Thousands of guests filled the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, California, last night for the 33rd American Film Institute (AFI) Life Achievement Award honoring George Lucas. The two-hour special event, executive produced and written by Bob Gazzale and directed and co-produced by Louis J. Horvitz, was taped for telecast on USA Network on Monday, June 20, 2005 at 9:00 p.m. (ET/PT). Widely regarded as the highest honor for a career in film, the black-tie tribute celebrated Lucas’ extraordinary career with many of his colleagues, friends and family present. Steven Spielberg presented Lucas with the honor at evening’s end.
Among guests participating in the tribute were three previous AFI Life Achievement Award recipients — Harrison Ford, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg — joined by Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Duval, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Jimmy Smits, Billy Dee Williams and John Williams; as well as AFI’s Director and CEO Jean Picker Firstenberg, AFI Board of Trustees chair Sir Howard Stringer, AFI Board of Directors chairs Jon Avnet and John Cooke, AFI Executive Vice President Jonathan Estrin and President of USA Network and Sci-Fi Channel Bonnie Hammer.
Also in attendance were Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, Adam Carolla, Robert Daly, Rick Dees, Calista Flockhart, Anthony Michael Hall, Irvin Kershner, Kathleen Kennedy, Cloris Leachman, Daniel Logan, Benito Martinez, CCH Pounder, Mackenzie Phillips, Molly Sims and Cindy Williams. Intergalactic celebrities Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2 were also in attendance.
The tribute, both heartfelt and playful, focused on the filmmaker’s astonishing contributions to the art and technology of filmmaking, as well as the impact of the epic STAR WARS series. In addition to an homage given by guests including Tom Hanks and Harrison Ford, the evening featured clips from Lucas’ films presented with commentary from five Academy Award winning directors – Spielberg, James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola, Ron Howard and Peter Jackson.
The evening began with eloquent remarks from AFI Board of Trustees chair Sir Howard Stringer, and continued with a surprise opening song from William Shatner. Performing a modified version of My Way, Shatner was accompanied by a chorus line of dancing stormtroopers with great comic effect. A moving tribute to Lucas’ devotion to his family was paired with an acoustic performance by Maroon 5 — his children’s favorite band.
AFI Director and CEO Jean Picker Firstenberg paid tribute to the AFI Conservatory’s filmmaking alumni and presented the 2005 Franklin J. Schaffner Alumni Medal to screenwriter/director Paul Schrader. The Franklin J. Schaffner Alumni Medal recognizes the extraordinary creative talents of a graduate of the AFI Conservatory or of the Directing Workshop for Women who symbolizes the legacy of Franklin Schaffner. Established in 1991 by Franklin J. Schaffner’s widow, Jean, the Alumni Medal celebrates the qualities associated with the late director: talent, taste, dedication and commitment to quality filmmaking.
Lucas joins a distinguished list of recipients of AFI’s Life Achievement Award including Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Barbra Streisand, Harrison Ford, Dustin Hoffman, Steven Spielberg, Jack Nicholson, Elizabeth Taylor, Sidney Poitier, Gregory Peck, Barbara Stanwyck, Billy Wilder, Fred Astaire, James Stewart, Alfred Hitchcock, Bette Davis, Orson Welles, James Cagney and John Ford.