‘Sex Education’s’ Gillian Anderson Receives the Variety Icon Award: ‘I’ve Certainly Played Iconic Women’

Gillian Anderson with Variety Icon Award
Credit: Mathilde Gardel/Canneseries

For an instance, Gillian Anderson may have lost her usual composure as she searched for words on stage in Cannes on Friday to express what she felt about being given Variety’s 2022 Icon Award.

Taking to the stage at the opening ceremony of French TV festival Canneseries to pick up the award, the star – soon to be seen in Showtime’s “The First Lady,” where she plays Eleanor Roosevelt – accepted Variety’s 2022 Icon Award with a mixture of elation and humility. 

Sporting an elegant multicoloured leather dress, she’d been greeted when walking to the stage by an enormous, heartfelt roar of applause from the packed main auditorium at Cannes’ legendary Palais des Festivals, also site of the Cannes Festival. 

“I Googled what ‘icon’ actually meant to see how I identified with being given this award,” she said hesitantly, beginning her speech.

“What I can certainly say is that I have played a lot of iconic women in my very long career. Women who have come through barriers and decades to stand above the rest in dramas and in our hearts,” Anderson said. 

And she listed just a few:: Dana Scully, Miss Havisham, Margo Channing, Blanche DuBois, Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball, Margaret Thatcher, Eleanor Roosevelt and David Bowie.  

“I’m very honoured,” she said, concluding – when others would argue that she’d shown consistently impeccable taste playing exceptional women – and men – who were, in many ways, decades before their time.

Anderson’s speech was interrupted by spontaneous applause from the audience, particularly from younger parts of the auditorium for Showtime’s upcoming “The First Lady.”

Just before Anderson was given the Variety Icon Award,  Sydney Sweeney had accepted the Madame Figaro Rising Star Award at the same Canneseries opening ceremony.  

Dazzling in a back tiered dress, Sweeney thanked Sam Levinson, creator of “Euphoria,” and Mike White, who created and directed “The White Lotus,” both HBO series,“for believing in me and giving me a space to creatively develop my characters.”  She also gave a shout out to HBO for allowing these creators to “fully express their vision,” and went on to thank her family. 

“None of this would be possible if my Mum and Dad didn’t believe in my 12-year-old self who had really big dreams and a vision,” Sweeney added to appreciative applause.