Matthew McConaughey, Morgan Freeman, Others Honored at Variety’s Unite4:Humanity Benefit

Matthew McConaughey Unite4:Humanity
Brian To/Variety/REX Shutterstock

It was a starry, starry night at Unite4:Good and Variety‘s third annual Unite4:Humanity event on Thursday presented by Karma Automotive.

“Celebrating Hollywood’s passion for social good” was the de facto motto of the swanky, Montage Hotel-held fete, where industry luminaries Morgan Freeman, Olivia Wilde, Matthew McConaughey, Gina Rodriguez, and Seth Rogen and Lauren Miller were all honored for their magnanimous humanitarian efforts in the United States and abroad.

Funds raised through the event will benefit the DoMore4:Good organization, which creates positive programs with volunteer opportunities that are supported and sustained by local communities.

Ketel One Vodka provided libations for guests — think Moscow Mules with sprigs of mint served in a retro copper mug — and music director Daisy O’Dell took care of tunes. “Mindy Project” star and emcee of the evening Adam Pally warmed up the crowd by teasing, “I’ll try to move at a rapid clip. Nobody wants to be at a charity event for longer than they have to.”

Wilmer Valderrama presented the first honor of the night to Golden Globe-winning “Jane the Virgin” star Rodriguez, who received the Young Humanitarian Award for her work in creating her We Will Foundation.

“Among the many emotions of pride I also can’t help but feel I shouldn’t be accepting this award,” said Rodriguez, who humbly credited her parents for instilling in her a philanthropic streak. “I grew up in the ‘hood of Chicago. We didn’t have much, but that didn’t stop my parents for doing everything they could to provide for their kids. They set the trend — they taught me that being good was a standard that doesn’t need praise or recognition. This isn’t an award that we work toward. This is me — this is my heart. This is a reminder that the world I want to live in is one of service.”

Following a short speech by Unite4Good founder Anthony Melikhov — “when you give everything to somebody it makes you happy,” he said — Hilarity for Charity founders Rogen and Miller received the Unite2gether award for their work in raising awareness and funds for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and their families.

“We would also like to say thank you for the immense challenge of having to write an award speech together,” quipped the perennially adorable couple. (Rogen noted that in the 45 minutes it took them to write the first-half of the speech, they got into two arguments.)

“I admit, I never saw myself doing anything like this, and I know you never saw me do anything like this,” said Rogen, mocking his reputation as a self-absorbed man-child. “I’m going to tell my parents this is a SAG Award.”

Karma Award honoree Freeman received a standing ovation for his tireless dedication to the Tallahatchie River Foundation, which the Oscar winner founded in his home state of Mississippi with his daughter, Morgana Freeman, to enhance educational opportunities for underserved youth — “the unfortunate of the unfortunate,” per Freeman.

“I don’t think of this as charity,” said Freeman of his continuous desire and obligation to help those in need. “This is doing what I have to do.”

Producer, activist and “Vinyl” star Wilde echoed that sentiment in her acceptance speech for her work with Save the Children, for which she is an artist ambassador focusing on the issues of maternal health in developing countries.

“After the birth of my son, I realized it was my responsibility to help women and children worldwide,” says Wilde, who exec produced the 2016 Oscar-nominated documentary short “Body Team 12,” which exposes the ravaging effects of the Ebola virus.

The final award of the evening went to McConaughey, who successfully parlayed his now-ubiquitous hippie-stoner metaphysical catchphrase “just keep livin'” — which he famously ad-libbed in Richard Linklater’s cult classic “Dazed and Confused” — into the core thrust of his just keep livin Foundation, which provides afterschool programs for underserved students, empowering them to succeed by giving them “the tools they need to make healthy choices for better lives.”

“Just keep livin’ — after my father died I started branding everything with that,” he said. “I put it on flip-flops, graffiti, billboards. I have not found one thing in this life that it doesn’t apply to. (Our organization) is gonna keep growing as much as we’re needed. Just keep livin.'”

Other Unite4:Humanity honorees were Freedom from Fistula foundation founder Ann Gloag; Liz Hausle, founder of FEMDE, a site that empowers women; David Meltzer, CEO of Sports1 Marketing; and, perhaps most poignantly, 8 year-old childhood cancer activist Dorian Murray, who was presented via Skype with the Saint Vintage Love Cures Award.