HOLLYWOOD — He was there in spirit if not in person.
BAFTA/LA presented its lifetime achievement award to director John Schlesinger on Sunday at the Egyptian Theater, and though Schlesinger had been advised by his Palm Springs doctors not to travel, an outpouring of collaborators, colleagues and friends was there to commemorate his convention-smashing, genre-straddling career in film and the arts.
Steven Soderbergh recalled how Schlesinger’s films, including “Billy Liar,” “Midnight Cowboy,” “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” and “Marathon Man,” shaped his own work by demonstrating “one’s life is not defined by grandiose gestures, but revealed through a series of microscopic advances and retreats.”
Steven Zaillian, who wrote “The Falcon and the Snowman” for Schlesinger, said the experience gave him a skewed idea of the relationship between director and writer. “You wanted me at all the casting sessions, rehearsals and on the set everyday, and you wanted to be my friend for the next 18 years.”
Event, hosted by Leonard Maltin, featured tributes in person from the likes of Sally Field, Brenda Vacarro, Jerry Hellman and David Picker, and on video from Richard Gere, Ian McKellen, Francis Ford Coppola and Placido Domingo. There was also a performance of the Love Trio from Mozart’s “Cosi Fan Tutti” by opera stars Julia Migenes, Suzanna Guzman and Nmon Ford.
Last on bill were Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight, immortalized as Ratzo Rizzo and John Buck in “Midnight Cowboy,” who recalled the beleaguered development and production of that film, the first X-rated feature to win an Oscar.
Hoffman then read a statement from Schlesinger. “The era I was part of sought truth, however fleeting,” he said. “We took risks, we asked questions, we looked, we probed, we discovered.”