Not many things could drag Woody Allen out of his beloved New York City. It’s even harder to get him out to L.A.
But an award for Diane Keaton, star of the director’s 1977 classic Annie Hall and several more of his films, who also dated him for years in the ‘70s, managed to do it. When Allen took the stage at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood Thursday night to present Keaton with the American Film Institute’s 2017 Life Achievement Award, the audience was surprised and gave him a standing ovation.
The 81-year-old acknowledged, “We go back a long way, Diane and I.”
They would have to, because Allen’s appearances in La La Land are rare. For example, he’s only attended the Oscars once — despite his three wins and 16 more nominations between 1978 and 2014. He suited up for the fete in 2002 to pay tribute to the Big Apple in the first ceremony after 9/11. As his biographer noted to NPR in 2012, much of the reason can likely be attributed to a famous line that his character says in Annie Hall: “I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member.”
Although far from home, Allen was comfortable enough onstage to offer exactly the kind of teasing jokes you would expect from him.
“Her beauty is not conventional,” he said of Keaton. “Again, by ‘conventional’ I mean ‘pleasing to the eye.’ She dresses, as you know, to hide her sexuality. She’s done a great job, because it’s never emerged over the years.”
Allen also joked about Keaton’s bout with bulimia during their relationship, which she wrote about in her 2011 memoir Then Again.
“I would take her to these high-end restaurants, you know? Four hundred dollars for dinner and she was throwing them up,” he deadpanned. “Could have taken her to Pizza Hut.”
The Midnight in Paris director even took a jab at Keaton’s other romances.
“She’s been involved romantically with half a dozen of the most gifted, charismatic men in Hollywood,” Allen said, referring to Keaton’s famous former loves, including Al Pacino, Warren Beatty, and Jack Nicholson. “And it’s very interesting, because every one of them has dumped her.”
Finally, he stated the obvious — “I love to tease her” — and offered some kind words.
“From the minute I met her she was a great, great inspiration to me,” Allen said. “Much of what I’ve accomplished in my life I owe, for sure, to her. This is a woman who is great at everything she does.”
Allen was not Keaton’s only ex in the audience. Both Beatty and Pacino gave tribute speeches, too.
Beatty praised Keaton for her work on their 1981 hit Reds, which earned three Oscars and nine more nominations, including one for Best Picture.
“You made the movie work,” Beatty said as he pointed a finger at Keaton out on the dais. She pointed right back.
Pacino shared a sweet moment with the night’s honoree when he walked onstage. Immediately, she gave him a standing ovation from her place out in the audience. Her co-star in The Godfather saga, and her on and off love for years, sweetly began his stage remarks with a simple, “Hi, Diane. Nice to see you.”
Steve Martin, Reese Witherspoon, Morgan Freeman, Rachel McAdams, Emma Stone, Lisa Kudrow, Martin Short, Jane Fonda, and Sarah Silverman also paid tribute to the icon. Meryl Streep gave a speech, and she also dressed like her co-star from 1996’s Marvin’s Room.
Streep talked about Keaton’s authenticity and joked that she is “arguably the most covered up woman in the history of clothes,” but “nobody is more exposed and as willing to show themselves as Diane.”
“Love you, Diane,” Streep said. “So does everybody.”
When Keaton finally took the stage, she said a quick thank you and sang “Seems Like Old Times,” just as she did in Annie Hall.
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