AFI salutes Pacino

Foxx, Lopez, Stone, others honor actor

HOLLYWOOD — Three tributes but just one award were on the menu at Thursday’s American Film Institute’s Life Achievement dinner at the Kodak Theater.

Board chair Sir Howard Stringer began the evening with a nod to the late Jack Valenti’s “enormous legacy.” Following came a tribute to outgoing AFI prexy Jean Picker Firstenberg‘s 27 years of work as “a diplomat and a dynamo.”

But as life achievement honoree, it was Al Pacino‘s night with Robin Williams beginning with the line: “I’d like to raise a toast to you, but that would be 11 months out the window.”

Next came a dozen personal tributes, most done with real warmth and intelligence; some that made the idea of banning reading speeches from monitors appealing.

The crowd responded best to Jamie Foxx (“Black people love you, Al, and I’m here to represent that”); Oliver Stone (“your wicked sense of humor … great and misunderstood heart”); Kirk Douglas (who saw Pacino on stage 45 years ago); George Lopez in costume as a foul-mouthed Tony Montana, and Andy Garcia, who did a great imitation of Pacino preparing for a scene.

Sean Penn presented to Pacino whose speech rambled a bit through thanking acting coach Charlie Laughton, agent Rick Nicita, producer Marty Bregman and Francis Ford Coppola and regretting Paul Newman‘s retirement (“It makes me sad”), but the thesp pulled it off from notes he’d scribbled with blue ink on the back of a menu.

An edited version of the evening runs June 19 on the USA net.

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