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Jan Schuette Named New Dean Of AFI Conservatory

By | Tuesday June 17, 2014 @ 9:00am PDT

Jan Schuette Named New Dean Of AFI ConservatoryGerman director and producer Jan Schuette (Schütte) has been appointed Dean of the American Film Institute Conservatory, succeeding Robert Mandel who exited in December after nine years at the post. Schuette most recently served as Director of the German Film and Television Academy in Berlin, a position he assumed in 2010. He previously taught at Harvard and Dartmouth in addition to Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg, where he created the master class program Atelier Ludwigsburg Paris.

Schuette made his feature debut with 1987′s Drachenfutter, which won the Venice Film Festival’s UNESCO Award and won him numerous critical awards. He won Best Director at the German Film Awards for 1990′s Winckelmanns Reisen. He’s served on festival juries including Cinéfondation Jury at the Cannes Film Festival and the International Drama Jury at the Sundance Film Festival and is a member of Akademie der Künste Berlin Brandenburg and the European Film Academy.

“The AFI Conservatory was born nearly 50 years ago – inspired by the European conservatory model,” said Bob Gazzale, AFI President and CEO. “Today it remains unique in that we promise MFA candidates that they will make at least four films in two years. And so we searched the world for an academic leader who has also made movies – who has lived it. We are proud to say we found that person in Jan Schuette and look forward to his tenure beginning in the fall.”

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DeadlineNow: Hollywood’s Heavy Hitters Celebrate Jane Fonda At AFI Gala (Video)

By | Friday June 6, 2014 @ 6:33pm PDT
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Jane Fonda's AFI Career Award

Studio chiefs and top stars turned out to celebrate the two-time Oscar winner Thursday. The busy-again actress is the only daughter of a previous AFI honoree to receive the award. Her 'China Syndrome' co-star -- and fellow AFI Life Achievement Award legacy -- Michael Douglas presented it to her. Deadline's Pete Hammond and Dominic Patten discuss the big night.

Related: Jane Fonda Honored With AFI Life Achievement Award

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Jane Fonda: Hollywood Royalty Gets AFI Life Achievement Award And Follows In Father Henry’s Footsteps

Pete Hammond
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Jane Fonda's AFI Life Achievement Award

Studio chiefs and top stars turned out to celebrate the two-time Oscar winner's career Thursday. The busy-again actress is the only daughter of a previous AFI honoree to receive the award. Her 'China Syndrome' co-star -- and fellow AFI Award legacy -- Michael Douglas presented it to her. Deadline's Pete Hammond and Dominic Patten discuss the big night.

It didn’t take long to bring up the controversial side of Jane Fonda during AFI‘s Lifetime Achievement Award tributeafilogo1 Thursday night. AFI Board Of Trustees Chairman Howard Stringer addressed the elephant in the room almost immediately upon taking the Dolby Theatre stage: “What not a lot of people know is that Jane Fonda attended the very first AFI tribute in 1973 to director John Ford. She didn’t actually make it into the ballroom AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute To Jane Fonda - Showthat night because she was out front picketing. That’s right, she was there to protest the appearance of one of that night’s presenters, Richard Nixon. Jane, what are we going to do with you?” he said to much knowing laughter and applause. A little while later, AFI CEO and President Bob Gazzale picked up on the theme. “Yes, Jane picketed the AFI Life Achievement Awards. But it wasn’t the first time that she’d marched on AFI,” he said. “Some years earlier outside the gates of the AFI conservatory there was a protest led by Jane and another Life Achievement recipient, Shirley MacLaine. They were there to draw attention to the lack of women in roles in the AFI Conservatory and they were right. Their effort led to the establishment of  the AFI Directing Workshop for women which this year is celebrating its 40th anniversary. And they also helped to ensure women were admitted to the AFI Conservatory where women have flourished over the years.”

