LOS ANGELES — Hollywood is trying to get back to normal. But the pandemic is still ever-present.
That proved true at Tuesday night’s Elle Women in Hollywood Celebration, held at the just-opened Academy Museum of Motion Pictures and set to honor A-listers including “Eternals” stars Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Gemma Chan and Lauren Ridloff, along with director Chloé Zhao, who all attended the film’s world premiere Monday night just up the street.
But the guest list was missing those faces at Tuesday's event, as Elle editor-in-chief Nina Garcia explained onstage at the beginning of the evening.
Garcia said the "Eternals" cast “were just” exposed to COVID-19. “To keep everyone safe, those superheroes are now in super-isolation,” said Garcia.
She gave a nod to pandemic protocol: “Sorry, but that is the new reality.”
(Tuesday's Elle dinner offered stringent COVID policies, requiring proof of vaccine and a PCR test within the last 48 hours.)
Disney confirmed a “possible” exposure to USA TODAY. “Earlier today we were made aware of a possible exposure to COVID-19, and while all of our talent have tested negative, out of an abundance of caution, we are pivoting to virtual appearances rather than in-person events,” a Disney spokesperson said in a statement.
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Jon M. Chu presented for Chan, whom he directed in “Crazy Rich Asians.” “I’m so honored to know you –“ he said mid-speech. “I wish she was here!” Chan sent in a brief video of thanks, as did Ridloff.
Demi Moore gave an introduction for her “powerhouse” friend Hayek (“the only other person who has as many rescue dogs as I do, maybe more”), and then read the “Eternals” star’s remarks in her absence. Jolie also sent in her acknowledgments, which Eva Longoria read on her behalf.
“I am thinking tonight of all of the women who are bringing us through the pandemic," Jolie wrote in her speech. "The scientists, the doctors and nurses, so many others who are showing us what strength and sacrifice are and whose contribution transcends borders."
Jolie's remarks lauded the global “Eternals” cast and also highlighted the struggle displaced women face around the world. “While we fight here, we have to look outside to the women and girls who are refugees, who are stateless, who are facing hunger and violence and are fighting every day for basic rights and respect."
Gal Gadot earns laughs with 'Imagine' moment
Honorees present at the event Tuesday evening included Halle Berry, Jennifer Hudson, Rita Moreno and Gal Gadot.
Gadot, who was introduced by her “Wonder Woman” director Patty Jenkins, took a moment to poke fun at herself, singing “Imagine” lyrics at the podium in a nod to her panned pandemic video that assembled a coterie of stars.
Laughter ensued from the crowd that included Ciara, Lena Waithe, Hailey Bieber, Debbie Allen and TikTok star Addison Rae. Gadot also took a moment to “bust” a Hollywood stereotype: “We’ve all heard stories about the ‘Hollywood diva,’ right? I must say, I’ve been doing this long enough and I’ve never met her.”
But it was Moreno who inspired attendees into rapt silence as she recalled shopping in the very building that now houses the Academy Museum, back in 1957 when she was 17 and it was the flagship May Co. department store. The Oscar winner sang bars of “Dream," memorably sung by Frank Sinatra, in the rooftop open-air space against the backdrop of the twinkling city, holding the audience in the palm of her hand.
“My career did not jump out of an express elevator (and go) all the way to the top!” she reminded. “But what a ride.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Eternals' stars encounter 'possible' COVID exposure, skip Elle event