urx unit loader Steven, Angelina and Brad show up for Munich

It wasn’t really a premiere. But last night’s special private screening of "Munich" at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater was about as close to one as Steven Spielberg‘s controversial, but still Oscar-hopeful film is gonna get.

Daniel Craig Eric Bana Steven Spielberg

According to his reps, Spielberg flew in from New York early and drove straight from the airport to make an appearance at the film’s 6 p.m. reception in the lobby of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Other than Spielberg’s presence, it was a low-key affair, offering light fare, drinks and a dessert table. There was no "red carpet’ to walk. A small group of photogs were allowed to shoot the director posing with "Munich" stars Eric Bana and Daniel Craig, screenwriter Tony Kushner and producer Kathleen Kennedy.

Spielberg talked to a few friends such as Variety’s Army Archerd and TV talk show host Larry King. "He hasn’t seen his friends in a long time. Steven released ‘War of the Worlds’ and ‘Munich’ this year and has been working for the past 18 months," explained Spielberg’s longtime PR spokesman, Marvin Levy.

The loudest party buzz was over Patrick Goldstein’s column yesterday in the Los Angeles Times about the "Munich" awards marketing mess. Levy shook his head when he spoke of Goldstein’s piece, then waved his hands as if to shoo the story from existence or memory or both. But Spielberg did, as Universal reps had hoped, speak briefly to two trade reporters and commented on his film’s personal and political messages to The Envelope.

"I hope that people who see this movie understand that it’s a human story above all else," Spielberg said. "This film is about these five characters. Before all the other noise gets in the way of what our intentions were, this is a human story, told with a tremendous amount of empathy and told in a very balanced fashion and I’m very proud of that."

But Spielberg’s appearance was just the first surprise. A veritable second coming occurred when all the hushed party whispers about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie being "on their way" turned out to be true. The hot couple walked into the almost-empty lobby minutes before the 7 p.m. screening began and mere moments after Spielberg had left.

Photo: Daniel Craig and Eric Bana with "Munich" director Steven Spielberg at a special screening of the film at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater.
(Jeffrey Mayer / WireImage)

]]>But their timing, for no-publicity purposes, was perfect. All the cameras had already left, missing what would have been a real money shot. Angie wore slim black slacks, a black cashmere poncho (disguising that much rumored baby bump?) and high heels, looking way more elegant than Brad, who wore jeans, work boots and a baseball cap.

"He looks like he just finished moving all her stuff into his place," noted one onlooker, who’d seen video of the moving van outside Pitt’s Malibu mansion the night before on a Hollywood gossip TV show.

"I can’t believe they came," marveled a "Munich" Oscar campaign strategist. "We invite those two to everything and they never come."

But friendship is what drew the press-shy couple to the event. "Congratulations," Brad whispered to Bana, as he gave his "Troy" pal a big bear hug and hearty back slap. "I can’t wait to see the film," he added, as the three quickly slid into the already darkened theater.

By that time, Spielberg was already on his way home. Wearing a tweed cap, the director departed looking a little weary not just from the flight and the "Munich" marketing muddle. He’d also had a flurry of last minute holiday activities this week, like selling DreamWorks SKG, the film studio that he, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen created 11 years ago, to Paramount Pictures for a reported $1.6 billion.

Nothing like a little end-of-the-year house cleaning.