2014 AFI Life Achievement Award Gala Tribute - ArrivalsBut as it became abundantly clear this evening was much more than about Fonda’s well-known activism. It was about a film career that has brought her two Oscars from seven nominations — that started in 1960 with Tall Story and is still going strong all the way up to next September’s This Is Where I Leave You. Both are from Warner Bros and both show the remarkable career journey this daughter of a very famous star, Henry Fonda, and sister of another twice-nominated actor/writer/producer Peter Fonda, has taken. Among studio heads that included 20th’s Jim Gianopulos, Sony’s Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton and Disney’s Alan Horn, Warners’ Kevin Tsujihara was also there. Read More »

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Alex Gibney To Receive AFI’s 2014 Guggenheim Honors

By | Thursday May 1, 2014 @ 9:39am PDT

alex gibneyOscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney will receive the American Film Institute‘s 2014 Charles Guggenheim honors this June at the org’s annual nonfic filmmaking confab. The prolific Taxi To The Dark Side filmmaker has knocked out feature docus We Steal Secrets: The Story Of WikiLeaks, The Armstrong Lie, and Finding Fela in the past two years alone and next has James Brown documentary Mr. Dynamite, which sneak-screened at Tribeca. He’ll be feted with a presentation of his work and Q&A at the National Archives during the 12th AFI DOCS Charles Guggenheim Symposium held June 18 to June 22 in Washington, D.C. and Silver Spring, MD. The event draws filmmakers and policy leaders alike and has in past years honored Charles Guggenheim (2003), Barbara Kopple (2004), Martin Scorsese (2006), Jonathan Demme (2007), Spike Lee (2008), Albert Maysles (2009), Frederick Wiseman (2010), Chris Hegedus and D A Pennebaker (2011), Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky (2012) and Errol Morris (2013). Read More »

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AFI Sets Directing Workshop For Women Showcase

By | Thursday March 27, 2014 @ 10:00am PDT

afilogo1The American Film Institute‘s Directing Workshop for Women showcase will be held at 7 PM April 29 at DGA headquarters in Los Angeles, with Boys Don’t Cry director Kimberly Peirce set to deliver the keynote. The invitation-only event will feature the work of eight directors who recently completed the 2013 AFI DWW program: Aubree Bernier-Clarke, Cusi Cram, Sarah Doyle, Anne Hamilton, Tiffanie Hsu, Erin Li, Kristine Namkung and Janine Salinas Schoenberg. The workshop program includes classroom training, hands-on production experience and the opportunity to direct a short narrative film. This year’s new workshop participants also will be introduced. They are Pippa Bianco, Tessa Blake, Roja Gashtili, Julia Lerman, Devon Kirkpatrick, Alexis Korycinski, Jean Lee, Kantú Lentz, Bola Ogun and Thoranna Sigurdardottir. Directors Peirce, Jamie Babbit (But I’m A Cheerleader, The Quiet), Patty Jenkins (Monster, The Killing) will mentor as artists-in-residence. This year’s directing workshop will be held May 1-23. Recent projects developed by AFI DWW alums include two 2014 pilots ordered to series: Emmy Grinwis’ Eye Candy for MTV and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro’s Un-Real for Lifetime. Two alums currently are directing their second feature films: Maggie Kiley is in production on Dial-A-Prayer, and Valerie Weiss on A Light Beneath Their Feet.

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Fox & Nat Geo To Preview ‘Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey’ At Inaugural White House Film Festival

CosmosSeth MacFarlane’s passion project will get an unprecedented global launch next month, but first it has a date in D.C. Fox and National Geographic Channel said today they will screen a preview of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey on Friday as part of the inaugural White House Film Festival. Writer-director-exec producer Ann Druyan will introduce the screening. The 13-part series, a sequel to Carl Sagan’s influential Cosmos: A Personal Voyage (1980), premieres March 9 on multiple Fox Network Group outlets then continues on subsequent Sundays on Fox on with expanded editions Mondays on Nat Geo. In other White House film fest news, the American Film Institute said today it will collaborate on the event, which screens winning short films created by K-12 students. President Obama will deliver the opening remarks Friday to a crowd of more than 100 students, teachers and parents in the East Room.

