Usually one to shy away from the spotlight, George Lucas was almost a no-show at his own award dinner Wednesday night.
But buddy Steven Spielberg turned on the charm, convincing Lucas to personally pick up his Sherill C. Corwin human relations honor from the American Jewish Committee.
“I’m not prone to do these things, but my friendship with Steven brings me here,” Lucas said to a packed crowd inside the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel. “He told me, ‘You may not be Jewish, but we know in your heart that you are,’ so I couldn’t decline.”
And, “getting a humanitarian award is more important to me than getting awards for films,” revealed Lucas, chair of the George Lucas Educational Foundation, while also serving on the boards of several other philanthropies.
In presenting the nod, named in honor of the AJC-committed filmmaker, Spielberg said, “The last third of the 20th century owes a great deal of its imagination to this man. … I’ve talked to so many Hollywood filmmakers who decided what they wanted to do after seeing ‘Star Wars.’ ”
He added, “George casts a large shadow, but it’s a wondrous shadow to stand in.”
Also in attendance were thesp-writer Carrie Fisher and Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes,” who gave the night’s keynote address.