Toni Howard, Sandra Bullock, Ava DuVernay Rock It At 2015 Women In Film Awards

The Women In Film Crystal + Lucy Awards 2015 honorees — Nicole Kidman, Jill Soloway (Transparent), Warner Bros.’ exec Sue KrollSelma helmer Ava DuVernay and Kate Mara (The Martian) — were lauded at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Tuesday night.

Kidman received the final award of the night from her sister from another mother Naomi Watts.  During Kidman’s speech, she said early in her career she had turned down a part in a Jane Campion film where she would have to wear a shower cap and kiss a girl. At the end of her speech, she put on the shower cap and kissed Watts. But the true highlights of the night were Sandra Bullock’s comedic introduction for Kroll who received the Tiffany & Co./Bruce Paltrow Mentorship Award and ICM agent Toni Howard whose acceptance speech for the first ever Sue Mengers Award (named after the legendary agent) was exceptional. After being introduced by her client of 18 years, Laura Linney, Howard took the stage to speak about one of her mentors.

“Sue was an icon in the true sense of the word. She was one of the greatest agents — male or female — that we have ever had. I watched her in action and just marveled at her original approach and devotion to her clients. There was nobody like her. I wanted to learn from her, and when she was in closed door meetings with Freddie Fields and I was his secretary — we haven’t heard that word in a long time — I remember holding a glass to the door to listen in on their conversations. I learned a lot about the business … and some phenomenal gossip.

“Sue and I had some very funny moments. She was fixing me up on a date, and I knew the Academy-nominated director John Boorman was going to be there. I was very nervous. And I said to Sue, ‘What should I say to John Boorman?’ She said, ‘You should say two things, only two things: ‘I loved your film, Deliverance, and ‘please pass the salt, Mr. Boorman.’ ”

Mengers — smart, blunt and hilariously sarcastic — died in 2011 at the age of 79. And one of the best send-offs I have ever read for anyone — one that truly captured the true essence of Mengers — once the most powerful agent in Hollywood, was reported by this site’s founder Nikki Finke. You can read it here.

Howard also remembered: “She did call me many times, night and day, to say, ‘Come over to the house, so I can tell you everything you’re doing wrong.”

“Let’s toast Sue,” said Howard at the end of her acceptance speech. “Even though she’d be much happier if we were all smoking weed.”

The longtime ICM Partners agent said it was “overwhelming” to be recognized because agents are rarely acknowledged in public. “When actors are receiving awards, at the end of their speeches, they sometimes say, ‘did I forget anybody?’ and we’re all hoping they remember their agent. I sat next to (client) James Spader at an awards show and before he won, I said to him, ‘by the way, agents like first and last names.’

Whomever writes Bullock’s speeches, should be writing the Oscars. “I have the honor of working alongside (Kroll) for many, many years. But for many, many years, I had no idea what she did for a living. She never offered. I never asked. I’m an actress. We don’t care what anyone else does for a living … when it looked like a project I did a few years ago might not go the way we had hoped, she never once gave me that look of ‘Oh honey, your personal life is in the shitter, now your career may soon be following.’ No. No … she just avoided eye contact with me.”

In one of the more poignant moments, DuVernay said she didn’t know anything about the woman whose name is on the award she was receiving so she had to research her. DuVernay received the Dorothy Arzner Directors Award, named for the woman who started out as a stenographer at Paramount Pictures and edited her first film in 1919.

“She made films that starred Lucille Ball, and Katherine Hepburn and Rosalind Russell … she became a film professor and she taught the likes of Francis Ford Coppola and, yet, I had no idea who she was. That is a ‘forgetting us’ that is just unacceptable, even as we ask the industry to remember us and include us, we have to remember ourselves.

palcyAnd at the Sundance Institute, she brought Euzhan Palcy (A Dry White Season). So few people knew who she was,” said DuVernay. “She was the first black woman to have a film produced by a studio. In 1989. You thought I was going to say 1943. No, 1989. She was the first black woman to direct an actor to an Oscar nomination … but, yet no one had a clue who she was. So this forgetting, this community that we’re neglecting … a whole cadre of women filmmakers … that’s on us to remember.” She added, “We have to overcome this erasure, this invisibility and forgetting us.”

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