CinemaCon: Kathleen Kennedy Honored With Pioneer of the Year Award

George Lucas' Successor
Art Streiber

In June, Kathleen Kennedy was named head of Lucasfilm as the founder's handpicked successor. If that wasn't enough on her plate, the producer has wooed J.J. Abrams to direct the next Star Wars film and has been busy in the midst of a grinding awards campaign for Lincoln. The period piece about Abraham Lincoln's fight to abolish slavery is the eighth of Kennedy's films to be nominated for best picture, but she has, shockingly, never won.  

"Lincoln" stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Sally Field presented the prolific producer and co-chair of Lucasfilm with the award on Wednesday.

LAS VEGAS -- Producer Kathleen Kennedy was honored with the Pioneer of the Year Award at CinemaCon on Wednesday evening.

The co-chair of Lucasfilm and prolific producer received the honor from the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

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Lincoln star Joseph Gordon-Levitt was the host for the evening, giving brief remarks before introducing his Lincoln co-star, Sally Field.

“I’m reading this speech that I wrote and you’re all going to be very quiet,” she told the crowd of theater owners in her opening remarks.

Field went on to trace the illustrious career of Kennedy, who, before being handpicked by George Lucas to lead his company, had produced or executive produced more than 80 films.

An eight-time Academy Award nominee, Kennedy counts among her film credits four of the highest grossing films in motion picture history: Jurassic Park, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and The Sixth Sense.

She also produced Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, which received 12 Oscar nominations.

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“As an actor, every moment of working on that film was perfect,” said Field of her experience on Lincoln.

“In an industry that is not and has not been female friendly … Kathy has beaten those odds the only way a woman can -- by being so much better than most everyone else,” Field told the crowd before introducing a video with remarks from some of the many people Kennedy has worked without throughout her career.

The video presentation, which featured comments from her longtime collaborators Lucas and Spielberg, along with her husband Frank Marshall and about a dozen other executives, filmmakers and actors, also revealed Kennedy’s athleticism (she’s an avid water skier) and philanthropic work.

After Field read a letter from former Paramount chairman and CEO Sherry Lansing, Kennedy took the stage to accept her award.

Kennedy kept her comments short, admitting that she had written a speech, but “didn’t completely comprehend” how significant the award was and what it meant to her until about 15 minutes before she took the stage.

“I just want to say thank you. This means a tremendous amount to me,” she said.

The Pioneer of the Year dinner -- an industry tradition for 70 years -- honors leaders of the motion picture industry and within the philanthropic community. Past honorees include Lansing, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Dick Cook, Sumner Redstone and Alan Horn. Proceeds from the event go to the Motion Picture Pioneers Assistance Fund (MPPAF), an industry charity that helps movie industry veterans who are encountering an illness, injury or life- changing event.

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