Jim Gianopulos Honored by Will Rogers Foundation, Paul Feig

Thanks to Paul Feig, wackiness abounded Wednesday night at Las Vegas’ CinemaCon as the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation honored Jim Gianopulos, chairman and CEO of 20th Century Fox, with its Pioneer of the Year honor.

“I love Jim Gianopulos deeply and non-erotically,” Feig said. “Anywhere you go, you hear ‘Jim’s the best.'”

Feig dug up a 2-year-old video that was played for Fox employees at a town hall meeting showing Gianopulos botching an array of other jobs at the studio — security gate guard, gardener, sound mixer and human resources director dealing with the Gina and Beth characters from Feig’s movie “The Heat.”

The real Gina and Beth — Jamie Denbo and Jessica Chaffin — weren’t done by a long shot, commandeering the podium from Feig for an X-rated 10 minutes that scored with the audience. “Is that your wife? You never talk about her,” Denbo told Gianopulos.

The duo then continued to heckle presenter Jeffrey Katzenberg, who responded at one point by saying, “I already trained my dragon.”

Gianopulos took it in stride and gave a brief, but heartfelt, acceptance in which he explained that the Will Rogers foundation aids several hundred people in the industry every year. He pointed out that his studio has humble origins.

“William Fox, the founder of our studio, started with nothing but a nickelodeon,” Gianopulos said. “Bold, hardworking people are the ones who create movies … We’re here to help those people because we’re all in this together.”

Chris Aronson, president of the foundation and Fox’s president of domestic theatrical distribution, hosted the event and introduced Nashville-based blues singer Laura Reed, whose repertoire included a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil.”

Gianopulos sits on both the corporate and foundation boards of the Motion Picture and Television Fund. He has been a longtime supporter of the Pioneers Assistance Fund.

Past honorees of the Will Rogers award include Cecil B. DeMille, Jack Warner, Darryl F. Zanuck, Jack Valenti, Terry Semel, Sumner Redstone, Sherry Lansing, Alan Horn, Kathleen Kennedy, Jeffrey Katzenberg and last year’s honoree, the late Tom Sherak.

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