Actor Morgan Freeman and Director Jon Turteltaub on the Gene Siskel Film Center Red Carpet

The stars shown brightly on Saturday night as actor Morgan Freeman (Invictus, Million Dollar Baby, The Shawshank Redemption, Driving Miss Daisy) and director Jon Turteltaub (Last Vegas, National Treasure, The Sorcerer's Apprentice) walked the red carpet for the annual Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute Renaissance Award Dinner honoring Freeman. Turteltaub, who directed Freeman in Last Vegas, lead the post dinner conversation with Freeman who not only received the award; but, he received another milestone as well: June 7 was declared Morgan Freeman Day in Illinois by Governor Quinn.

In keeping with its focus on highlighting quality filmmaking and important filmmakers, every year the Gene Siskel Film Center salutes important leaders in cinematic achievement with the Renaissance Award. Previous recipients have been Gwyneth Paltrow, Reese Witherspoon, Jamie Foxx, Robert Downey Jr., George Lucas, Nicole Kidman, Bob Balaban, John Woo, Michael Mann, William H. Macy and Felicity Huffman.

In a time of cell phone snaps and Instagram, the GSFC has been instrumental in keeping the love of independent and international cinema alive. It is dedicated to cutting edge programming (currently showing the collection of films, Martin Scorsese presents Masterpieces of Polish Cinema), premieres (The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz June 27 - July 3), retrospectives and classic films. While Nymphomanic doesn't qualify as a classic (yet), the Gene Siskel Film Center showed both Volume 1 AND Volume 2 June 6-12. With such interesting and diverse programming, it is no wonder that the GSFC draws an audience of 70,000 a year.

Executive Director of the Gene Siskel Film Center, Jean de St. Aubin, was very excited to be saluting Morgan Freeman last Saturday night and commented on his insightful, moving and memorable roles. " The instantly recognizable, deep resonance of his voice brings a distinctive richness to every film he appears in or narrates." Of course, she couldn't be more accurate. Even on the red carpet interview below, when not acting and at perfect ease, his voice and presence made even the craziest of chaotic situations zenful. He not only offered advice to young actors, but was also a good sport. No handler, no fuss and he generously laughed his way through my offer to set him up on a love match!

Chair of the Gene Siskel Film Center and artist, Ellen Sandor, shared Ms. de St. Aubin's enthusiasm. "To have the intellect and experience of the great Morgan Freeman paired with the genius and insight of Jon Turteltaub will treat our audience to a truly special evening." Insightful is right! In the red carpet interview below, Turteltaub discusses his ability to direct by letting everyone else shine. At the very end of the interview, you will see that he, too, was a great sport, as we joked that he might even be hiring me!

For more information on the Gene Siskel Film Center and the its upcoming programming, visit