Quips about aging whizzed around the Beverly Wilshire ballroom Monday night at the annual AARP the Magazine-sponsored Movies for Grownups awards. For the 10th consecutive year, the Washington, D.C.-based publication paused to honor not the young, beautiful and promising of Hollywood, but the experienced, established and of a certain age.
Nancy Perry Graham, vice president and editor of the magazine who with entertainment editor Bill Newcott nurtures the awards, said, “We are catapulted to the major leagues of awards. It’s serious. We have 47 million readers and they turn out to these movies.” The evening’s impressive celebrity showing (see our photo gallery) may have resulted from scheduling the surf-and-turf dinner just hours after the Academy’s annual Oscar-nominees luncheon. Oldsters Mickey Rooney, 90, Larry Hagman, 79, and Martin Landau, 82, mixed at a noisy party with Lord Freddie and Lady Sophie Windsor, in their early 30s.
Robert Redford, the soon-to-be 75-year-old honoree for Lifetime Achievement, told The Times, “My age justifies it. But I’m not retired. I may drop -- but I’ll not retire.” Still dashing in his trademark horned-rimmed glasses and thatch of blond hair, Redford shared touching intimacies with the 320 attendees. His post-World War II childhood and youthful overseas travel, he recalled, made him see “what is wrong with this picture.”
“I wanted to tell stories about the America I loved,” he said, “but that had other sides to it. I wanted to tell [it], warts and all. . . . Honors and accolades are flattering and I am grateful. What carries me forward, though, is the work, always the work, and I’ll keep working.”
Veteran actresses tend to harbor a deeper grudge than their brethren over the dearth of well-written roles for older women. But British actress Lesley Manville expressed hope when accepting the best actress award for “Another Year,” an affecting examination of married life by her longtime collaborator, writer-director Mike Leigh.
“I really do think things are slowly, slowly getting better for women and this year there are a plethora of roles. Women over 40, 50, 60 are playing roles that are sexy, interesting and intelligent. Annette Bening, Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren have showed us that it’s not over.”
“Whether you go into old age with a partner, or like my character, lonely, the film says ‘that is quite random,’” Manville added. “The character I play in the film is in such denial about aging, she’d be horrified" to know Manville had received this award.
Phylicia Rashad and John Malkovich garnered supporting actor honors for “For Colored Girls,” and “Secretariat” respectively. Andy Garcia collected an award for “City Island,” voted best comedy.
Geoffrey Rush, on hand to introduce Colin Firth (who won the best actor award for portraying George VI in “The King’s Speech”) spun through his red carpet duties amiably. Calling himself “the new kid on the block where the [Movies for Grownups] awards are concerned,” he dedicated the evening to “me embracing my inner dotage -– in a good way.”
Rush expressed mock concern that Firth “wouldn’t be allowed in,” but “Colin turned 50 at the Toronto Film Festival.” Taking his turn at the mic, Firth accepted by saying, “When I told a senior member of my family I was honored for being a grown-up, she said, ‘Finally.’”
Taking the best movie for grown-ups prize, “The King’s Speech,” about the struggles and growing friendship between a stuttering prince and his speech therapist, proves that smart, thoughtful adult entertainment still has a hope in Hollywood. Director Tom Hooper, abundant in praise for his leading men, said “Geoffrey hasn’t lost his child-like passion and enthusiasm.” Regarding the recent news that Queen Elizabeth gave her thumbs-up to the film honoring her father, he said, "It’s amazing. It’s what I would have hoped, but you never know.”
News that the film broke $150 million in worldwide box office last weekend got the zestiest applause of the evening, second only to Rob Reiner complaining that the hotel’s black satin napkin repeatedly slipped from his lap. He was too old, he intimated, to pick it up. “I want to thank my father for making love to my mother 64 years ago,” quipped Rob, accepting an honor for his film “Flipped,” which was awarded best intergenerational movie. Reiner père, Carl, soon to turn 89, countered with impeccable timing: “That was one of the biggest pleasures of my life.”
-- Debra Levine
Photo: Sally Field and Robert Redford at the AARP Awards Monday night. Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images