Leonardo DiCaprio Talks Climate Change, ‘The Revenant’ at SAG Foundation 30th Anniversary

The SAG Foundation, the nonprofit arm of SAG-AFTRA, toasted its 30th anniversary with a starry celebration at the Wallis Annenberg Center in Beverly Hills Thursday night, and honoree Leonardo DiCaprio took time to talk about his charitable work.

DiCaprio was receiving the SAG Foundation’s Actors Inspiration Award for his work both onscreen and off, including his philanthropic efforts as chairman of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which raises awareness of both climate change and the need to protect biodiversity. He was introduced by his “Shutter Island” co-star Mark Ruffalo, who said of filming the 2010 movie, “I found myself on a deserted island with Leonardo DiCaprio … It’s not as sexy as it sounds.”

Ruffalo also had some fun with DiCaprio’s history at the Oscars. As he presented the award, Ruffalo got big laughs by saying, “I’m delighted to finally present the Acad— ah, Actors Inspiration Award — to a wonderful up-and-comer, Leonardo DiCaprio.”

In actuality, DiCaprio’s appearance and the overall evening felt less like a campaign stop than a sincere and heartfelt occasion for artists to speak from the heart. The only time DiCaprio referenced his upcoming film “The Revenant” was to discuss climate change — DiCaprio revealed he’s been “going around the world shooting a documentary on climate change and how this is hastening the fate of life on earth as we know it.”

Said DiCaprio, “While shooting ‘The Revenant,’ our team endured two unprecedented weather events that shut down the already delayed and complicated production schedule, which I’m sure you’ve heard about. Turbulent and disruptive weather events are happening all over the world and are causing irreparable damage. 2015 has literally become the tipping point for climatic instability and it’s incredibly scary.”

DiCaprio also spoke eloquently about his passion for the craft. “I truly do love doing what I do,” he said. “And I know that being a working actor is an honor and privilege, one which many people do not have the opportunity to realize. I do know how lucky I’ve been.”

Honorees Leonardo DiCaprio, Megan Ellison, Lee Daniels and Rob Marshall
Michael Buckner/Variety/Rex Shutterstock

The entire evening had a much more cordial feel than a typical awards ceremony; as SAG Foundation board president JoBeth Williams said in her opening remarks, “Now we’re 30 and we’re giving ourselves a big party. But it is more than just a pat on the back for ourselves, it’s to show you what we do.”

Videos throughout the night detailed the different ways SAG Foundation has given back to its members, through workshops, educational programs and emergency assistance. One of the most touching videos featured Steve Carell speaking about actor Joe Narciso, who received assistance from the foundation that helped with operations when he developed Parkinson’s disease. (Carell and Narciso co-starred together in a series of FedEx commercials.)

The other big news out of the evening was that SAG Foundation would be changing its name, to reflect its membership since the union merged with AFTRA. First vice president of SAG Foundation Pamela Reed revealed that the name would be changing to SAG-AFTRA Foundation.

Also honored at the event were Lee Daniels, Megan Ellison and Rob Marshall, all of whom were on hand to receive a Patron of the Artists Award. Upon accepting, Ellison admitted she was nervous and stated, “Thank you for continuing to support me, even through my darkest of times, perhaps times when I didn’t even deserve your aid. And of course on behalf of all the incredible artists that I’ve had the opportunity to work with. Thank you for taking a chance on a 24-year-old trust fund kid with no resume. But to be honest, I have mixed feelings about awards, because in the words of Groucho Marx, ‘I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as a member.'”

The evening included musical performances by Cheyenne Jackson, who closed with “Stand By Me,” Darren Criss performing “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” and “Scandal” star Bellamy Young, who wowed the crowd with her rendition of “Nobody Does It Better” at about the same time her TGIT show was starting to air on the West Coast.

James Corden and Estelle at the SAG Foundation’s 30th Anniversary celebration
Michael Buckner/Variety/Rex Shutterstock

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