Hollywood excels at honoring its legends as much as it revels in some old-fashioned, exclusive partying — hobbies both pridefully displayed on Thursday evening in observation of Denzel Washington’s AFI Lifetime Achievement Award.
Following a starry tribute ceremony at Los Angeles’ Dolby Theater, which saw Washington lauded by the likes of Chadwick Boseman, Jodi Foster, Mahershala Ali, Julia Roberts, and Antoine Fuqua, the party moved across town to the swanky Sunset Tower Hotel where the AFI board of trustees and Audi hosted a VIP bash.
“I’ve never met him in my life,” former “SNL” cast member and infamous Denzel impersonator Jay Pharaoh told Variety. “I tried to earlier tonight, but someone cut in.”
Decked out in a gold print tuxedo jacket, Pharaoh circulated among early arrivals like comedian Martin Lawrence and former longtime BET CEO Debra Lee (who Washington personally thanked in his speech for helping corral his A-list presenters).
The hotel’s renowned Tower Bar blocked off its interior lounge for an extra cozy layout, where Washington himself posted up in the first booth by the door to greet guests upon arrival. He was flanked by wife of 40 years Pauletta Washington and their children.
Jamie Foxx changed out of black loafers and into white sneakers, rocking only his tuxedo vest as he leaned against the family booth and fired off jokes and impressions, to their delight.
Oscar-winner and the night’s star presenter Spike Lee stuck close to the DJ booth, laughing with Boseman and greeting the likes of Chris Tucker, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and standup W Kamau Bell.
Beef sliders and watermelon cubes topped with feta kept the crowd fed as AFI welcomed some additional new blood aside from the evening’s top honoree — like Kathleen Kennedy, the Lucasfilm honcho who was announced as AFI’s new chairman of the board of trustees at the top of the Dolby ceremony. Also straight off the plane from a set in Morocco was “Homeland” director and EP Lesli Linka Glatter, who was just awarded with an honorary degree from the AFI.
Those two high-ranking women were also joined by Nicole Mejia, the recipient of the annual Audi Fellowship for Women (pictured below), a full-tuition scholarship created by the company in 2017 to support a promising female talent entering the AFI Conservatory. On June 10, the inaugural Audi fellow, Natalie Camou, will graduate at the AFI Commencement.
As guests trickled out into chauffeured cars lining Sunset Blvd., we caught Pharaoh shuffling toward the exit. He got his Denzel moment.
“He said, ‘You do impressions of me? You owe me some money,'” Pharaoh said with a smile. “I got a picture — life made.”
Bob Gazzale, AFI President and CEO, announced the second recipient of the Audi Fellowship for Women, a full-tuition scholarship created by Audi in 2017 to support a promising and worthy female director entering the AFI Conservatory. Nicole Mejia will receive the Fellowship, beginning this August in the Conservatory’s prestigious Directing program. On June 10, the inaugural Audi Fellow, Natalie Camou, will graduate at the AFI Commencement. This Fellowship is part of Audi’s commitment to drive progress, and a landmark investment in the future of the storytelling community.