The right people can perk up the party

Hoffman's Evans intro a highlight of the evening

At awards shows, it’s the surprise moments that tend to spice up the event — such as Adrien Brody’s smooch of Halle Berry and Michael Moore’s attack on President Bush at last year’s Oscars.

At the 2003 Producers Guild of America Awards, Dustin Hoffman provided the unexpected highlight of the evening when he presented the David O. Selznick Lifetime Achievement Award to Robert Evans before a stunned and delighted audience of more than 1,000.

Hoffman warmed up by calling Evans “pathologically enthusiastic.” He then brought down the house by performing a dead-on impersonation of Evans pleading with him in 1975 to read a new script during the shooting of “Marathon Man.”

One of the many running gags during the lengthy monologue was that Evans never referred to Hoffman by any other name than “Star,” as in “Star, you’re the first to see this script.”

Not only was the performance a reminder of why Hoffman’s been sought by producers for the past four decades. It was also completely unexpected.

“We had simply asked Dustin to present the award and that’s all we knew he’d do,” admits PGA exec director Vance Van Petten. “With the awards for films and TV programs, it’s a simple presentation that’s supposed to last 30 to 60 seconds but with the tribute awards, we’re far more flexible.”

At the 2002 event, for example, Billy Crystal got a huge laugh simply by pulling out a camcorder and taping himself while presenting the Vanguard award to Pixar execs being honored for advances in technology.

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