Al Gore, Rock Star

Al Gore and Queen Latifah presented at the Grammys on Feb. 11.
Al Gore and Queen Latifah presented at the Grammys on Feb. 11. (By Kevin Winter -- Getty Images)
By William Booth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 25, 2007

LOS ANGELES -- In the annals of vice presidential history, tonight will be something different. In his black tux, the man known to his most fervent fans as "The Goracle" will arrive by hybrid eco-limo and, surrounded by fellow Hollywood greenies Cameron Diaz and Leonardo DiCaprio, will stroll down the red carpet at the Academy Awards to answer the immortal question: "Al, who are you wearing?"

What a year it has been for Al Gore and his little indie film.

"An Inconvenient Truth," the 100-minute movie that is essentially Gore giving a slide show about global warming, is the third-highest-grossing documentary ever, with a worldwide box office of $45 million, right behind blockbusters "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "March of the Penguins."

"AIT," as Team Gore calls it, is also the hot pick tonight for Best Documentary, and if its director, Davis Guggenheim, wins an Oscar, he plans to bring Gore along with him to the stage to accept the golden statuette and perhaps say a few words about . . . interstitial glacial melting? (More likely, Gore will deliver a favorite line about "political will being a renewable resource.")

In the year since his film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, to a standing ovation, Gore has gone from failed presidential contender -- and a politician who at times gave new meaning to the word cardboard -- to the most unlikely of global celebrities.

Incredible as it may seem, Al Gore is not only totally carbon neutral, but geek-chic cool. No velvet rope can stop him. He rolls with Diddy. He is on first-name basis, for real, with Ludacris. But what does this mean? And how did it happen? Did Gore change? Or did the climate -- political, cultural, natural -- change around him?

In an e-mail exchange with The Goracle himself, "AG" typed to The Washington Post that the Oscar craziness and pageantry of the film premieres has been fun (his word) "but I'm old enough to know that a red carpet is just a rug, so I've been able to enjoy that part of it without losing perspective."

Just a rug, people. Because, Gore continued (this was on Friday during a break from his tux fitting): "Actually, for me, the most moving moments have been in conversations with people who have told me that the movie had a big impact on the way they think and feel about our moral responsibility to protect the Earth."

"He is more popular now than he ever was in office, and he knows it," says Laurie David, one of the producers of "Inconvenient Truth" and a Hollywood environmental activist (and wife of "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David) who has traveled around the world promoting the film with Gore. "He's a superhero now."

Before the film? He was more Willy Loman than Green Avenger. After his loss in 2000, a battered Gore began to schlep around the country, often solo, flying coach, giving his ever-evolving slide show about climate change, a threat that Gore, now 58, says he has felt strongly about since his Harvard days.

After the film? Says director Guggenheim, "Everywhere I go with him, they treat him like a rock star."

Guggenheim is not being hyperbolic. Take the Cannes Film Festival: Al Gore was mobbed. By French people. He was a presenter at the Grammy Awards, alongside Queen Latifah, where he got one of the biggest welcomes of the night. "Wow. . . . I think they love you, man. You hear that?" the current Queen asked the former veep. Earlier this month, the ticket Web site at the University of Toronto crashed when 23,000 people signed on in three minutes to get a seat to hear Gore do his thing on the oceanic carbon cycle. At Boise State, Gore and his slide show sold out 10,000 seats at the Taco Bell Arena, reportedly "faster than Elton John."

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2007 The Washington Post Company