Showbiz veterans like Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese, and Denzel Washington mingled with reps of New Hollywood such as Barry Jenkins, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, and Andrew Garfield at the 17th AFI Awards luncheon Friday afternoon at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills.
The mixture of longtime figures and newbies was also reflected in the TV honorees, as NBC (the sole broadcast network repped) was side by side with relative newcomers Netflix and ESPN Films, and with TV fare ranging from reliables like “Game of Thrones” to the new “This Is Us” and “Stranger Things.”
AFI announced its 21 honorees last month, with 10 films and 10 TV shows cited as “outstanding creative endeavors” during 2016; there was also one special award, to ESPN Films’ “O.J.: Made in America.” The big winners, with three apiece, were Paramount (“Arrival,” “Fences,” and “Silence”), FX (“The Americans,” “Atlanta,” and “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”), and HBO (“Game of Thrones,” “The Night Of,” and “Veep”).
Vince Gilligan, repping AMC’s “Better Call Saul,” enthused to Variety, “I feel lucky to be here; I’m so happy to be part of this.” Gilligan has attended the lunches multiple times, both for “Breaking Bad” and “Saul,” but added, “Believe me, I don’t take it for granted. This is a great event and I would do anything for AFI. AFI is so integral to Hollywood.”
Andrew Garfield is the star of two movies in the mix, “Silence” and “Hacksaw Ridge.” The actor told Variety, “It’s a big honor to be here with two films, one with Martin Scorsese and one with Mel Gibson. I think these two stories are very urgent for these times: How do we co-exist peacefully with people whose beliefs are so different from our own?”
The set-up was the same as in past years: A brief remark on each of the films (read by Leonard Maltin) and TV works (read by Rich Frank), followed by a one-minute clip. All of the scenes, though brief, packed a punch and drew reaction from the crowd, which was especially enthused for “La La Land,” “Sully,” “Zootopia,” “Atlanta,” and “Veep.”
The room was jam-packed with talent, and benefits from the movie-TV mix. As one studio exec confided, “I’m so excited that I can geek out over the ‘This Is Us’ people!”
And there was plenty to geek out about. Among the other attendees: Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Damien Chazelle, Charlie Collier, Toby Emmerich, Jim Gianopulos, Mel Gibson, Brad Grey, Reed Hastings, Sue Kroll, John Landgraf, Thelma Schoonmaker, and Kevin Tsujihara.
Executives and behind-the-camera talent also included Scott Alexander, David Benioff, Howard Cohen, Eric D’Arbeloff, Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer, Ezra Edelman, Marc Evans, Joel Fields, Suzanne Fritz, Dede Gardner, Juli Goodwin, Mark Johnson (there with “Saul,” while his Gran Via Prods. has three films and four TV shows coming up in 2017), Larry Karaszewski, Katie Martin Kelly, Jeremy Kleiner, Emma Tillinger Koskoff, David Linde, Kenneth Lonergan, David Mackenzie, David Mandel, Peter Morgan, Ryan Murphy, Marc Platt (his third consecutive time at the luncheon), Terry Press, Richard Price, Frank Rich, Chip Sullivan, Joe Weinberg, D.B. Weiss, Irwin Winkler, and Steve Zaillian.
Actors included Amy Adams, Riz Ahmed, Mahershala Ali, Jeff Bridges, Claire Foy, Donald Glover, Cuba Gooding Jr., Ginnifer Goodwin, Naomie Harris, John Lithgow, Chrissy Metz, Mandy Moore, Issey Ogata, Sarah Paulson, Chris Pine, John Travolta, Vince Vaughn, Milo Ventimiglia, and Michelle Williams, representing various honorees, which also included “Hell or High Water,” “Manchester by the Sea,” “Moonlight,” “The Crown,” and “Stranger Things.”
AFI topper Bob Gazzale told the 200-plus people in the room that they are already winners and there is no pressure about making speeches or wondering who would win. He also reminded the crowd that 2017 will mark AFI’s 50th anniversary.
Gazzale also announced the Audi Fellowship at the AFI Conservatory beginning in August, a scholarship that will support the entire two-year enrollment for one promising female director.
Repping the AFI board: Howard Stringer, Bob Daly, Jon Avnet, Roger Birnbaum, Jim Breyer, John Burke, Christopher J. Dodd, Jean Picker Firstenberg, Richard Frank, Jon Jashni, Kathleen Kennedy, Lori Lee, Edward James Olmos, Rich Ross, Chris Silbermann, George Stevens Jr., and Anne Sweeney, as well as Boone Isaacs, Gianopulos, Grey, and Tsujihara.