Okay, you want names? There were names. There was Christopher Reeve, sitting in a row directly behind Sam Waterston, who was sitting in the same row with Greta Scacchi, who was not far from Celeste Holm.

Well, there was no one really ordinary at last night's 25th anniversary celebration of the partnership of film director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant at the American Film Institute. There were actors (alumni of Merchant Ivory Productions) -- and others in the business of film and the arts -- and diplomats and the usual journalistic suspects.

But the ratio of stars to total crowd -- the theater was filled -- was high, and all came, as one might expect, offering words of affection and respect for Merchant and Ivory. The team, whose biggest hit has been "Room With a View," is known for literate productions of literate work.

"I think, speaking for the actors here and all around the world who have worked in a Merchant Ivory film, we would all drop anything to come back and work for them," actor Christopher Reeve, who was in "The Bostonians," told the group assembled at the AFI theater in the Kennedy Center.

According to Reeve, the set was so homey and Indian producer Merchant cooked so often for everyone that "we had T-shirts made up that said, 'I did it all for curry,' " Reeve said.

Last night's party opened with the Washington premiere of their newest film, "Maurice," based on the posthumously published E.M. Forster novel about several young men struggling with their sexuality in early 20th-century England. The screening, followed by a dinner at the Watergate, kicked off AFI's tribute showing of Merchant Ivory films that runs through Oct. 31.

Last night's occasion being black tie, most were in black, the men and the women, with a flash of color and beading here and there.

And almost everyone who has worked with Ivory and Merchant echoed Reeve's comments.

"Usually when you finish a film, you don't see the people you worked with again," said Greta Scacchi, who was in "Heat and Dust" and can be seen in the recently released Diane Kurys film, "A Man in Love" (but looks different because her hair is very short now). "You have enough grievances not to want to see them again. But with Jim and Ismail, I think of them as friends."

"He's the sweetest director I've ever worked with," said actor Perry King, who worked for Ivory in "The Wild Party." "And he loves actors, which is rare."

"There was always a sense of play, an experiment," Sam Waterston said of his time on the set of the 1972 film "Savages." "Jim still has the original reason people get into this business. I haven't seen 'Savages' in years and years, but I used to think it was the best piece of screen acting I've ever done."

This screening of "Maurice" won Merchant and Ivory a standing ovation from the AFI crowd. Lead actor James Wilby would neither predict nor fret over what the movie-going population would think of this movie, which delicately, but openly, deals with being gay. "You can't please everyone," Wilby said. "You can't worry about it."

The men of the hour spent most of the night being talked to and talked about, escorted from party to dinner.

"It's a marvelous feeling to have these people here," Merchant said. "Like a family from so many continents." As for the accolades, well, he concluded, "It goes to show that if you believe in what you're doing, things will work out."

Kara Swisher contributed to this report.