It was a star-studded evening last Saturday night in Chicago as Cinema/Chicago and the Chicago International Film Festival - celebrating its 50th anniversary this year -honored actor Kevin Kline with a Career Achievement Award. The Chicago International Film Festival's Summer Gala is an important fundraising event for Cinema/Chicago, the not-for-profit arts and education organization that presents the Chicago International Film Festival, the longest-running competitive film festival in North America. Profits from the Summer Gala support Cinema/Chicago's Education Outreach Screening Program, which brings more than 6,000 Chicago Public School students to film screenings each year.
Upon receiving the award, Kline joined the ranks of many of the film industry's most influential talents through the decades, including past Chicago International Film Festival honorees directors Orson Welles, George Cukor, Oliver Stone, Lord Richard Attenborough, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg and actors Gregory Peck, Jack Lemmon, Sigourney Weaver, Liv Ullman, Shirley MacLaine, Faye Dunaway, Morgan Freeman, Clint Eastwood, Michael Douglas, Tom Cruise, Sally Field, Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino.
I spoke with Kevin Kline on the Summer Gala's red carpet and I was struck by how present and thoughtful he was during the otherwise chaotic madness of having a Hollywood star on a red carpet. As you will see in the video below, Kline was authentic, true and filled with integrity. I had come to expect these traits from his work, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they describe the man, as well.
Respected both on stage and in film, Kline seems to have managed to somehow work as a commercial actor and keep his vision and interest as an artist intact. In the interview, he talks about seeking out the challenge of playing both comedic and dramatic roles. In fact, Kline is one of the rare actors to have won an Academy Award for a comedic role, playing Otto West in A Fish Called Wanda.
Switching between film and stage and comedy and drama aren't Kline's only deft moves. As he notes in the interview, he seems committed to challenging himself as an artist, holding out for roles/scripts that interest him, rather than just those that are destined to be commercial successes. How often do you see that? A rare gem indeed!
Chicago International Film Festival Founder and Artistic Director, Michael Kutza agreed. "Kevin Kline's ability to transfix movie-goers was evident from his earliest appearances in such celebrated films as Sophie's Choice and The Big Chill," said Kutza. "As he matured as an actor, the breadth of his talent has been proven over and over again. From his outrageously comedic turns in Dave and In & Out to the heart-wrenching drama of The Ice Storm and Life as a House, Kevin Kline is one of the most versatile performers of his generation and truly deserving of the Chicago International Film Festival's Career Achievement Award."
More than anything, the interview below shows that Kline has remained grounded through the years, and steadfast with his stage skills. You see how he leans in, listens, and thinks before responding and engaging. He is genuine and intent on offering more content than a sound bite.
It was fitting that the Chicago International Film Festival honor such an artist on its 50th anniversary as the festival has earned the same level of respect over the years for its commitment to introducing the world to diverse, new filmmakers, stories and perspectives, and to sharing and promoting cutting-edge talents in film making. The 50th Chicago International Film Festival will be held October 9 -23 of this year.