“Movies for Grownups” Gala Has Veteran Stars in the Spotlight

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Photo by Margie Barron

Robert De Niro and Jeff Bridges at the “Movies for Grownups” gala

In youth-obsessed Hollywood, it was wonderful to see the veteran stars strut their stuff at AARP Magazine’s 9th annual “Movies for Grownups” gala. Susan Blakely (awards co-host), Frances Fisher, Morgan Fairchild, Stefanie Powers, and Shirley Jones were among the stunning women who proudly included themselves among the over 50 crowd, and they all have multiple film projects on their schedules. When you’re that active and attractive, why wouldn’t you brag about your age?
The guys were also easy on the eyes. Michael Nouri (awards co-host) and Robert Forster are great examples of how some men are like fine wine, getting better with every year. Just ask Jeff Bridges who, at 60, is finally getting the recognition he deserves with his “Crazy Heart” Oscar® nod, and the other accolades that have been heaped upon him over the last few months. “I’ve been doing this for a long time,” Jeff told me. “Ever since my dad asked me if I wanted to be on ‘Sea Hunt’ with him. It’s hard to believe I’m that old, but it’s cool. I got to play with Maggie.” Jeff’s “Crazy Heart” leading lady Maggie Gyllenhaal presented him with his Best Actor award, gushing praise about how he does everything “with all his heart.”
Morgan Freeman was there to support “Invictus,” along with producer Lori McCreary. The film, directed by Clint Eastwood, was named the Best Movie for Grownups, and “Julie & Julia” won the Best Grownup Love Story. Best Comedy for Grownups was “It’s Complicated,” Helen Mirren was named Best Actress for “The Last Station,” “The Soloist” won Best Buddy Movie, The AARP’s Readers’ Choice award went to “The Blind Side,” and an award for Best Movie for Grownups Who Refuse to Grow Up went to “Star Trek.”
Making grownups swell with pride was the Best Documentary winner “The Way We Get By,” which aired on PBS, about a trio of inspiring seniors who greet the returning U.S. troops at the airport near their home in Bangor, Maine. So far, they have greeted more than 900,000 service men and women! Featured in the film, Joan Gaudet, the mother of writer-director Aron Gaudet, was thrilled when her son brought her up on stage, and she got her picture with Morgan Freeman. It was a magical moment at the posh Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
A Judges’ Award for Extraordinary Merit went to the Disney animated feature “Up,” and 10-year-old Jordan Nagai (voice of the Cub Scout who befriends Ed Asner) accepted the award. There was a great mix of generations at the event with everyone from Jeremy Piven and Marty Ingels, to Seymour Cassel and “Law & Order” blonde beauty Elisabeth Rohm, who was there because she admires Robert De Niro’s “knack for making his comedic films as riveting as his acclaimed dramas.”
Yes, the poster boy for the gala was Robert De Niro. A fellow who made his first movie in the ‘60s and has won two Oscars® during a career that spans four decades. De Niro, at 66, was the perfect choice for the AARP’s annual lifetime trophy. And a bunch of his costars were on hand to show their support and love for him. Sean Penn presented the award to his friend, and spoke lovingly about “Bob’s eyes.” Juliette Lewis loved his “generosity as an actor,” and Billy Crystal told me about “Bobby’s great sense of humor.”
A verrry funny fellow, De Niro’s acceptance speech had everyone roaring. He started by saying, “My movie ‘Everybody’s Fine’ opened. [Smattering of applause] That’s okay, I know you didn’t see it. [Laughter] So, the movie opened Friday, on Saturday a couple of critics suggested it was maybe time for me to retire. And then on Monday, I learned that my career was being honored by the American Association of Retired Persons. Thank you. It’s very special that this award comes from America’s fastest growing demographic. And even if many of you don’t pay full price [laughter], and may talk a little loud during the quiet parts [more laughter], I am deeply honored by this recognition. I’ve always made movies for grown ups. Even the comedies and the dramas weren’t made for young audiences, but for people with taste and intelligence. People like you… well most of you. Um, some of you.”
De Niro added, “I feel like a fraud. I appear to be a grown up, but I’m still a kid, and like most kids, I’m very happy for the approval of grownups. Thank you… see you at the Kids Choice Awards.”
Kudos to Nancy Perry Graham, editor of AARP The Magazine, for such a classic night, and to entertainment editor Bill Newcott who noted, “The 50-plus Hollywood community shows once again that they are an integral, much-needed element of the film industry.”

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