American Film Institute honours Morgan Freeman at AFI Life Achievement Award Gala

MUMBAI: Acting great Morgan Freeman joined the list of film luminaries who have received the highest honor for a career in film – the 39th AFI Life Achievement Award.

Freeman’s inspiration and mentor, Sidney Poitier, who was honored with the AFI Life Achievement Award in 1992, said that "the movies matter, as do their players" and continued by saying that films are stories "told through drama, comedy, epics (and) westerns…tonight we are here for a man who has mastered them all."

After a heart-felt tribute by Poitier, Betty White performed her own comical rendition of the classic show tune Hello Dolly entitled Hello Morgan accompanied by six chorus men. White shared the screen with Freeman in the 1998 feature, Hard Rain.

The Electric Company alum Rita Moreno, who was moved to be back on Stage 15 where she previously performed, shared her experiences of working with Freeman and his litany of movies through a sassy self-written poem. Moreno is one of the few artists to have received the Oscar, the Emmy, the Tony and the Grammy.

One of the many highlights of the evening was legendary country music superstar Garth Brooks’ stirring rendition of Lean on Me, which was featured in the 1989 feature film of the same name. Finally, Freeman accepted the prestigious award from friend and frequent collaborator, Clint Eastwood, recipient of the AFI Life Achievement Award in 1996.

In accepting the honor, Freeman attributed his drive and passion for acting to his hero, Sidney Poitier, saying, "It seems like the world is upside down when you are here in the audience watching me and I am on stage getting an award. Everyone has his own heaven. For me, heaven has always been about acting in the movies. Acting to me means living. It’s what I do… and tonight you’ve told me I’m pretty good at it."

Among the other guests present were: Casey Affleck, Camilla Alves, Gisele Bundchen, Hebe Carmago, Don Cheadle, Ana de la Requera, Fran Drescher, Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds, Cary Elwes, Peter Gallagher, Cuba Gooding Jr., Djimon Hounsou, Samuel L. Jackson, Kimora Lee Simmons, Virginia Madsen, Paz Vega and Ben Vereen, among others.

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