Monday marked the 20th year of Elle magazine’s "Women in Hollywood" event, an annual sit-down dinner that recognizes women for their profound impact on the film industry. Marion Cotillard, Melissa McCarthy, Nancy Meyers, Reese Witherspoon, Naomie Harris, Eva Marie Saint and Shailene Woodley were honored for their achievements. Honoree Penelope Cruz was unable to attend.
Andy Samberg hosted the event, sponsored by Calvin Klein Collection, L'Oreal Paris and (supporting sponsor) David Yurman and held at the Four Seasons Hotel Beverly Hills. The Saturday Night Live alum garnered laughs from guests including presenters Forest Whitaker, Kathy Bates, Chelsea Handler, Lake Bell, Laura Dern, Cybill Shepherd and Adam Scott. Other guests included McCarthy's husband Ben Falcone, Whitney Cummings, Busy Philipps, James Marsden, Rachel Zoe, Meagan Good and Chord Overstreet.
Elle editor-in-chief Robbie Myers – who shared emcee duties with senior vp and publisher Kevin O’Malley – kicked off the event with a speech highlighting the versatility of each honoree. A montage of one-on-one interviews followed, in which they were asked a variety of questions ranging from the women they are inspired by to the toughest criticism they’ve ever received.
Whitaker gave a heartfelt introduction for Oscar-winning Cotillard. “When I first met her, I was in rapture,” he said. “I am always astonished by the completeness in which she immerses herself in her roles.”
Touching on the latter, Cotillard spoke of her journey toward self-discovery. “As far back as I can remember, I began questioning the world around me,” she said. “Then I realized that by exploring different human beings and their stories, I felt the connection I was longing for. I know these women have also found answers in what they do, and share my passion for discovering the human soul.”
Next, Bell introduced Meyers, with whom she worked on It’s Complicated. Following a laugh-provoking story about how the former was “not nailing it,” came gratitude, and then a call to arms from the screenwriting veteran. “When I made [Private Benjamin] in 1980, there were three producers: me and two guys. In my contract, it said that I could not be on set alone without one of those guys present, at all times,” she said. She continued by acknowledging how far women have come, but also urged them to keep fighting. Especially when they're left plenty of room by Woody Allen, “who is amazing, but can only make one movie a year,” joked the director, producer and screenwriter.
The audience took a break from laughing when Woodley, who received the Calvin Klein Collection Emerging Star Spotlight Award, hit the stage and encouraged everyone to “close their eyes and imagine all the women encountered in life – including the good and bad.”
“Become pregnant with them,” she said. “Nurture this, and then send warmth to every woman on the planet. We are able to raise a baby, and in the same sense we are able to raise the world.”
Bates introduced The Heat star McCarthy, who deemed herself a “crier” for the evening. Between tears, the comedic actress called her friendship with the new face of American Horror Story: Coven surreal. “When I was 20, I carried a picture of Kathy Bates in Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, in my backpack.”
McCarthy continued by praising individuality found in different colors, shapes and sizes. When speaking of another inspiration, her two daughters, she said: “I want them to know that their self-worth is generated from their actions and their deeds. They do not have to be perfect to be remarkable.”
Inspiration for Harris, presented with her award by Scott, is her mother. For Witherspoon, introduced by pal and This Means War co-star Handler, it’s the idea of uplifting other women -- of rising.
Witherspoon quoted author Cheryl Strayed, whom the actress is portraying in the upcoming film, Wild. “The thing about rising is we have to continue upward,” she said. “The thing about going beyond is we have to keep going.”
Coincidentally, the evening ended with an actress who lives by that very quote. Saint, 89, who received the L’Oreal Paris Legend Award, charmed the audience with a story of how her 62-year relationship with her husband began. She spoke of Hitchcock, her first audition, and her proclivity for fluffing her hair. She received laughs, oohs and aahs, and a standing ovation, twice.
Other attendees included: Elle creative director Joe Zee, Elle fashion news director Anne Slowey, Zoey Deutch, Eva Amurri, Kat Graham, Katie Lowes, Emilia Clarke, Analeigh Tipton, senior vp Columbia Tristar Pictures' DeVon Franklin, Caitlin Fitzgerald, Darby Stanchfield, Gia Coppola, Joy Bryant, Naya Rivera, Poppy Delevingne, Michaela Conlin, Melonie Diaz, Lea Michele and Erika Christensen.