One of the great aspects about the Hollywood Awards that goes largely unrecognized is that it’s arguably the only show that doesn’t put a time cap on acceptance speeches and hook its recipients off stage. As such, both presenters and winners are not only more heartfelt, but candid. And that’s a wonderful rarity during a season when show producers are anxiously tapping their watches anytime a trophy gets handed out.
When the final award of Monday’s ceremony was handed to Hollywood Career Achievement recipient Richard Gere, it became clear why sometimes it’s better to let an honoree speak without a time clock. Following a riveting clip package of Gere’s best moments, the 63-year-old actor delivered a moving six-minute acceptance speech, remembering his late agent, Ed Limato of WME, who passed away on July 3, 2010. Limato was a living legend who shepherded the careers of such acting icons as Denzel Washington, Steve Martin, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Mel Gibson.
“These awards go to everyone I ever worked with, but there’s one person who deserves this more than anyone else,” Gere exclaimed. “There was an award I was given at the Museum of the Moving Image six or seven years ago. I mentioned this person there, and I kicked myself that I never spoke more about him, and it’s my dear friend, agent Ed Limato.”
Gere first met Limato when he moved to New York City after working in repertory theater for several years. He was referred to a female agent in the city, however, she was moving out to London to rep the great Italian director Franco Zeffirelli. However, she had an assistant.
“My hair was down to here, and I was wearing a motorcycle jacket and had a huge chip on my shoulder,” Gere recounted. “And that’s when I walked into Ed Limato’s office, and he became my dear friend and agent for over 40 years from that moment. There was not a decision I made without talking to him as a friend, a really dear friend. There was no silliness involved. He would cry with me over my making a decision. Ed died two years ago, and he was a chain smoker: three packs a day, the coffee, the cigarettes, and the telephone. He came from Mount Vernon, New York. I never visited his hometown, but we converged upon it for his funeral. As we were driving around the funeral home, all the mailboxes said ‘Limato’ on them — he was a second generation, Neapolitan Italian and they had taken over this whole section of Mount Vernon.”
Gere continued: “The first four rows of the church were The Sopranos: Big black hair and sunglasses. Then there was an aisle and the next four rows were agents and lawyers in Prada. That was Ed’s life: This combination of Sopranos and Prada.”
Well, Limato must be beaming from above, as there is serious talk once again about Gere in the lead actor’s race this season for his portrayal of a troubled hedge fund manager in Roadside Attractions’ Arbitrage. During Gere’s 40-year career, he’s been overlooked by Oscar voters in terms of acting noms, however, in 2003 he came within breathing distance of a potential one after winning a best actor in a comedy/musical Golden Globe for his portrayal of the tap-dancing criminal lawyer Billy Flynn in Miramax’s Chicago.
“If I had a career of mostly good choices, some lousy choices along the way, but mostly really good films and things I’ m proud of, it’s because of this friendship and trust and this really wonderful man, Ed Limato,” Gere concluded in his speech.
Read Pete Hammond’s coverage of the Hollywood Awards over at Deadline here. Check out Gere’s interview with Charlie Rose about Arbitrage below: