Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman was honored with the Renaissance Award from the Gene Siskel Film Center (GSFC) at the Ritz-Carlton Chicago on June 7. The legendary actor participated in a question-and-answer session with his "Last Vegas" director Jon Turteltaub for an event titled "A Candid Conversation with Morgan Freeman."
Co-chairs and board members Eda Davidman and Melissa Sage Fadim offered opening remarks before introducing Dr. Walter Massey, President of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). He congratulated Freeman and spoke about the success of the school. "SAIC is ranked the number-two graduate program in fine arts in the country, one step behind Yale," Massey said. He acknowledged GSFC advisory board chair Ellen Sandor as "one of the main driving forces behind the Film Center."
Jean de St. Aubin, GSFC executive director, introduced Governor Pat Quinn, who declared June 7 to be Morgan Freeman Day in Chicago. Quinn called Freeman "our favorite son" (Freeman has lived in Chicago) and went on to say, "We love the fact that you give back to the community."
Barbara Scharres, GSFC director of programming, introduced the honoree and acknowledged his many wins that include an Academy Award for best supporting actor in "Million Dollar Baby" and a Golden Globe for "Driving Miss Daisy," among others.
During the discussion, a retrospective of film clips from his long career were presented, including scenes from "Glory," "Last Vegas," "Unforgiven," "Million Dollar Baby," "The Shawshank Redemption," "Batman Begins" and "Bruce Almighty."
Director Jon Turteltaub ("National Treasure," "The Kid," "Last Vegas," "Cool Runnings") asked Freeman about the Off-Broadway role of Hoke Colburn, the chauffeur in "Driving Miss Daisy." The actor said, "The film role was originally offered to Sidney (Poitier) and he turned it down." When asked if there was one role he was still hoping to play, he said, 'Satan. I've already played God!'"
The evening also included a four-course dinner inspired by some of Freeman's most memorable films, as well as a unique raffle prize that went to one young fan — a selfie with Freeman.
The event raised more than $350,000 to benefit the Center's programming and educational initiatives.
Freelance writer Candace Jordan is involved with many local organizations, including some whose events she covers.
Click here to see photos from these events.
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