There were the glittering guests, such as Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Stephen Spielberg, all assembled to honor Warren Beatty at the 36th annual American Film Institute Life Achievement Awards last Thursday.
And then there was a big surprise; also there to honor Warren Beatty toward the end of the night was former President Bill Clinton.
Clinton reeled off some of Beattyâ€™s films over the past five decades that had an affect on him, such as â€œSplendor in the Grass,â€ â€œBonnie & Clyde,â€ and especially, it seemed, â€œHeaven Can Wait,â€ which he said â€œreminds me of second chances.â€
â€œI got to thinking I saw the movies, and only later I got the message,â€ added Clinton.
The two-hour show, which was also being filmed for USA Networks at the Kodak Theatre to be shown in an edited version at 9 p.m. on June 25, not only featured a special tribute to Charlton Heston with film clips; the show was full of accolade after accolade for Beatty. Some celebrities spoke in clips, like Goldie Hawn, Gene Hackman, Julie Christie, Arthur Penn, Harvey Keitel and Barbra Streisand, while others spoke on stage or in the audience like Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Dyan Cannon, Michael J. Pollard, Elaine May, former Sen. George McGovern and Halle Berry.
For Quentin Tarantino, many of Beattyâ€™s movies were a huge milestone.
â€œFor people of my generation, the movies of the â€˜70s changed Hollywood, and the movies grew up,â€ he explained.
Keith Carradine expressed gratefulness on what he most remembered about his first big role in â€œMcCabe and Mrs. Miller.â€
â€œI was just a kid, working with the biggest star on the planet, and Warren couldnâ€™t have been nicer.â€
Downey Jr. remembered meeting Beatty as a kid (Downey Jr. being fairly obnoxious at the time) and joked that Warren said, â€œyou precocious little snit, you better change or you could end up stoned or in the biggest grossing film in 2008!â€
According to Robert Towne, Beatty had â€œa dread of embarrassing others.â€
â€œAfter all these years, Iâ€™ve come to consider you as wise as Benjamin Franklin â€“ who was also a ladiesâ€™ man,â€ added Towne.
After showing clips of â€œIshtar,â€ the 1987 ill-fated movie that starred both Hoffman and Beatty, Dustin Hoffman took the podium and claimed, â€œIshtar shall rise again!â€ much to the amusement of the audience.
Looking around the room, Hoffman then remarked â€œIs Jack Nicholson here, or at the Lakers Game?â€ to laughs in the audience.
â€œAt any rate, I am here, and I was here for dinner!â€
There also some funny clips of Senator John McCain.
â€œWarren had an interest in politics going back before McGovern â€“ God, heâ€™s old!!â€ went one clip.
And another clip of McCain, meeting with Beatty and talking about what they had in common.
â€œI was shot down in North Vietnam and Warren was shot down by Miss Vietnam,â€ McCain joked.
Then Jack Nicholson finally appeared, to much laughter and applause.
â€œI want to say something about your favorite hobby â€“ your piano playing,â€ he said, looking at Warren.
â€œAnd I was extremely upset at not getting Dustin Hoffmanâ€™s part in â€˜Ishtar!â€™â€
Al Pacino next took the stage, and compared Beatty to D.W. Griffiths, Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles. He then presented Beatty with the AFI Life Achievement Award.
Beatty accepted the award, and expressed his anxiety at such a large presentation.
â€œSome one said this night could send a person back to psychoanalysis; theyâ€™re wrong, it is psychoanalysis!â€ he joked.
Then Beatty got serious.
â€œI love my profession; itâ€™s introduced me to the person who has given me the most important thing of all, which is her love and the love of our four children,â€ said Beatty, looking at Annette Bening in the audience.
â€œI think I wouldâ€™ve found you anyway, but I can thank the movies for leading me to you.â€
- LISA D. CARROLL