The 2002 Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards
When Rip Torn handed his cousin Sissy Spacek the first Texas Film Hall of Fame award presented to an actress at last year's induction, a collective sigh of relief was issued by those behind the scenes of the event. With its luminous cast of movie stars and industry movers and shakers, 2001's Texas Film Hall of Fame ceremony was a success beyond all dreams. It was also the moment they knew it would happen again.
"This is a great film town, proportionately on par with L.A. and New York or any place in the world," proclaims Evan Smith, Austin Film Society board member and editor of Texas Monthly. "Where better to have this event happen? If 2002 is the success we think it's going to be, as 2001 was, it'll become one of the great events in Austin, every year."
No question that this year's ceremony on March 8 will be as star-studded as the first, maybe more so. The honorees and presenters for 2002 include:
William Broyles Jr., presented by writer Stephen Harrigan with Tom Hanks on video. Broyles, founding editor of Texas Monthly, was nominated for an Academy Award for screenwriting for Apollo 13, was co-writer of Entrapment, wrote the original screenplay for Cast Away, and shared writing credits for 2001's Planet of the Apes and this year's Unfaithful.
Cyd Charisse, presented by filmmaker and film historian Peter Bogdanovich. (Bogdanovich is filling in for Marcia Gay Harden, whose father's recent death forced the Oscar-winning actress to bow out of the show.) A native of Amarillo, the leggy, willowy Charisse was one of MGM's top musical stars of the Forties and Fifties, dancing with Gene Kelly in Singin' in the Rain and It's Always Fair Weather and with Fred Astaire in Silk Stockings and Bandwagon.
Terrence Malick, presented by Sissy Spacek. The notoriously reclusive Malick directed Spacek in her first feature film, 1973's acclaimed Badlands (also starring Martin Sheen), and won the Best Director award at Cannes in 1978 for his Academy Award-nominated Days of Heaven.
Willie Nelson, presented by Lyle Lovett. The beloved Grammy-winning singer-songwriter was an unlikely actor, but his roles in films like Honeysuckle Rose, Barbarosa, Songwriter, Gone Fishin', and Wag the Dog prove that Nelson's warmth and appeal extend well beyond singing and playing guitar.
The Legacy Award will be given to the late Gilbert Roland, the Hispanic actor who was a contemporary of Rudolph Valentino and played the Cisco Kid in 11 popular films of the series. Cheech Marin, the actor who was half of the Cheech and Chong comedy duo, will accept the award. The Warren Skaaren Lifetime Achievement Award is being presented to the chairman and chief executive officer of the Motion Picture Association, Jack Valenti. CBS news anchor Dan Rather inducts Valenti. Former Texas Governor Ann Richards, highly sought after on the lecture and speech circuit, will lend her talents as emcee for the evening.
In addition to those six awards, the decision to induct a film was made, and the 1956 epic Giant, directed by George Stevens, was chosen. Evan Smith remembers, "Last year we had the idea to induct a film. The thing about creating an event from scratch is that you can do what you want with it, that's self-evident. Any ideas are worth considering. One idea we had originally was to induct not just folks but films, since so much of Texas filmmaking has to do with people but so much else has to do with the finished product. We can all name Texas films that would be a part of any canon, ones any Texas film buff would need to see to be complete, intellectually and culturally.
"Giant was a good and logical choice. When Dennis Hopper agreed to come on behalf of it, we knew it was right. No one would dispute the significance of Giant as an example of the best filmmaking in Texas, about Texas, making use of the land and landscape, making use of the Texas myth as backdrop for a story. So much about what's great about Texas is right there on the screen in Giant."
Last year's celebration was also the public's first look at the new grounds and building of Austin Studios (the brainchild of Hall of Fame co-sponsor the Austin Film Society), located in hangars at the old Mueller Airport in East Austin. AFS continues its focus on young filmmakers, with industry training, jobs, and an internship program among the ways it supports the local community. The organization also works to bring film production to Central Texas and to promote film appreciation among the public and its membership through programming in local theatres, director appearances, and festivals.
The hangar-turned-soundstage was the perfect setting for the debut ceremony, which saw actress Sissy Spacek, columnist Liz Smith, screenwriter Bill Wittliff, and director Robert Benton honored for their contributions in and of the film industry. The Warren Skaaren Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to William Morris Agency executive vice-president and UT graduate Mike Simpson.
Among the awards given, the Warren Skaaren Lifetime Achievement Award is unique. Hall of Fame board member and Austin Chronicle founder and editor Louis Black recalled Skaaren with respect and admiration last year.
"Warren Skaaren was a remarkable man and an impressive talent," says Black. "After he sent Gov. Preston Smith a seven-page letter detailing why Texas needed a film commission, Smith not only created the commission but put Warren in charge. Among his many claims to fame was that he came up with the title Texas Chainsaw Massacre. He became a successful Hollywood scriptwriter, working on only five produced films, which included Beverly Hills Cop II, Top Gun, Beetlejuice, and Batman (he worked on Days of Thunder but left that project). Yet, he lived in Austin the whole time, biking the hills of West Lake he loved so much. The high points of his career don't begin to get at what an extraordinary man Warren Skaaren was. A Texas film lifetime achievement award could not be better named."
Smith concurred, and elaborated. "If there's anyone in the last 30 years in Texas film who has contributed on every level, not just from making Texas film but facilitation and promotion, it's Warren Skaaren. He was the guiding spirit of the Film Commission and embodies the qualities that everyone in Texas film should have. He was as practical about film as he was a visionary about the art of film. He loved Texas and supported it as a center for filmmaking. He had a tremendous effect, and it seemed appropriate to recognize the contributions Skaaren made by naming a lifetime achievement award for him."
Recognizing contributions by Texans is, of course, the point of the Texas Film Hall of Fame, and Smith believes that a certain amount of provenance applies. "It's a throwdown that can only happen in Austin, Texas. A combination of wonderful celebrities, passion for a cause, and an authentic basis for an event. With all respect to Texas' great cities, this couldn't be done anywhere but Austin. Nowhere else is there the genuine commitment to film and filmmaking, to nurturing young filmmakers, to showing respect to veteran filmmakers, to supporting independent and mainstream film as well as the business of film, the movie houses and theatres."
Since few things filmic can hold up without a soundtrack, the evening will come to rousing close as the legendary Flatlanders take the stage. The band is headed by the triumvirate of Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock, and Joe Ely, a combination of singer-songwriters so explosive, it might be lethal were the three not old running buddies from Lubbock. Laughed out of Nashville in the early Seventies, the three settled in Austin and broke up as they pursued successful solo careers, and leaving the band to fond memory until the Nineties, when they began reuniting for special occasions.
And in Austin, the opportunity to celebrate the Lone Star State's rich cinematic heritage is a special occasion indeed.
The Austin Film Society will present the Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards 2002 on Friday, March 8, at 7:30pm, at Austin Studios, Hangar 4 (1901 E. 51st.). Call 322-0145 or visit www.austinfilm.org/fame2002 for more information.