swung by to share anecdotes about his Academy Award-winning Braveheart.

The course, held at the Wadsworth Theatre and Writers Guild in Beverly Hills, allows students to connect with a film in a way that’s not possible in a regular theater. Following a screening of Hotel Rwanda, the audience stood and applauded when Paul Rusesabagina, the real-life subject of the film, walked on stage for a conversation with moderator Anne Thompson, a veteran film-industry journalist. Hotel Rwanda tells the story of Rusesabagina’s heroic efforts to shelter Tutsi refugees during the Rwanda genocide.

“We just love it,” says Sherry Goldman, a UCLA nurse practitioner who makes an evening out of “Sneak Preview” with her husband, Barry, and four friends. “It makes you feel like you’re in the loop.”

by Anne Burke

2005 The Regents of the University of California