DP Frederick Elmes also received the Franklin J. Schaffner Alumni Medal.
Even Woody Allen made a rare L.A. appearance to present Keaton with her trophy, saying, “This is a woman who is great at everything.
“Diane Keaton and I go back a long way,” he said. He roasted her looks, style (“She looks like the woman in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ who comes to take Blanche away”), and men who, he said, were the “most charismatic men in Hollywood and they always dumped her.”
He was not the only one to roast a delighted Keaton, who sat back and laughed at it all. Martin Short and Steve Martin kicked off the evening with a song routine at a grand piano. “Diane, what a great honor this must be for you,” Short said. “I remember when I got mine.”
Martin recalled some of the advice Keaton gave him: “Being nice doesn’t cost you anything whereas giving to charity does.”
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Sarah Silverman compared Keaton to tennis great Billie Jean King. “Diane didn’t want to be an icon,” she said. “She wanted to be a great tennis player. She failed, but she tried.”
Talking about her confidence and style, Silverman added: “She’s an unparalleled force. She is so go—- cool. It takes an extraordinary level of confidence to rock hats; also a well-shaped head.”
Jane Fonda also talked up Keaton’s love for hats saying, “This award is going to make a great hat stand.”
Fonda said she wore a white suit to honor Keaton. “[White] is not just the color of Donald Trump’s cabinet,” said Fonda in one of the night’s few political comments.
Meryl Streep, dressed in Annie Hall-style with a hat and tie, called Keaton “arguably the most covered person in history, is transparent. … No one is more exposed to show herself inside and out.”
Warren Beatty said, “I came to thank you for your artistry and your friendship,” while Al Pacino recalled their work together on “The Godfather” when she told him, “Whatever you do, don’t say you’re an artist.” Then he told Keaton in an emotional voice, “You’re an artist, you’re a great artist.”
Morgan Freeman had the auditorium in stitches as did many of the speakers. “I don’t know about working with [Keaton], but I had the gosh darn pleasure of kissing her. I didn’t know she was going to talk about it, but she did,” he said and then read from what he said was an interview in which she spoke about it.
The younger folks were represented by Rachel McAdams, Emma Stone, Reese Witherspoon, and Lisa Kudrow who talked about how she mentored them. Witherspoon said she was given a “trifecta of advice”: have a natural sense of fashion, use physicality to create a character, and “permission to unapologetically be yourself.”
McAdams too was given three pieces of advice: “Get an assistant, don’t be too picky with men, and always wear your nicest underwear. I did, I’m working on it, and I’m wearing Spanx, I failed you there.”
As an audience including AFI topper Bob Gazzale, former head Jean Picker Firstenberg, and Bob Daly, plus guests like Candice Bergen, Jerry Bruckheimer, Carol Kane, and others watched, Keaton threw away her prepared speech saying it was all too much. “Tonight is astonishing. I am not going to give a speech.” Instead, she sang them a song: “Seems Like Old Times,” a throwback to her “Annie Hall” performance.