Katie Couric Pays Tribute to Late Sister at THR Breakfast

Commends Hollywood for helping raise money for cancer research.

Katie Couric brought her battle against cancer to Hollywood on Tuesday, telling more than 600 of the industry’s top women how important their support for the Stand Up to Cancer nonprofit fund has been.   

Speaking at The Hollywood Reporter’s annual Women in Entertainment Power 100 breakfast, Couric commended the industry for helping raise more than $180 million to search for cancer cures. The cause is close to Couric’s heart since the death of her husband and sister to the disease.  

“Hell hath no fury like some pissed off women,” Couric said of her crusade to the crowd gathered at the Beverly Hills Hotel. An emotional Couric spoke movingly of her late sister Emily’s battle with pancreatic cancer and called Oscar-winning producer Laura Ziskin “a profile in courage” for fighting the disease since 2004.

The annual Women in Entertainment breakfast, presented by Lifetime Networks, coincides with the publication of THR’s annual list of the Top 100 most-powerful females in Hollywood. Many of the industry’s executives attended, including Disney/ABC’s Anne Sweeney, who tops the 2010 list, as well as talent like Morgan Freeman, Made in Dagenham actress Sally Hawkins and songwriter Diane Warren.

The breakfast began with an introduction from THR publisher Lori Burgess and editorial director Janice Min of A&E president Abbe Raven, who told of her mother’s desire to finish her education and how they both graduated from college on the same day.

Entertainment Tonight executive producer Linda Bell Blue introduced the THR-Big Brothers/Big Sisters mentor program, which connects inner-city girls with a woman from the Power 100 list. The girls chosen for this year’s program were on hand, many of them taking pictures alongside Couric.

“They learn the power of one-on-one guidance,” said Blue before introducing a short film on the program.

Aileen Renteria, a student at Roosevelt High School who was mentored this year by Universal Pictures co-chairman Donna Langley, was awarded the program’s $5,000 annual scholarship, sponsored by L’Oreal.

Halle Berry then presented THR’s annual Sherry Lansing Leadership Award to Helen Mirren.

“I thought she did The Queen better than the queen,” Berry said of the actress, adding that one of Mirren’s achievements was “a long marriage to the same man, which is BIG.”

Berry’s speech drew laughs from the crowd, including her admission that she had “once seen a photo of Helen on the beach in a bikini and all I could think was ‘No way!’”

Berry ended her remarks by telling Mirren: “I hope you continue to do Hollywood on your own terms because nobody does it better.”

Mirren, in accepting the award, took a few shots at Hollywood’s penchant for rewarding men and youth. “When you’ve lived long enough -- as I have -- you see the talk about gender and what you can do as the old rubbish it always was.”

She then said there are “twenty roles for men for every one for a woman. That applies to Shakespeare, too. It’s why I had to play Prospero in The Tempest.”

“Hollywood continues to worship at the altar of 18 to 25 year-old males – and their penises,” she said

Empowerment was a theme of the breakfast.

“I’m so happy to be in a room with so many ball-busters, just like me,” Couric noted.