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AFI Awards Lunch Brings Out Hollywood’s Heavy Hitters And Contenders For Season’s Ultra-Cool Event

By | Friday January 10, 2014 @ 5:14pm PST
Pete Hammond

AFI Awards 2013“Storytellers, welcome,”  said AFI president and CEO Bob Gazzale as he opened the AFI Awards 2013 luncheon today. “We open each AFI gathering with a single word: ‘Relax’. You have won. Each of you, and more importantly, all of you, because here you are one community of artists gathered in this room for what we hope to be a bit of respite from your job, but not from your work. Gone from this moment are the ratings, and red carpets and box office and all that you have to endure to sell art. Our goal is nothing short of epiphany, that you feel proud when you consider the compendium and see your place in it”. Gazzale’s welcome came before what appeared to be all of the heavy hitters currently running Hollywood as well as 20 tables full of artists repping AFI’s choices for the year’s Top Ten movies (12 Years A Slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Fruitvale Station, Gravity, Her, Inside Llewyn Davis,  Nebraska, Saving Mr. Banks, The Wolf Of Wall Street) and Top Ten TV programs (The Americans, Breaking Bad, Game Of Thrones, The Good 14th Annual AFI Awards - Cocktail ReceptionWife, House Of Cards,  Mad Men, Masters Of Sex, Orange Is The New Black, Scandal, Veep).

For my money , this is the most relaxing and fun  awards event of the year. There are no losers, no acceptance speeches, only good vibes. And if you want to network, this is the A-list networking opportunity of the season. Where else are you going to find just about every studio head in the same room including Sony’s Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton, Warner Bros’ Kevin Tsujihara, Fox’s Jim Gianopulos, Disney’s Alan Horn, Paramount’s Brad Grey, and Fox Searchlight’s Nancy Utley and Stephen Gilula? They were mixing it it up with the TV side including CBS’ Les Moonves (who also was there for CBS Films’ Inside Llewyn Davis), Fox’s Peter Rice and FX’s John Landgraf, and AMC’s Charlie Collier among many others including new kid on the block Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, who had two shows among the Top Ten, House Of Cards and Orange Is The New Black. It was his first time to this party and he was impressed. Oh, and did I mention both directing icons Martin Scorsese (with Wolf Of Wall Street) and Steven Spielberg (repping FX’s The Americans) were there, but quite14th Annual AFI Awards - Cocktail Reception frankly just about everyone in this room at the Four Seasons Hotel was someone. Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences president Cheryl Boone Isaacs was also taking it all in and told me how she’s suddenly getting lots of calls after it was announced earlier today she would be delivering news of Oscar nominations next Thursday with Thor aka Chris Hemsworth. She’s excited to say the least. Read More »

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Robert Mandel Stepping Down As AFI Dean To Return To Directing

By | Monday December 2, 2013 @ 12:01am PST

AFIEmmy-winning director Robert Mandel is stepping down as Dean of the AFI Conservatory after nine years with the graduate level film school. Mandel, who directed Independence Day (1983), F/X (1986), Touch and Go (1986), Big Shots (1987), School Ties (1992), The Substitute (1996), and A Season on the Brink (2002), will remain on faculty at AFI while returning to filmmaking. His television credits include directing the X-Files pilot and episodes of Nash Bridges, Prison Break, and LOST. Mandel is an AFI Conservatory alumnus himself, Class of 1979 who established an AFI Fellow-Alumni mentoring program and career office for students and added acting, independent film finance, television, and showrunning courses to the curriculum.

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Jane Fonda To Receive AFI Life Achievement Award

By | Friday October 4, 2013 @ 1:00am PDT
Pete Hammond

Continuing their tradition of turning the AFI‘s signature awards event into a real family affair, the American Film Institute announced today that Jane Fonda will become the 42nd recipient of the prestigious AFI Life Achievement Award on June 5, 2014. The organization said the event will take place in Los Angeles but has not yet disclosed the venue. It will be taped for later airing that month on TNT, followed by encores on Turner Classic Movies.

Henry Fonda was the 6th recipient of the honor in  1978 making the Fondas the first father/daughter to win the prize. In other familial pairings AFI has similarly honored both Kirk (1991) and Michael Douglas (2009) as the only father/son combo and Warren Beatty (2008) and Shirley MacLaine (2012) as the only brother/sister to be named in the history of the award.

For my money Jane Fonda is an inspired choice. A two-time Oscar winner (Klute, Coming Home) and 7-time nominee, she has proven she can do it all, and even after a self-imposed 15-year retirement has come back with a vengeance most recently earning an Emmy nomination for her recurring role in HBO’s The Newsroom. But following in the footsteps of her iconic father and matching him as not only a major film star but adding producer to her credits too, Fonda’s varied — and sometimes controversial — career has truly met the AFI benchmark of “standing the test of time”. The award would be deserved if only for one of her signature achievements in producing and co-starring in the film version of On Golden Pond, the vehicle for which her father won a long overdue Best Actor Oscar (along with Best Actress Katharine Hepburn) shortly before he died. But she also has a great string of classics in addition to her Oscar winners including Cat Ballou, They Shoot Horses Don’t They?, Julia and The China Syndrome. Her most recent Oscar nomination in 1986 was for the wildly underrated Sidney Lumet film The Morning After, one of my favorite Fonda performances. She’s also equally great in comedy, something many people forget, but consider Barefoot In The Park opposite Robert Redford in 1967, 1980′s Nine To Five and even her comeback role opposite Jennifer Lopez in 2005′s Monster-In-Law which turned into a sizable hit.

And don’t even get me started on Barbarella. In terms of AFI Life Achievement, she’s done it all. Here’s the release: Read More »

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AFI Conservatory Scholarship Fund Grows

By | Wednesday July 31, 2013 @ 12:01am PDT

The American Film Institute‘s two-year graduate film program the AFI Conservatory has received a scholarship funding boost for the coming year that totals $6.2 million, nearly three times the total of previous years. The AFI Board of Directors raised $2.3 million on the backs of a $1 million challenge grant by chairman Robert Daly and gifts by Board of Trustees chairman Howard Stringer and Lawrence Herbert. An additional $3.5 million came from donors including David Geffen, Alan Horn, Terry Semel and the Time Warner Foundation, with the new total going 100% toward the program’s 200 fellows. AFI also announced two new initiatives tied to the the new funding, with more in the works. Here’s that part of the release announcing the gains: Read More »

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AFI Honors “Art And Farts” Of American Film With Laugh-Filled Mel Brooks Tribute

Pete Hammond

It was completely appropriate that AFI‘s 41st Life Achievement Award honoree Mel Brooks made his entrance at the Dolby Theatre to the Steven Sondheim song, “Comedy Tonight”.  It set the tone immediately for a very different evening than any that had come before at this annual event. Look at the list of the 40 previous AFI honorees, and there’s not a single solely comedic filmmaker or actor in the whole bunch. Yes, there are some — like Billy Wilder, Mike Nichols, Shirley MacLaine and Tom Hanks — who have made a few classic comedies but no one whose whole screen career is built on laughs. The AFI finally corrected that glaring omission Thursday night.

“Ladies and gentlemen, tonight the American Film Institute honors the art — and the farts — of American film,”  said AFI Board Of Trustees Chair Sir Howard Stringer in welcoming the star-studded crowd. “When I telephoned Mel to tell him the AFI had voted him in as the 2013 recipient, he responded instantly, ‘What took you so long?’ Fair enough. Comedy is routinely short-changed at many awards ceremonies , particularly the Oscars. It is often said comedy is harder than drama because funny is like trying to catch lightning in a bottle. That makes  Mel, without question, Hollywood’s principal lightning conductor.” Read More »

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Martin Scorsese To Present Mel Brooks With AFI Award

By | Monday May 20, 2013 @ 7:43am PDT

Los Angeles, CA, Monday May 20, 2013 – Martin Scorsese will present Mel Brooks with the American Film Institute’s 41st Life Achievement Award – America’s highest honor for a career in film. The private black tie gala will be held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on June 6 and will air on TNT Saturday, June 15, at 9 p.m. ET/PT and as part of an all-night tribute to Brooks on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) Sunday, July 24, at 8 p.m. ET. Brooks will be recognized for his range of mastery as a director, producer, writer, actor and composer.

