The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce presented “Criminal Minds” actor Joe Mantegna with the Lifetime Achievement Award Friday at the org’s 93rd annual installation and awards luncheon at the W Hollywood.
Variety’s Steven Gaydos called attention to the honoree’s extensive film and TV resume in his introduction of Mantegna, ranging from the third installment of “The Godfather” to his role as Fat Tony on “The Simpsons” and his current gig on the CBS hit drama “Criminal Minds.”
In his acceptance speech, Mantegna talked about his first glimpses of Hollywood and why this day was particularly special for him.
“For a boy who started in the Midwest, I learned about Hollywood the way a lot of us in the Midwest did – it was from Bugs Bunny cartoons,” he teased. “Out of all the cities on the planet, there was a city that was something special to us.”
Among the Hollywood nicknames Mantegna heard growing up – Tinseltown, La La Land and Hollyweird to name a few – he said “the city of dreams” is the one that has stuck with him.
“The reason it’s the city of dreams is because for me, growing up as I did in Chicago, my father was fairly disabled and so my mother pretty much had to support us for a long time. I lived in apartments all my life and really didn’t know what I was going to be doing until I was about 16 years old and I tried out for a play on a dare in high school,” Mantegna explained. “I didn’t get cast in the play, but I knew the second that I went on for that audition that that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
The actor recalled driving down Hollywood Blvd. with his wife when they first moved from Chicago to California and how that historic street has since become a part of his life.
“I remember thinking ‘Wow, this is that street. This is that street where are the stars are and all these people have their names in the sidewalk,’” he shared. “It was about 20 years later that Dennis (Franz) asked me to speak on his behalf when he got his star on the Walk of Fame, and a few years after that he was in attendance when I was able to get mine.”
Mantegna also expressed his admiration for legendary actors Errol Flynn and Peter Falk and noted that his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is, fittingly, right in between theirs.
Before closing out his talk, Mantegna took a moment to thank his wife of 45 years for standing by him as he had made his way in the biz.
“Sometimes it’s hard to be the wife of somebody in this business because there’s sometimes thought of being in the shadow,” Mantegna said. “But the truth of the matter is she’s never been in the shadow. She’s actually been the light.”
The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce also held an installation of the new 2014-2015 board members, followed by an address by board chair Karen Diehl.
Diehl suggested that Hollywood needs a “new, hot romantic comedy” to represent the state of the town today. She cited examples of how Tinseltown is often characterized as a “19-square-mile area once so seedy that Julia Roberts (in “Pretty Woman”) walked the streets.” Diehl proposed her own ideas for a new film, including a role for Mantegna, who would play the genius behind a tech startup.
(Pictured: Joe Mantegna with Clifton Collins Jr. at the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce Luncheon)