Tony Danza came out of the gate right away with a promise. A promise that he was the anti-Ricky Gervais as he took the hosting reins of AARP’s 19th Annual Movies for Grownups Awards.
The ceremonies were held Jan. 11 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and will be broadcast Sunday night on PBS’s “Great Performances.”
Eschewing Gervais-type jokes aimed at the entertainment industry or specific people in it, which included a starry contingent of Hollywood legends in the room like Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, Alan Alda, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson and Diane Ladd, Danza instead focused on the subject everyone faces — aging.
“There are three stages in life: youth, middle age and ‘you look good.’ Welcome to everyone here tonight. You all look good,” he said, before lamenting what could’ve been a great role for him in a popular film.
“I’m the only Italian in showbiz who didn’t have a part in ‘The Irishman.’ Even the Irishman was played by an Italian. I didn’t even get to audition, but then again that was the same situation with ‘Little Women,’” Danza remarked.
The awards celebrate 2019’s standout films that appeal to the 50+ audience — and the creative talent involved both in front of and behind the camera.
Among the winners were two actors who have already garnered some of this season’s top trophies — Renée Zellweger for her role as Judy Garland in “Judy” and Laura Dern for her streetwise, savvy — and sexy — divorce lawyer in “Marriage Story.”
Dern’s statuette was presented by her mother, Diane Ladd, whom Dern called her muse and the person who taught her about being a hard worker from the time she started her show business career while still a teenager, amid her parents’ initial disapproval.
Dern, who also co-stars in “Little Women,” said she had recently turned 50 and got the infamous letter in the mail from AARP, a milestone that many other recipients publicly disavowed, jokingly saying they either threw it away or, in Conan O’Brien’s case, that it ruined his birthday. But Dern waxed euphoric about her current stage in life, saying it’s an amazingly fun and creative time for her.
Another recently turned 50-year-old, Noah Baumbach, was awarded the best screenwriter honor for “Marriage Story,” starring Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson.
Alda presented him the statuette, noting that Baumbach has accomplished something that’s never been done, making a movie about divorce that’s also a love story. To a huge round of applause from the audience, Alda also noted that he’s never considered divorce, although his wife, Arlene, may have. They have been married for 62 years.
Another actor who is barely above the AARP inclusion age, Adam Sandler, was honored for his leading role in “Uncut Gems” by a comedy colleague, Conan.
In one of the evening’s unscripted highlights, Sandler was so excited to accept his best actor award that he bounded up on stage immediately upon hearing his name from O’Brien, before a clip from the film was introduced. Conan then, in a hysterically funny way, excoriated Sandler for jumping the gun.
But the night belonged to “The Irishman,” with nearly all the key players — director Martin Scorsese and cast members Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino — on hand as the 3½-hour Netflix feature film was named best picture and earned best director for Scorsese.
The acclaimed helmer talked about one of the most-discussed aspects of the gangster film, his first collaboration with De Niro since “Casino” in 1995. He said the preproduction process — specifically the lack of a studio backer until Netflix came on board — forced him to take a risk and go with the expensive de-aging technology used to show the actors in past decades. Scorsese said he never considered the idea of younger actors playing those roles but at one point, maybe about a decade ago, he still thought his leads could do it.
Yet another highlight of the ceremony was the career achievement award presented to Annette Bening by Billy Crudup, her co-star in 2016’s “20th Century Women.”
After a clip reel that highlighted some of her best work, Crudup lauded Bening’s diversity of roles over the years in films including her recent turn as Sen. Dianne Feinstein in “The Report” to acclaimed parts in “Bugsy,” “American Beauty,” “The Kids Are All Right” and “The American President.”
“It really is a gift to be an actor. We all sit around together and tell stories. The process is a shared effort for all who come together. We become one family and that’s the aphrodisiac, the elixir, that draws us back together,” Bening said in her acceptance speech.
She then related an anecdote from 30 years ago when she was Oscar-nominated for best supporting actress alongside Lane, Lorraine Bracco, Mary McDonnell and Whoopi Goldberg, who won the trophy for “Ghost.” They had an agreement that whoever won would treat all of the other women in the category to dinner the next week. Goldberg followed through, and at the dinner gave each a gardenia and a chocolate Oscar.
It was all under the radar, the little-known camaraderie amongst the women breaking bread together, which probably couldn’t happen today without paparazzi shots or Instagram posts.
Here is the complete list of winners:
- Best Picture/Best Movie for Grownups: “The Irishman”
- Best Actress: Renée Zellweger (“Judy”)
- Best Actor: Adam Sandler (“Uncut Gems”)
- Best Supporting Actress: Laura Dern (“Marriage Story”)
- Best Supporting Actor: Tom Hanks (“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”)
- Best Director: Martin Scorsese (“The Irishman”)
- Best Screenwriter: Noah Baumbach (“Marriage Story”)
- Best Ensemble: “Knives Out”
- Best Intergenerational Film: “The Farewell”
- Best Foreign Language Film: “Pain & Glory” (Spain)
- Readers’ Choice: “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”
- Best Time Capsule: “Harriet”
- Best Documentary: “Linda Ronstadt: the Sound of My Voice”
- Career Achievement: Annette Bening
(“The 19th Annual Movies for Grownups Awards” airs on PBS’s “Great Performances” Sunday, Jan. 19, at 6 p.m. ET/PT and streams the following day on pbs.org/moviesforgrownups and the PBS Video app.)