05/21/1998 AT 12:00 AM EDT
HBO held a splashy premiere in New York on Monday for its Mike Nichols-directed TV adaptation of Margret Edson's Pulitzer-winning play "Wit," about a brilliant, outspoken academician, played by Oscar winner Emma Thompson, who is in the final throes of her fight against ovarian cancer. Joining the star and the director for the screening and supper were Nichols's wife, ABC anchor Diane Sawyer, HBO "Sex and the City" stars Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon and David Eigenberg, Aida Turturro of HBO's "The Sopranos," Harry Belafonte and "60 Minutes" anchor Mike Wallace. Thompson, 41, who brought along her boyfriend, Greg Wise, told PEOPLE that after a day's shooting, she would spend time with her daughter by Wise, Gaia, born in 1999, to decompress from the bleak subject matter. "I would go and play with my daughter," said Thompson. "When you've got a daughter, you've got family stuff to do. What was so lucky about the shoot was that I was at home, in London." The actress also hopes that the power of "Wit" will leave as lasting an impression on viewers as it did when it played on the stage. "I hope the audience gets from it what you always want from any piece of art," she said. "To have yourself shifted outside of yourself for a second."