Actor, director, writer and icon Diane Keaton was honored with the American Film Institute’s 45th AFI Life Achievement Award – America’s highest honor for a career in film – on Thursday, June 8, in an evening filled with laughter, stories, song and surprises at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
The televised special, AFI LIFE ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: A TRIBUTE TO DIANE KEATON, will air on TNT June 15 at 10:00 p.m. (ET/PT), followed by an encore presentation on sister network Turner Classic Movies (TCM) on July 31 during a night of programming dedicated to her career.
Keaton’s Tribute brought to the stage seven previous AFI Life Achievement Award honorees as performers and presenters for this historic event: Warren Beatty, Jane Fonda, Morgan Freeman, Steve Martin, Al Pacino, Meryl Streep and Sidney Poitier. Additional presenters who paid tribute to Keaton included Lisa Kudrow, Rachel McAdams, Martin Short, Sarah Silverman, Emma Stone, Reese Witherspoon and surprise guest Woody Allen.
Among the artists who gathered to celebrate Keaton were Candice Bergen, James L. Brooks, Jerry Bruckheimer, Richard Donner, Illeana Douglas, Richard Dreyfuss, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Diane English, Andy Garcia, Vince Gilligan, Patty Jenkins (AFI Class of 2000), Carol Kane, Andie MacDowell, Nancy Meyers, Meg Ryan, Carole Bayer Sager, Jane Seymour, Steve Tyrell, Jacki Weaver and Dianne Wiest.
The evening began with a special onstage commemoration of AFI’s 50th Anniversary by AFI Founding Director George Stevens, Jr., and AFI founding Board of Trustees Vice Chair and Hollywood icon Sidney Poitier. “‘Film, without the American contribution, is unimaginable,'” said Stevens, quoting the words of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., founding AFI Board of Trustees member. “That truth, and the belief of the founding Trustees and the importance of the motion picture, inspired an American Film Institute that would advance and elevate the art of film in the United States.”
Acclaimed cinematographer and AFI Conservatory Class of 1972 alumnus Frederick Elmes (BLUE VELVET, THE NIGHT OF) was awarded the 2017 Franklin J. Schaffner Alumni Medal for his commitment to excellence in film and television.
Steve Martin and Martin Short opened the Tribute to Diane Keaton with a hilarious musical roast of the actress and her body of work. The evening’s additional highlights included clips spanning her career and touching remarks and anecdotes from guests and presenters, with an emphasis on feminist spirit and empowerment.
The evening concluded with a surprise and rare appearance by Woody Allen, who presented the AFI Life Achievement Award to Keaton.
“The minute I met her, she was a great, great inspiration to me. Much of what I’ve accomplished in my life, I owe for sure to her,” Allen said. “This is a woman who is great at everything she does — actress, writer, photographer, director.”
Accepting the prestigious honor, Keaton concluded the evening by singing a rendition of “Seems Like Old Times,” the love theme from Annie Hall.
Building upon the evening’s theme of celebrating female artistry, the inaugural Audi Fellowship for Women, which will support the entire two-year AFI Conservatory enrollment for one promising female director, was spotlighted earlier at the event. Audi, an enduring supporter of the motion picture arts, and of AFI for over 14 years, is now investing in the future of our dynamic community by expanding opportunities for female storytellers. Natalie Camou, in attendance at the event, received the first-ever Fellowship, and will begin her journey as a Directing Fellow at the AFI Conservatory in August 2017.
A special moment was also taken to recognize AFI Conservatory alumna Patty Jenkins, whose Wonder Woman this past weekend garnered the biggest box-office opening ever for a female director.
Image: HOLLYWOOD, CA – JUNE 08: Honoree Diane Keaton arrives at American Film Institute’s 45th Life Achievement Award Gala Tribute to Diane Keaton at Dolby Theatre on June 8, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Turner)