The Stars Align as American Film Institute Honors Shirley MacLaine at 40th AFI Life Achievement Award Gala
Last night, stage and screen legend Shirley MacLaine was lauded with the 40th annual AFI Life Achievement Award — the highest honor for a career in film. Some of Hollywood's most revered luminaries turned out to pay tribute to one of America's most beloved artists. The gala, entitled "TV Land Presents: AFI Life Achievement Award Honoring Shirley MacLaine," was taped at historic Stage 15 at Sony Pictures Studios last evening and will air on TV Land on Sunday, June 24 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT.
The evening's festivities kicked off with MacLaine entering the gala of over 1,000 attendees to "If My Friends Could See Me Now," a song she made famous in the 1969 screen version of "Sweet Charity." Immediately following dinner, Warren Beatty, MacLaine's brother, Academy Award®-winning actor and fellow AFI Life Achievement Award recipient (2008), talked about how the AFI Life Achievement Award was established in 1973 to ensure that "the great masters of film may take their deserved place in history beside leaders in other arts" and introduced the award recipients in attendance to celebrate MacLaine and the award's 40th anniversary — Sidney Poitier (1992), Jack Nicholson (1994), Steven Spielberg (1995), Meryl Streep (2004) and Morgan Freeman (2011).
Academy Award®-winning actress Julia Roberts took the stage to speak about MacLaine's love for playing cards and "the boys" of her life — Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and even Chicago mob boss, Sam Giancana. Fellow "Steel Magnolias" star Sally Field paid tribute to MacLaine by saying, "She is generous beyond a fault, a one of a kind original and an extraordinary actor. She's a renowned world traveler who collects people. They are her most valued treasures. And I'm very proud to be included in her lifelong collection." Dakota Fanning ("I Am Sam") and Katherine Heigl ("27 Dresses") both spoke about how MacLaine had inspired them in their own journeys in Hollywood. John Travolta introduced an inspiring video with footage from "Sweet Charity" and described MacLaine as "a woman who does it all — but always first — a dancer." He went on to say that she "fills the world with a presence never seen before."
Last year's AFI Life Achievement Award recipient, Morgan Freeman, recounted MacLaine's impressive journey that led her to where she is today, and Elizabeth McGovern, who stars on "Downton Abbey," shared a never-before-seen clip from the hit PBS series (returning in 2013) that featured MacLaine and Dame Maggie Smith.
Comedian Don Rickles had the ballroom in stitches as only he can, while also sincerely noting that MacLaine has "charm, warmth, class and is a person who makes you feel at home and loved on and off the screen." In addition, Senator George McGovern and U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich spoke eloquently about MacLaine's activism and passion to make a difference in the world through her support of the political process.
The evening was peppered with video tributes from the likes of Mikhail Baryshnikov, Jack Black, James L. Brooks, Stephen Hawking, Goldie Hawn, Nicole Kidman, 2010 AFI Life Achievement recipient Mike Nichols and Charlize Theron.
The evening culminated with 2004 AFI Life Achievement Award honoree and Academy Award®-winner Meryl Streep presenting the prestigious award to her friend, Shirley MacLaine. Streep said, "There are some performers who are indelible. You fall for them early. You fall hard. And you follow them the rest of your life. That's our Shirl."
Upon receiving the award, MacLaine took the stage and spoke about the women at her table — Jennifer Aniston, Sally Field, Melanie Griffith, Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep. She said they were "my other half of the sky and my sustained belief that you women will make the world a better place." She went on to say, "Thank you to the fabulous leading men I've had the pleasure of making love to, on and off the screen," and adding, "When you're in my life, you never get away — even if you die." MacLaine closed by saying, "My one piece of assurance to all of us who are overachievers: don't worry, what we don't get done now, we will the next time around — if we keep our feet firmly planted on the ground and our heads in the stars, and always listen to the mothers and the women in our lives."
Among the many other guests present to honor MacLaine were Toni Collette, Carrie Fisher, Peter Fonda, Marcia Gay Harden, Dennis Haysbert, Deborah Secco, Tom Skerritt, Cecilia Suarez and Mena Suvari.
