New Mexico Governor Holds Dinner To Thank Clooney & Spacey

George Clooney at the 65th Venice Film Festival (Aug. 2008) George Clooney at the 65th Venice Film Festival (Aug. 2008)

Gov. Bill Richardson hosted a star-studded dinner party last weekend to thank moviemakers and celebrities, including George Clooney, Kevin Spacey and Paul Sorvino, for shooting films in the state.

Clooney and Spacey have been in New Mexico filming the action-comedy “The Men Who Stare at Goats.” Sorvino has been working on “Doc West,” a feature-length film for Italian television that is shooting around Santa Fe.

Other guests included Grant Heslov, director of “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” and Mary McCormack, star of the Universal Network Television series “In Plain Sight,” which is filming around Albuquerque.

The stars joined members of New Mexico’s arts and business communities — including actress Ali MacGraw, a local resident — for a main course of grilled beef filet and Guinness cake for dessert.

Richardson, a second-term Democrat who is expected to be named Commerce Secretary by President-elect Barack Obama, has pushed filmmaking as an economic development tool in New Mexico.

Lured by hefty financial incentives and the availability of production facilities and technical crews, more than 110 feature films and television series have been shot in the state, earning it the nickname “Tamalewood.”

This year’s Oscar-winning “No Country for Old Men” — based on the novel by Santa Fe resident Cormac McCarthy — was shot almost entirely in New Mexico. Three other films made here — “3:10 to Yuma,” “In the Valley of Elah” and “Transformers” — also nabbed Oscar nominations.

Richardson likes to welcome moviemakers at the mansion as a way of thanking them for their contribution, said Eric Witt, the governor’s entertainment adviser.

“That kind of personal touch really helps us in terms of recruiting return projects,” Witt said. “It’s very impressive to production executives … also to the key talent, that the chief executive of the state cares that much and is that accessible and that available to projects.”

And the good feelings are apparently mutual.

Witt said Sorvino — a sculptor and opera singer in addition to being a noted film and television actor — thanked the governor for his hospitality and burst into song, regaling the dinner crowd with Italian arias.

It was totally spontaneous,” the aide said.

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