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.