Altman tributes coming up

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NEW YORK -- About three months after the death of Robert Altman at age 81, several tributes have been announced for the acclaimed director.

Film Independent has created the annual Robert Altman Award, given to one film's ensemble cast and director, beginning at the 2008 Spirit Awards. In addition, memorial services for the director have been slated for Feb. 20 in New York and March 4 in Los Angeles.

At this year's Spirit Awards ceremony Feb. 24, Altman will also be bestowed with an Honorary Spirit Award "for his body of work and contribution to the ensemble genre." Helen Mirren, Robert Downey Jr., Elliott Gould, Christopher Guest, Sally Kellerman, Andie MacDowell and John C. Reilly are among the stars scheduled to pay tribute at the ceremony.

The New York memorial will feature more Altman collaborators, including Bob Balaban, Harry Belafonte, Kevin Kline, Julianne Moore, Tim Robbins, Alan Rudolph, Joan Tewkesbury, Lily Tomlin, Gary Trudeau, Picturehouse president Bob Berney and his Sandcastle 5 producers Wren Arthur and Joshua Astrachan. Altman's children Michael, Stephen, Robert Reed and Matthew will appear, and Annie Ross, William Bolcom, Elvis Costello and Robert Altman's Kansas City Orchestra are expected to perform.

"Robert Altman's films represent the uniqueness of vision Film Independent champions," Film Independent executive director Dawn Hudson said of the new award in Altman's name. "For his commitment to challenging the status quo and changing the landscape of independent film, we honor him with this new award." Each year, the Spirit Awards nominating committee will chose one film's cast and director to honor.

Altman's New York memorial service is set for noon Feb. 20 at Broadway's Majestic Theater. The Los Angeles service is scheduled for 2 p.m. March 4 at the DGA Theatre.

The director received an honorary Academy Award last year for "a career that has repeatedly reinvented the art form and inspired filmmakers and audiences alike."
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