HOLLYWOOD — More than a month after obituaries lauded the screen style of the late Billy Wilder, a tribute May 1 at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences allowed film biz veterans to pay their official respects.
Tony Curtis fondly remembered, “He didn’t talk to you as an actor as much as a colleague trying to figure out what the film needed. … He was one of the real ones that knew how to make a good picture.”
“The Apartment,” a popular selection for favorite Wilder pic, was the choice of Sidney Poitier, who remembered Wilder as someone who earned respect through friendship.
Jack Valenti declined to name a favorite Wilder film, selecting “all of them.” He proclaimed, “Wilder was one of these unique and gifted people that you can’t Xerox. That’s why his loss is so tragic. It’s like a great piece of art: When it disappears, there’s nothing to take its place.”
Working in the legacy of Wilder is a challenge lifelong fan Cameron Crowe is happy to accept: “The inspiration of Billy Wilder will create the next Billy Wilder because Billy’s life and work shows how much you can do.
“He throws down the gauntlet for all of us to do better work, because he shows that you can be in the mainstream and do incredibly idiosyncratic stuff and people will show up, earning you the right to do it again.”
Others at the event hosted by the DGA and WGA West included Richard Benjamin with Paula Prentiss (who co-starred in Wilder’s final pic), Jacqueline Bisset, Stanley Donen, Curtis Hanson, Kevin Spacey and Billy Bob Thornton.