Guillermo del Toro and Steven Spielberg formed their own two-person film club during the pandemic.
“During the lockdown he encouraged me and I encouraged him, we found movies we had never seen before and we let each other know what they were,” Spielberg said. “So the lockdown was literally spent watching movies, getting on text and talking for hours about the film. He knows more about films than Martin Scorsese.”
Spielberg’s remarks came after “The Shape of Water” director honored him Saturday night at LACMA’s 10th annual Art + Film Gala at LACMA.
Spielberg admitted he was anxious about being recognized by a museum because he has never called himself an “artist.”
“I never know what to feel when people refer to me as an ‘artist’ or call what I make ‘art’ because I don’t think I’ve ever referred to myself in that way,” the “West Side Story” director said. “And if I ever catch myself thinking that maybe I made something good enough to be worthy of being called art, well, I’m of that generation when as a kid if you heard the term ‘art film,’ it usually meant no one was wearing any clothes.”
He continued, “I really consider myself a guy who likes to tell stories. And directing is my vocation and it’s my skill set. And the filmmakers in my personal pantheon, whose films provided me with the antecedents from my own work, were studio directors. These are highly skilled team players who became masters of the medium like John Ford, William Wyler, Alfred Hitchcock, Michael Curtiz and many more who all felt more comfortable to define themselves as craftsmen and describing their achievements as popular entertainment than ever to refer to themselves as artists who made art.”
The evening also honored Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, portrait artists for President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, respectively.
Ava DuVernay delivered remarks about Wiley, who thanked his mother Freddie Mae Wiley for encouraging him to pursue art while growing up in Los Angeles. “You saw this child. He showed this aesthetic interest. He loved paint. You found paint,” he said. “I found that paint and I started painting… Every step she placed in front of me makes the portrait of Barack Obama.”
After being introduced by Tracee Ellis Ross, Sherald cracked, “I’m here to accept my Oscar for best supporting actor in an artist series produced by Steven Spielberg.”
Sherald accepted her award in honor of her late childhood art teacher Geri Davis, “who chose to lovingly guide me to a place of knowing and sharing my story in a way that allows others to experience art.”
The gala raised a record-breaking $5 million.
Earlier in the evening, after the red carpet and cocktail hour ended and guests headed into dinner, Benedict Cumberbatch introduced himself to Lil Nas X. “I just had to meet you and say hello,” the “Power of the Dog” star said to the “Montero” hitmaker. Seconds later, Lil Nas X was gushing over Quavo. “I love your new song,” Lil Nas said.
Addison Rae sauntered over to catch up with Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish and Hailey Bieber at their table after the trio had their photo taken by Jared Leto. Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele was introduced to Awkwafina before he greeted Jodie Turner-Smith with a hug.
During dinner, gala co-host Leonardo DiCaprio was seated between Spielberg and Jeff Bezos. As the program wrapped up, Bezos’ girlfriend Lauren Sanchez playfully stuck out her tongue at DiCaprio. James Corden chatted with Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences CEO Dawn Hudson. Salma Hayek did the same with Diane Keaton.
After dinner, Celeste performed with a surprise appearance by Florence Welch. “Normal People” star Paul Mescal and musician Phoebe Bridgers enjoyed the mini-concert hand-in-hand. Steven Yeun exchanged phone numbers with Lee Min-ho.
Toward the end of the evening, as guests enjoyed small bowls of ice cream and coffee and tea, Duran Duran’s John Taylor and designer Gela Nash-Taylor talked with Michele at the front of the stage.
Attendees at the event were required to show proof of vaccination and a negative COVID test for entry.
Hosted by DiCaprio and LACMA trustee Eva Chow, Art + Film was presented by Gucci with additional support by Audi, which provided rides for many of the VIPs in a selection of their electric vehicles. The menu, which featured ragu and crispy polenta and cod as Milanese, was designed by 2021 Michelin Star winner Mattia Agazzi. The drink list featured Fiji Water, Justin and JNSG wines and POM Wonderful.
As guests made their way to the valet, attendants handed everyone a small green shopping bag with a bottle of Gucci’s 1921 perfume.