Related: Mel Brooks To Receive AFI Achievement

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AFI Awards: Hollywood Power Players Turn Out For A Moment Of Sanity During Oscar Season Madness

Pete Hammond

Between the roller-coaster ride of Thursday’s 85th Academy Award Nominations and Critics Choice Awards and this weekend’s Golden Globes mania, Friday’s annual AFI Awards Luncheon was not only a breath of fresh air in this busy season. It was a much needed event to put everything in perspective and show not only the impressive group of creative heavyweights from the year’s best movies and TV programs, but also a strong turnout of studio power players, exactly what this should all be about. It’s a celebration of the year’s best work, not another televised awards show that simply tries to divide everything into groups of winners and losers, bad jokes and nervous nominees. “Our wish for today is that this room become a respite from the noise, for us to carry you away as you carry us away. Think of it as when the lights go down in a movie theatre or a story beginning on television. We want you to feel good about your work and feel good about the people you work with because together you have created something beautiful, and in the weeks to come and the years that will pass nothing can take that away from you,” said AFI President and CEO Bob Gazzale in his opening remarks that set just the right tone. With tables for each of AFI’s 10 movies of the year (Argo, Beasts Of The Southern Wild, The Dark Knight Rises, Django Unchained, Read More »

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AFI Appoints Capitol Hill Veteran Jennifer Hoelzer VP Communications

By | Monday June 18, 2012 @ 11:20am PDT

LOS ANGELES, CA, June 18, 2012 – Concluding its coast-to-coast search, the American Film Institute (AFI) announced that Jennifer Hoelzer will be joining AFI effective July 16 as Vice President, Communications where she will be responsible for developing and executing AFI’s communications strategy and messaging and act as “the voice” of the American Film Institute across the nation – from the Hollywood community to the offices in Washington, DC to the movie enthusiasts in cities throughout the U.S. A strategic communicator, Hoelzer has more than a decade of experience influencing national policy debates for elected members of Congress, including the last six years as Communications Director and Deputy Chief of Staff for U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), where she worked on issues ranging from health reform to national security to tax, energy and internet policy. At AFI, Hoelzer will manage the Institute’s press and public relations activities while crafting messaging that underscores AFI’s mission “to preserve the history of the motion picture, to honor the artists and their work and to educate the next generation of storytellers.”

Mel Brooks, David Lynch Receive Honorary AFI Degrees
Shirley MacLaine Honored With 40th AFI Life Achievement Award

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Mel Brooks, David Lynch Receive Honorary Degrees At AFI Commencement

By | Wednesday June 13, 2012 @ 5:25pm PDT
Pete Hammond

June is  the season for graduations around the nation and the American Film Institute is no different. After handing out their 40th Life Achievement Award less than a week ago to Shirley MacLaine today the focus was on those just embarking on a career in the entertainment industry (in addition to two very well-known veterans).

This AFI Commencement stood out as a purely Hollywoood affair taking place not on their own campus, but rather a short distance away inside Grauman’s Chinese theatre. In addition to the 121 graduates receiving their AFI diplomas in fields including screenwriting, directing, producing, production design, cinematography and editing, the undisputed highlight of the 90-minute ceremony (presided over by AFI CEO and President Bob Gazzale) were the two Honorary Degree recipients Mel Brooks and David Lynch.

