On screen, Bill Pullman is that guy, rarely first choice for the girl, but you spend a lot of watching wondering exactly why not: see Sleepless in Seattle, or While You Were Sleeping; he comes late, back from the war, in the movie A League of Their Own, and Geena Davis leaves baseball for his shy winsome character. Perfect for the romantic comedy genre, Bill Pullman was also a brilliant fit for David Lynch in his Lost Highway, an observation made by Greil Marcus in his The Shape of Things to Come: Prophecy and the American Voice, in which he could trace the American landscape across Bill Pullman's face: "I always saw something in his eyes," Marcus quotes Lynch, and it's that quality that makes him a tender American icon on film.
And theater, too. Most memorable for me was seeing him in Edward Albee's Sylvia, or The Goat, in which he has to tell his wife that he is in love with another, eh, female, that is, eh, another species -- eh, a goat.
Last week at the Plaza, in front of a crowd of theater and film elite, including Marlo Thomas, Phil Donahue, Alan Rickman, Juliana Marguiles, Jennifer Westfeldt, and many others, Bill Pullman was honored at the New York Stage and Film 2015 Winter Gala. A congratulatory video included interviews with Rob Reiner and Mel Brooks. Pullman had performed in Spaceballs. Arriving onstage, Carol Kane complained about having to follow Mel Brooks, and read a tribute from Beth Henley, writer of The Jacksonian, anointing Pullman "King of Actors."
Donald Holder was also honored with Julie Taymor introducing and presenting the award to this noted lighting designer. She had worked with him on The Lion King, and was able to connect, as only Taymor can, his degree in forestry with his stellar career in lighting. A high point of this lovely evening was Paulo Szot singing "This Nearly Was Mine," from South Pacific. Holder won a Tony for his work in the 2008 revival at Lincoln Center.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.