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Upon learning that Oprah Winfrey would be tackling her character in the upcoming remake of Terms of Endearment, Academy Award winner Shirley MacLaine had only one thing to say: Winfrey should be president. MacLaine made the comment Thursday at the Austin Film Society’s Texas Film Awards, where she walked the red carpet with AFS founder Richard Linklater before being honored with the lifetime achievement award.
Politics, and the president, were frequent topics of conversation throughout the night, with MacLaine also questioning her choice to regularly follow the news. “I’m really having a problem right now because I am a news junkie, and I’m deciding whether that will make me really, totally crazy or not,” she explained.
The awards act as a fundraiser for AFS and celebrate Texas films and filmmakers, as well as those who have an impact on Texan cinema. Other honorees included Rising Star award winner Tye Sheridan (Mud), Oscar-nominated producer Sarah Green (producer of Texas-made films including Terrence Malick’s Song to Song, premiering tonight at SXSW in Austin, and Tree of Life), Loving director Jeff Nichols and documentarian Hector Galan. Presenters included Michael Shannon, Nick Kroll and former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros.
Galan also referenced the current political climate, explaining that many in the Latino community are scared of being taken from their families. He implored budding filmmakers “to tell the truth” with their stories.
The event also featured touching tributes to Debbie Reynolds and Bill Paxton, both Texas natives, who died Dec. 28 and Feb. 25, respectively. Paxton’s tribute included prerecorded messages from actors Kevin Bacon — who worked with Paxton on Apollo 13 — and Tom Cruise, who co-starred with Paxton in 2014’s Edge of Tomorrow.
Naturally, the evening also focused on Texas and, in particular, its capitol, Austin. Upon accepting her awards — and joking about making earrings out of them — MacLaine praised the “artistic environment” of Austin. “Art is man’s attempt to preserve his imagination against time,” she said.
Looking back on her career, MacLaine added that she’s seen a shift in the industry that’s brought forth a lot of opportunity for small, independent films, a development she celebrated as she also articulated a new goal as an entertainer and artist: “I’ve decided that what I want to devote my life to now is to serve the quadrant that is forgotten and underserved in our life: the older people. I want to do things that celebrate the wisdom and what’s left of all of them.”
In closing her acceptance speech, MacLaine put to rest any doubts about her desire to keep working. “I want to thank you for reminding me that I am not going anywhere, and anyways, I would come back right away.”
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