(Chicago, IL) Star power filled The Ritz-Carlton Chicago on June 7 when Hollywood legend Morgan Freeman was honored with the Gene Siskel Film Center (GSFC) Renaissance Award at “A Candid Conversation with Morgan Freeman.” The Academy Award-winning actor was celebrated for his poignant roles and stunning breadth of work and also treated more than 350 guests to an intimate discussion led by director and producer Jon Turteltaub, who recently directed Freeman in the comedy “Last Vegas.” Co-chaired by GSFC Advisory Board members Eda Davidman and Melissa Sage Fadim, the event raised more than $350,000 to benefit the Film Center's eclectic programming.
Led by Davidman and Sage Fadim the Benefit Host Committee included Michelle Cucchiaro, David Hundley, Marlene Iglitzen, Averill Leviton, Anita Liskey, Margaret B. MacLean, Bill Marcus, Susanna Negovan, Ellen Sandor and Roopa P. Weber. Gala sponsors included The Richard and Ellen Sandor Family Foundation, Sage Foundation, MacLean-Fogg, SPLASH - A Wrapports Publication, Sun-Times Foundation/The Chicago Community Trust, Marlene Iglitzen/Gene Siskel Charitable Fund, Nordstrom, The Ritz-Carlton Chicago and Averill and Bernard Leviton.
The festivities began at 6 p.m. with a lovely cocktail reception in the lobby of The Ritz-Carlton during which time Turteltaub and Freeman walked the red carpet regaling the media with their fondness for Chicago, the importance of film and education as well as the privilege and honor of being celebrated by the GSFC.
As guests took their seats in the Grand Ballroom, they were welcomed by GSFC Executive Director Jean De St. Aubin who then introduced Governor Pat Quinn declaring June 7 as "Morgan Freeman Day" in Chicago. Co-chairs Davidman and Sage Fadim greeted the crowd as well prior to introducing School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) President Dr. Walter E. Massey. Dr. Massey acknowledged the incredible work of the Film Center and the collaboration with SAIC before introducing one of the main driving forces behind the Film Center, Chair of the GSFC Advisory Board Ellen Sandor.
Guests enjoyed an elegant four-course dinner inspired by some of Freeman's most memorable films, beginning with bourbon glazed ahi tuna on a wonton or "Along Came a...Tuna." The first course salad, appropriately named “The Glory of Beets and Tomatoes,” was followed by the main course, the “Clarksdale Blues Duo,” consisting of an herb crusted petit filet and slow roasted halibut. "Southern Sweets of Miss Daisy,” a trio of delectable desserts, concluded the meal paying homage to the actor's Oscar-nominated role in "Driving Miss Daisy."
Immediately following dinner, GSFC Director of Programming Barbara Scharres eloquently spoke of the actor who has contributed so much to the cinema and whose voice has become a character of its own. Freeman took the stage alongside Turteltaub for a lively conversation about Freeman’s career, most meaningful roles and more. Clips of the actor’s films were interspersed throughout the conversation showing the extraordinary scope of his work and diverse roles that he has portrayed throughout his life. When asked if there was one role he was still hoping to play, without hesitation he answered, Satan. "I have already played God....why not," said Freeman. Turteltaub's humor and Freeman's thoughtful, poignant responses proved to be a stimulating conversation that could have gone on for hours.
Dr. Massey and Sandor concluded the evening by presenting Freeman with the Gene Siskel Film Center Renaissance Award. Freeman humbly thanked the Gene Siskel Film Center for the incredible honor and commented on how important institutions such as the Film Center were for their contribution and continued support of true filmmaking.
About the Gene Siskel Film Center
The Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago celebrates 42 years of presenting cutting edge programs, independent and international cinema, premieres, retrospectives, and classic films. Internationally recognized for its original film programming, the Film Center is a vibrant cultural destination in Chicago that attracts a diverse and creative annual audience of over 70,000.www.siskelfilmcenter.org
About the School of the Art Institute of Chicago
A leader in educating artists, designers, and scholars since 1866, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) offers nationally accredited undergraduate and graduate degrees and post-baccalaureate programs to nearly 3,200 students from around the globe. SAIC also enables adults, high school students, middle school students, and children to flourish in a variety of courses, workshops, certificate programs, and camps through its Continuing Studies program. Located in the heart of Chicago, SAIC has an educational philosophy built upon an interdisciplinary approach to art and design, giving students unparalleled opportunities to develop their creative and critical abilities, while working with renowned faculty who include many of the leading practitioners in their fields. SAIC's resources include the Art Institute of Chicago and its new Modern Wing; numerous special collections and programming venues provide students with exceptional exhibitions, screenings, lectures, and performances. For more information, please visit saic.edu.