Taormina Fest Honors John Turturro, Fox's Jim Gianopulos on Final Day

John Turturro
John Turturro
 Nielson Barnard/Getty Images

TAORMINA, Sicily — The 60th Taormina Film Festival drew to a close Saturday with good news for fans of cult comedy The Big Lebowski and a gala ceremony to honor 20th Century Fox chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos.

The festival drew to a close with a Teatro Antico screening of Belle, Amma Asante's historical drama about a mixed-race girl brought up in an aristocratic 18th-century English household.

A scheduled 20-minute sneak peek at the upcoming release of Fox's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes failed to materialize, with the standard short trailer screening in its place.

A nine-person youth jury also awarded the festival's lone competitive prize, for Italian-made productions, to Le cose belle, a documentary from Agostino Ferrente and Giovanni Piperno that revisits a group of Neapolitan youths first filmed in a 1999 version of the film.

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Actor John Turturro, who played the colorful bowler named Jesus in The Big Lebowski, told a master class Saturday that — assuming he can get legal clearance — he'd like to reprise that role in a new film next year.

"If I can get the permission I need, I'd like to return to that role," he said to loud applause.

Turturro was among those honored in the 2,700-year old Teatro Antico, ahead of the Belle screening, later on Saturday. But the main event at that ceremony was an homage to Gianopulos, whose voice quivered with emotion as he read his acceptance remarks — first in accented Italian, and then in English.

"I would like to think that my Greek ancestors would be pleased to know that this magnificent structure they made is still standing today and being used to celebrate cinema," said Gianopulos. "It's fitting that we celebrate cinema here, because this is where storytelling began. You would not have Avatar, X-Men, or even Borat if there hadn't been Seneca and Euripides."

The tribute to Gianopulos was made with a seven-minute clip of some of the best-known films he helped make and distribute — including the aforementioned Avatar, X-Men, and Borat, plus blockbusters including Titanic and Planet of the Apes — and then a series of video clips of actors and filmmakers that included Hugh Jackman, James Cameron, Ben Stiller, Liam Neeson, and Ridley Scott congratulating him on his Taormina honor. Gianopulos said he was touched by the tribute.

"It was Aristotle who invented the three-part dramatic structure for the stage that we use today in film, and so I will leave you with his words," Gianopulos said. "He said friendship is like a single soul living in two bodies. That is the way I feel about Taormina."

Twitter: @EricJLyman

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