My night with the Hollywood A-listers

“Are you available on 6th December for the World premiere of Avatar 2?”  The conversation is usually a little more mundane when I call my partner, Shireen; what time she’ll be home and whether the salmon is past its use by date.  However this wasn’t just any week.

Rewind 7 days and I’d just woken up on a Sunday morning to an email from a certain Jon Landau regarding commissioning my coffee table, Sidewinder. Was this the real Jon Landau, the producer of Titanic and Avatar, or an elaborate scam? No sooner had I read the email, the phone rang and a charming gentleman with an American accent, informed me that it was Jon and he was keen to proceed with the order. It was for his new apartment in New Zealand and by the next day he had placed an order for Sidewinder II, Aguaviva and Genie.

By the end of the week I’d selected some lovely Cherry wood, roughed it out and sent Jon a short video of the timber, left to season for a few weeks. Within hours Jon acknowledged my email and asked me if I’d be interested in attending the premiere a week later. Does wood grow on trees? Clearly, I accepted, thanked Jon for his generosity and wished him all the best for his big night.

After a frenetic week of work with the additional task of sourcing a suitable outfit for the night, we drove to a friend’s house in North London, changed into our attire and made our way to the West End.

Negotiating a rammed Leicester square in high heels (Shireen, not me) was no easy task but we made it through security and onto the blue carpet. We were ushered past Kate Winslet and James Cameron who were doing their interviews, took our mandatory photos with the 10 metre high backdrop and then were told to proceed to the 2nd screen for the general public.

David Tragen and partner Shireen at Avatar world premiere

Somewhat disappointedly we left the blue carpet, made our way past the paparazzi, only to be told that our tickets were actually for screen one.

So, we made another trip round the square, past a confused security guard who recognised me from the first check and back onto the blue carpet to give the paparazzi a second chance at snapping us.  We squeezed past Sigourney Weaver and her entourage into the main cinema and took our seats with Bill Bailey sat on the row behind us. With our complementary glass of champagne, still pinching ourselves that this was happening, we settled  down to an opening orchestral arrangement. Edith Bowman then  introduced Jon Landau who welcomed the cast and James Cameron onto the stage to celebrate the sequel of Avatar as well as the general public’s return to the cinemas again, after the pandemic. Armed with our 3D glasses, we were transported to the jaw-dropping planet of Pandora  and with some breath-taking CGI we felt totally immersed in the experience. The three plus hours of the film flew by.

We were then ferried across London to the National History Museum for the after-party. I’d never been to the Museum before so arriving at this beautiful, ornate, Victorian building, lit up in a marine blue was truly something to behold.

Natural History Museum, London

We were shown through to the Hintze Hall, with the giant whale skeleton suspended above us,  lit up in blue of course, and we were treated to champagne and the finest hors d’oeuvres from start to finish. Midway through the party we turned to face a drumming troupe perform a Samba routine and lo and behold there was Bill Bailey again, right in front of us this time, disguising his willingness to be near me again by strutting his stuff to the beats.

The high point of the night was receiving a text from Jon to let me know he was at the bar and to come over and say hello. For someone promoting their new film with so many people to chat to, it was lovely that he wanted to meet the person who was going to make his furniture.  I don’t always get to meet my clients, particularly those who live overseas,  so being able to make that personal connection just added to the whole experience. Jon and his wife Julie, made me feel like a million dollars, complementing me about my work, introducing me to their friends, showing them photos of Genie, as well as suggesting a snap of us together.

Jon Landau, David Tragen and partner Shireen

Making three portfolio pieces for one client is already special but adding this fantastic night to the commission and being able to share it with Shireen made the whole experience truly memorable. Back in the dusty workshop the next day, dressed for the occasion, it dawned on me that Pandora wasn’t the only alien world I’d been transported to, but with the aid of a tuxedo I felt remarkably at ease in this unfamiliar environment.