Despite the English roots and fanciful narratives of the filmmaker being honored, presenters doling out the praise for director Ridley Scott at the 30th American Cinematheque Award ceremony couldn't pass up the opportunity to crack jokes at the current American political climate.
Australian actor Russell Crowe, a longtime leading man for Scott, greeted the audience Friday evening at the Beverly Hilton with a now all-too-familiar Trump-ism.
"Good evening, American Cinematheque," said host Crowe. "Let's grab tonight by the … ." Referencing a leaked 2005 audiotape featuring Donald Trump, Crowe then queried the room about its preparedness for the upcoming election, "because it's a huge year. So please don't forget to vote."
However, the politicking wouldn't overrun the two-hour award show celebrating the work of Scott.
"Tonight we are here to pay tribute to one of the finest directors and producers of our time," Crowe said, more seriously. The actor, who starred in Scott's "Gladiator" and "Robin Hood," noted that Scott has directed more than 40 films, making his first at age 40. "Not bad for a late bloomer," Crowe quipped.
"Genuinely, I love being on a Ridley Scott set," the actor continued. "I know that folklorically certain tales are told about how on certain days one could consider that we both took a take-no-prisoners approach. But I tell you very genuinely that's actually what bonds us. That is our common ground. We love making movies."
The evening included tributes from Ben Kingsley, Josh Hartnett, Kristen Wiig, Katherine Waterston, Noomi Rapace and Sigourney Weaver, who all shared stories of working on set with Scott. Weaver offered her favorite Scott anecdote about a scene she shot while making his seminal film "Alien" in 1979 alongside costar Ian Holm.
"Ridley said, 'Now, Sigourney, Ian here is going to push you down and then he's going to roll up this magazine and shove it up your hooter,'" Weaver recounted of the British director. "I said, 'Up my hooter?' I felt like I was on the bus with Billy Bush. And Ridley said, 'Your mouth.' And I said, 'Oh. I can do that.'"
"I have been asked all over the world if we knew we were making a feminist film and 'Was it intentional?'" Weaver added speaking of the "Alien" franchise's legacy. "Well, yeah. It was a given for Ridley that women were supremely capable, smart, courageous and resourceful."
Wiig, who worked with Scott on last year's Oscar-nominated sci-fi flick "The Martian," took her moment on stage to fling a few jokes in Scott's direction that he reacted to amiably. "He's known for his visionary work in film as a writer, director and not to mention the inventor and founder of Scott paper towels," Wiig teased. The actress also noted that Scott was instrumental in her "groundbreaking" work.
"I owe it all to Ridley," Wiig said. "Why? He told me what to do and how to say things and where to stand and how to look and when to close my mouth. Other than that, it was all me. But I will never forget two things he would say to me while we were shooting and I will take them with me throughout my career. He would say, 'Can you try something else?' The second thing he would say — very important — was 'Please don't do that anymore.'"
At the end of the evening, Scott was presented with the award by Matt Damon, who compared the director's singular vision to the way Jimi Hendrix uniquely played guitar.
"That is really the mark of a master of any art form — in this case a master of cinema," Damon said. "Ridley, it is really one of the great privileges of my life to be able to work with you and to sit next to you and henpeck you with questions and have you be so patient in answering them."
Scott thanked American Cinematheque, a nonprofit that focuses on motion-picture exhibition and distribution and operates the historic Egyptian Theatre, for the honor. He reminded the audience that it's important always to pursue one's passion. "If you got passion, you can work 160 hours a week and not even feel it," the director said.
Scott added that his guiding mantra has always been the Nike slogan "Just do it," fitting for a filmmaker who has helmed more than 2,000 commercials, including his seminal "Apple Mac: 1984" ad.
The ceremony also included the presentation of the second annual Sid Grauman Award to Sue Kroll, president of worldwide marketing and distribution at Warner Bros. Bradley Cooper, star of the Warner Bros. film "American Sniper," gave Kroll her trophy, recounting how she let him down gently when he lost the lead in "Green Lantern" to Ryan Reynolds.
"She is an artist, plain and simple," Cooper said of the film executive, who has built international marketing campaigns for films like "Batman v. Superman" and "Gravity."