Hollywood’s ultimate studio survivor and political kingpin Mike Medavoy was honored as 1992 Motion Picture Pioneer of the Year Monday night, during an event featuring appearances by Dustin Hoffman, Roland Joffe and U.S. Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and William S. Cohen (R-Maine).
The 51-year-old TriStar Pictures chairman became the 49th recipient of the annual Pioneer award, which was first presented in 1947 to Famous Players founder and Paramount mogul Adolph Zukor. This year’s event, held at the Century Plaza Hotel, netted more than $ 300,000 for the Foundation of Motion Picture Pioneers, which provides financial support for needy veterans of the entertainment industry.
About 750 industryites attended the 54th annual Motion Picture Pioneer awards , which took on political overtones. Medavoy was a key early supporter of President-elect Bill Clinton.
In what will no doubt go down as one of the longest speeches made by a member of Congress to Hollywood’s cultural elite, Kerry said executives who began their careers in the shadow of the Civil Rights movement, the Kennedy assassinations and the Vietnam War protests should look beyond “money and power” in making their mark on Hollywood.
Joffe and Hoffman would later allude to Kerry’s lengthy address as a “filibuster.”
In a taped address, actor Nick Nolte remembered Medavoy telling him that he was “tired of seeing (Nolte) slowly dissipate toward death” and then walking out of a meeting. Nolte said the warning was a powerful factor in turning his life around.
Hoffman roasted both the pomposity of the event and the honoree. Recalling that he pitched Medavoy–then at Orion Pictures–on the concept to the Academy Award-nominated “Tootsie” 12 years ago, Hoffman said Medavoy urged and supported him to make the daring gender-bending movie, but “not here.”
Punctuating the evening was “City of Joy” director Roland Joffe’s speech, a frantic parable about the movie business delivered in a style reminiscent of comedian Lenny Bruce. Joffe said studio executives are in an absurd position, forced to compete for and buy patterns to “carpets” that haven’t been made, with no knowledge of how they will turn out, how much they will cost or how they will sell.
“It takes a lot of courage to say ‘yes,’ ” Joffe concluded, toasting Medavoy for giving the greenlight since 1974. “Being someone who likes to weave carpets, I’m not afraid to admit it.”
Singer Peter Gallagher and comedian Bobcat Goldthwait rounded out the list of performers at the event.
Medavoy’s accolade was significant because he is ending one of his toughest years as a studio executive. Lately, TriStar’s dearth of product has sparked newspaper reports that Medavoy was on the ropes at the studio.
At the awards show, Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman Peter Guber offered a show of support for the TriStar topper. Guber recounted his 24 years of friendship with Medavoy and said the executive has a “win-win philosophy” in an industry “where many people relish their friend’s losses” more than their own successes.
In closing the Pioneer event, Medavoy said instincts learned from his Russian immigrant parents have helped him survive controversy during his career.
“If I ever wrote a book about my life in Hollywood, I would have to call it ‘I Dodged a Lot of Bullets,’ ” Medavoy said. “I’ve added a subhead to that title–‘They Are Still Coming.’ “