It’s a brand new year filled with fresh Oscar and Golden Globes hopefuls – but it only takes one legend to remind an A-list crowd what’s really important.
At Friday’s AFI Awards, which honor the American Film Institute’s top 10 picks for the best work across television and film, Angela Lansbury surprised the starry crowd by giving the luncheon’s annual benediction.
Wearing a crisp pantsuit topped with a cherry-red cardigan, the 93-year-old star stressed the importance of community.
“I took my first steps in the business on Stage 25 at the MGM lot,” she recalled. “I remember the first day I arrived there … and I never felt so alone in my life. But thank God, when I got inside I managed to make contact with a couple of terrific directors, (including) George Cukor. He was the one who launched me on a career in movies, which I never would have had had he not put me in (1944’s) ‘Gaslight.’ ”
The event, which kicked off a dizzying Globes weekend in Hollywood, is undoubted the most relaxed of the season: Everyone arrives a winner, there are no red carpet interviews and no one is required to give a speech. “The game is, there is no game. You have won,” AFI President Bob Gazzale told the crowd.
Indeed, the Audi-sponsored event is simply a seated lunch (they served salmon and kale salad) and a place for, say, the cast of “Black Panther” to rub shoulders with ″The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” star Ricky Martin and Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys from “The Americans.”
In the room, hugs abounded. “A Star Is Born’s” Bradley Cooper, who was among late arrivals (Lady Gaga was not present), caught up with co-star Sam Elliot. John Krasinski flashed a delighted grin and wrapped wife Emily Blunt in his arms when she arrived after him. (Pulling double duty, she hopped from their “A Quiet Place” table to join her “Mary Poppins Returns” Disney crew throughout the lunch.)
But no one shut the room down like Lansbury, who stars in the final sequence of the new “Poppins.”
After receiving a rousing standing ovation, Lansbury told the crowd she was grateful for the opportunities she’s had during more than seven decades in showbiz. “As actors, you never know when it’s going to happen and whether you’re going to be The One,” she said. “And that’s what’s thrilling and what makes being in our business so extraordinary.”
And with Sunday’s Golden Globes ceremony looming, Lansbury reminded that win or lose, honorees must remember they are a “community of artists.”
“As you leave here today and are invited to endure a seemingly endless parade of programs that label you a ‘winner’ or a ‘loser’ — I’ve been there, I’ve done that,” she said, to laughter. “Remember this room, when we are all together as one.”
AFI rounded out its top 10 films with ”The Favourite,” “If Beale Street Could Talk,” “Eighth Grade,” ”BlacKkKlansman,” ”First Reformed” and “Green Book.”
AFI’s top 10 TV shows are “Atlanta, “The Americans, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace,” “Barry,” “Better Call Saul,” “The Kominsky Method,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Pose,” “Succession” and “This Is Us.”
A special award was also given to Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma.”
After the luncheon, the party continued upstairs. AFI attendees, including “Barry” stars Bill Hader and Henry Winkler, moseyed into the crowded HBO Luxury Lounge, where stars could scoop up goodies like Obliphica Professional hair products, Bose sunglasses and Kush Queen CBD bath bombs.