It was actually appropiate the two receive these honors together because Mel, through his production entity Brooksfilm actually gave Lynch his first big directing job on 1980′s much-acclaimed Best Picture nominee The Elephant Man resulting in a Best Director Oscar nomination for Lynch. After a funny intro from “best friend” Carl Reiner and a clip reel covering such Brooks classics as The 2000 Year Old Man, The Producers, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein among others, Brooks stepped up to tell Reiner he was confused by it all. “I’m very honored and I’m very happy but bitterly disappointed. When I was offered this award I thought I was gonna become a doctor. And in fact I was … Read More »

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AFI Degrees To Mel Brooks & David Lynch

By | Tuesday May 29, 2012 @ 6:33pm PDT

LOS ANGELES, CA, May 29, 2012 – The American Film Institute (AFI) announced it will confer Doctorate of Fine Arts degrees honoris causa upon American comedy icon Mel Brooks and celebrated surrealist David Lynch for “contribution of distinction to the art of the moving image” during AFI Conservatory commencement 2012 at Hollywood’s landmark Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Both artists worked together on the Academy Award winning THE ELEPHANT MAN (1980), with Lynch as director and screenwriter and Brooks as executive producer. Previous recipients of the AFI Honorary Degree include Robert Altman, Maya Angelou, Clint Eastwood, Roger Ebert, James Earl Jones, Nora Ephron, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Kathleen Kennedy, John Lasseter, Spike Lee, Helen Mirren, Haskell Wexler and John Williams.

(Photos: Getty Images)

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Meryl Streep To Present Shirley MacLaine With AFI Life Achievement Award

By | Tuesday May 22, 2012 @ 7:23pm PDT

LOS ANGELES, May 22, 2012 — AFI Life Achievement Award honoree Meryl Streep will present Shirley MacLaine with the American Film Institute’s 40th Life Achievement Award – America’s highest honor for a career in film. The private black tie gala will be held at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City on June 7 and will air on TV Land on Sunday, June 24 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT. Streep, who was honored with the AFI Life Achievement Award in 2004, played MacLaine’s daughter in POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE (1990).

Related: Shirley MacLaine To Receive AFI Life Achievement Award On June 7th

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AFI to Screen ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ At The White House Thursday Night

By | Wednesday April 4, 2012 @ 12:00pm PDT
Pete Hammond

The 50th Anniversary celebration of the Academy Award winning 1962 classic, To Kill A Mockingbird just got a very high profile addition with the American Film Institute’s announcement today that the film will be screened tomorrow night, April 5,  at the White House  Family Theatre with an introduction from President Obama. The date also coincidentally marks the 96th birthday of the film’s star, Gregory Peck who served as Founding Chair of the AFI Board of Trustees from 1967 to 1969. It is also significant for the AFI since the Institute was  created in the White House Rose Garden in 1965 in a ceremony presided over by President Lyndon Johnson.

Among those attending will be the film’s Oscar nominated co-star Mary Badham, Peck’s family including wife Veronique, AFI Chair  Sir Howard Stringer , Universal President and COO Ron Meyer, U’s Chairman Adam Fogelson,  U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and AFI President and CEO  Bob Gazzale. Also in attendance will be a group of students from DC area schools.

With yesterday’s announcement that the President will also introduce the film for the  USA Network’s broadcast of the digital restoration on April 7th, the film is getting a strong boost for its half-century milestone. The AFI previously named Atticus Finch  as the greatest hero in the history of American Film.

To Kill A Mockingbird  is an American treasure – a film of family and fatherhood, justice and equality … Read More »

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AFI Surprises Howard Stringer With … Sean Connery

By | Thursday February 23, 2012 @ 3:17pm PST

This morning the AFI Board Of Trustees meeting was held from 9-11 AM at the Peninsula Hotel. Among those attending were Sir Howard Stringer, Bob Daly, Amy Pascal, Christopher Dodd, Thomas Tull, Chris Silbermann, Rich Ross, and more. As a surprise for the board chairman Sir Howard Stringer, the Sony Corp topper who celebrated his 70th birthday on February 19th, was a phone call from his pal Sean Connery. Phoning from the Bahamas, Connery toasted Sr Howard on his 70th, elaborated on their friendship (Connery is Scottish and Stringer is Welsh), and noted “Howard, my friend, at our age it’s not the wheels that go, it’s the axel!” Connery also talked about the movie biz. “Without appreciating the art form, the movies would all be Mickey Mouse. I am sure Rich Ross would understand that better than anyone.”

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