Cinema/Chicago News

Spring Gala 2017, An Unforgettable Evening

Published: September 11, 2017  |  Filed under: Festival News


More than 400 guests celebrated actress Helen Mirren and Director Taylor Hackford at Cinema/Chicago’s Spring Gala

Celebratory Evening Featured an Intimate Conversation with Mirren and Hackford Highlighting Their Illustrious Careers and Creative Influences

Academy Award®-winning actress Helen Mirren and Academy Award®-winning director Taylor Hackford were in Chicago on Wednesday, May 24 at the Loews Chicago Hotel for Cinema/Chicago’s Spring Gala, celebrating their illustrious film careers. Proceeds from the event benefit Cinema/Chicago’s year-round education and outreach programs.

“This was an evening that will long be remembered by everyone in attendance,” said Cinema/Chicago Founder and CEO Michael Kutza. “I have been hoping to bring these two screen legends together in this type of environment for many years, and finally, my dream was realized. We are so grateful to Cinema/Chicago’s many generous donors who attended. Their support enables us to provide access to cutting-edge, international cinema for free to more than 7,000 Chicago Public School students, as well as offer programs such as our free International Screenings Program at the Chicago Cultural Center, the Chicago International Television Festival, CineYouth, the Chicago International Film Festival, and much more.”

The evening kicked off with a cocktail reception, musical entertainment by rock violinists SIRENS and a silent auction featuring an array of upscale gift packages, including movie memorabilia, tickets to theaters and sporting events and luxury experiences. As the honorees arrived, they were greeted by Kutza before walking the red carpet and meeting event co-chairs Gigi PritzkerCandace Jordan and Helen Melchior, as well as members of Cinema/Chicago’s Governing Board of Directors.

Many of Mirren and Hackford’s friends in the film industry took the time to record video tributes to the couple, including Robert De Niro (“The Comedian”), Debra Winger (“An Officer and a Gentleman”), Richard Gere (“An Officer and a Gentleman”), Peter Gallagher (“The Idolmaker”), Bryan Cranston (“Trumbo”), Ryan Reynolds (“Woman in Gold”), Al Pacino (“The Devil’s Advocate”) and director Stephen Frears (“The Queen”).

At the conclusion of the evening, Mirren and Hackford each were awarded the Gold Hugo for Career Achievement. Visibly moved, they both spoke about the importance of the Chicago International Film Festival, with Hackford noting that it was the screening of his film “The Idolmaker” as an opening night presentation at the Chicago Theatre that launched his career. Mirren added that she relishes the opportunity to perform in low-budget, independent films, and that without film festivals, many of those films would never find an audience or receive widespread distribution.

The evening was made possible with support from Spring Gala sponsors American Airlines and Sound Investment AV, and evening partners Chloe Wine Collection, Stella Artois, Wansas Tequila, A Perfect Event, CS magazine and Ken Arlen Productions.

About Helen Mirren

Helen Mirren is one of the world’s most critically acclaimed and popular actresses, most known for her Oscar-winning performance as the formidable Queen Elizabeth II in Stephen Frears’ “The Queen.” Her career is as long as it is varied and distinguished, from her tender early performance as a young Irish widow in 1984’s “Cal” to her longstanding work as tough-as-nails detective Jane Tennison in the 1990s British TV series “Prime Suspect” to her provocative turns in “Caligula” and “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover.” More recently, Mirren has proven herself just as adept in comedy, whether in “The Madness of King George” and “Gosford Park,” or a host of action romps, including “Red” and this year’s “The Fate of the Furious.” Always challenging expectations and equally skilled playing the powerful as the vulnerable, she is one of the hardest working and most admired performers of stage and screen.

About Taylor Hackford

Throughout his long and varied career, Taylor Hackford has shaped some of the most iconic performances in American cinema, starting with his 1980 feature debut “The Idolmaker,” which world premiered at the Chicago International Film Festival, in which Ray Sharkey played a magnetic rock promoter. Over the years, cinephiles can thank Hackford for evoking similarly unforgettable performances from his actors, including Louis Gossett, Jr. and Debra Winger in

“An Officer and a Gentleman,” Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines in “White Nights,” Kathy Bates in “Dolores Claiborne,” Al Pacino in “The Devil’s Advocate,” and, most notably, Jamie Foxx’s stunning incarnation of Ray Charles in 2004’s “Ray.” He has directed more than 20 films and produced almost 30. Entertaining, engaging, funny and dramatic, Hackford’s films span a wide range of subject matter, locations and genres, but they always deliver compelling, dynamic and deeply thoughtful stories about people struggling to come to terms with personal or external limitations and achieve their dreams.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the year-round programs of Cinema/Chicago, including the Chicago International Film FestivalChicago International Television Festival, CineYouth FestivalInternational Screenings, and Education Program. Cinema/Chicago’s Education Program provides free film screenings to more than 7,000 Chicago Public School students annually as well as curriculum support and study guides for educators.

About Cinema/Chicago

Cinema/Chicago, the parent organization of the Chicago International Film Festival, is a year-round non-profit arts and education organization dedicated to fostering better communication between people of diverse cultures through the art of film and the moving image. For more information visit

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