Proceeds from the AFI Life Achievement Award gala directly support the Institute's national education programs and the preservation of American film history. HP is the Presenting Sponsor of the gala tribute. Official Sponsors include Audi of America, Deloitte, Verizon Digital Media Services and American Airlines — the official airline of AFI, with additional support provided by Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills and Stella Artois.
"TV Land Presents: The AFI Life Achievement Award Honoring Shirley MacLaine" was produced by Bob Gazzale and Chris Merrill for the American Film Institute and was directed by Louis J. Horvitz.
About the American Film Institute
AFI is America's promise to preserve the history of the motion picture, to honor the artists and their work and to educate the next generation of storytellers. AFI provides leadership in film, television and digital media and is dedicated to initiatives that engage the past, the present and the future of the moving image arts.
AFI preserves the legacy of America's film heritage for future generations through the AFI Archive, comprised of rare footage from across the history of the moving image and the AFI Catalog of Feature Films, an authoritative record of American films from 1893 to the present.
AFI honors the artists and their work through a variety of annual programs and special events, including the AFI Life Achievement Award and AFI Awards. Celebrating its 40th year, the AFI Life Achievement Award has remained the highest honor for a career in film while AFI Awards, the Institute's almanac for the 21st century, honors the most outstanding motion pictures and television programs of the year. AFI's 100 Years…100 Movies television events and movie reference lists have introduced and reintroduced classic American movies to millions of film lovers. And as the largest nonprofit exhibitor in the United States, AFI offers film enthusiasts a variety of events throughout the year, including AFI Fest presented by Audi, the Institute's annual celebration of excellence in global cinema; AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs, the largest documentary festival in the U.S., celebrating its 10th edition this year; and year-round programming at the AFI Silver Theatre in the Washington, DC area.
AFI educates the next generation of storytellers at its world-renowned AFI Conservatory, named the #1 film school in the world by The Hollywood Reporter for the quality of its instructors and speakers, and its "glittering parade of alumni." AFI Conservatory offers a two-year Master of Fine Arts degree in six filmmaking disciplines: Cinematography, Directing, Editing, Producing, Production Design and Screenwriting. Aspiring artists learn from the masters in a collaborative, hands-on production environment with an emphasis on storytelling.
About the AFI Life Achievement Award
The highest honor given for a career in film, the AFI Life Achievement Award was established by the AFI Board of Trustees on February 26, 1973. It is presented to a single honoree each year based on the following criteria as mandated through a resolution passed by the AFI Board of Trustees: "The recipient should be one whose talent has in a fundamental way advanced the film art; whose accomplishment has been acknowledged by scholars, critics, professional peers and the general public; and whose work has stood the test of time."
2012 AFI Life Achievement Award honoree Shirley MacLaine joins an esteemed group of individuals who have been chosen for this distinguished honor since its inception in 1973: John Ford (1973), James Cagney (1974), Orson Welles (1975), William Wyler (1976), Bette Davis (1977), Henry Fonda (1978), Alfred Hitchcock(1979), James Stewart (1980), Fred Astaire (1981), Frank Capra (1982), John Huston (1983), Lillian Gish (1984), Gene Kelly (1985), Billy Wilder (1986), Barbara Stanwyck (1987), Jack Lemmon (1988), Gregory Peck (1989), Sir David Lean (1990), Kirk Douglas (1991), Sidney Poitier (1992), Elizabeth Taylor (1993), Jack Nicholson (1994), Steven Spielberg (1995), Clint Eastwood (1996), Martin Scorsese (1997), Robert Wise (1998), Dustin Hoffman (1999), Harrison Ford (2000), Barbra Streisand (2001), Tom Hanks (2002), Robert De Niro (2003), Meryl Streep (2004), George Lucas (2005), Sean Connery (2006), Al Pacino (2007), Warren Beatty (2008), Michael Douglas (2009), Mike Nichols (2010) and Morgan Freeman (2011).
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