When Dame Helen Mirren took the stage at the Beverly Hilton to accept the 37th annual American Cinematheque Award on Thursday night, she began by reciting an elegant, if cliched, declaration of gratitude for her lifetime spent working in Hollywood.

“Ladies and gentlemen, esteemed guests, and dear friends. I am deeply humbled, profoundly honored, to stand before you today accepting this extraordinary award,” Mirren said while reading from a large sheet of paper. “To be recognized for a lifetime devoted to the craft of acting is a privilege beyond words. First and foremost, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to the industry and the individuals who have supported me throughout this incredible journey. This has been a life filled with passion, challenges, and above all, an unyielding love for the art of storytelling.” 

It was the kind of predictable lifetime achievement speech fare that award circuit veterans have heard far too many times, so anyone could be forgiven for thinking it was genuine. But as soon as she reached the end, Mirren gleefully ripped up her papers as she announced “That was written by AI!”

In context, the gag came across as more of a lighthearted joke than an act of rebellion against changing industry norms. But it played perfectly at a gala supporting the preservation of arthouse cinema and analogue projection formats, reminding everyone how Mirren became beloved enough to merit the award in the first place.

Though after an evening of star-studded tributes to Mirren, the reminder was not needed. Many of Hollywood’s biggest names descended upon the Beverly Hilton to honor Mirren’s extensive filmography. (The American Cinematheque Award was arguably the second most prestigious honor that Mirren received that night, beaten out by The Rock’s declaration via video message that she’s the kind of person with whom he’d like to share a glass of his Teremana tequila.)

Legendary market researcher and focus group guru Kevin Goetz was also honored with the organization’s Power of Cinema Award, and was feted with a video montage featuring congratulatory messages from the likes of Tom Cruise, Margot Robbie, Judd Apatow, and Charlize Theron.

But the evening’s main attraction was the many speeches heaping praise on Mirren’s craft and personal character.

Bryan Cranston kicked things off by working blue, making sexually charged puns about playing “a delicious asshole” alongside Mirren and drawing groans for his quip that the Dame played “AARP Barbie” in the Greta Gerwig blockbuster she narrated. Sir Patrick Stewart recalled his early years performing with Mirren at the Royal Shakespeare Company, with the actor joking that he was “aroused in every way” by Mirren’s stage presence. Pierce Brosnan took the stage to express his lifelong admiration for Mirren, though he admitted that they have yet to work together or get to know each other beyond a superficial level. And Alan Cumming introduced a video tribute to Mirren’s history of going topless in movies, citing her confidence with her aging body as a source of inspiration to both women and men around the world.

The speeches gradually became more serious, as Mirren’s longtime husband, filmmaker Taylor Hackford, praised her for being a wonderful stepmother to his two sons. Andrea Riseborough thanked Mirren for her mentorship — and willingness to allow Riseborough to photograph her ankles during their first meeting. And Vin Diesel ignored the teleprompter, opting to deliver a sincere tribute to the friendship he formed with Mirren while filming “Fast and Furious” movies in Italy. He recalled that Mirren took him out to dinner when he was away from his family on his birthday, and that the two stars bonded further by singing Elvis songs to each other and dancing in the rain together.

The lengthy tributes, which began with dirty jokes but crescendoed to a brief but emotional tribute from Mirren’s “1923” co-star Harrison Ford, clearly moved the Oscar winner as the night wore on.

“I hope you all get to experience this someday,” Mirren said at the start of her speech. “Because it’s fucking amazing.” And real.

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