While the Tony Awards were were going on in New York this weekend, Chicago was having its own party, honoring producer, director and actor Ron Howard with a Career Achievement Award from the Chicago International Film Festival.
Howard is in Chicago for the next several months working on a currently untitled comedy, starring Vince Vaughn, Winona Ryder, Kevin James, Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany. Tongue-in cheek, he told the crowd that he'd like them to help with a title and pointed out that the prefix "un" as in "untitled", had proved to be a winner, citing Clint Eastwood's Oscar winning, "Unforgiven," "The Untouchables," and that Debbie Reynolds favorite, "The Unsinkable Molly Brown."
Howard told the crowd how comfortable he felt filming in Chicago, and said the great people were to thank for that.
Actor (and Chicagoan) Vince Vaughan, in toasting/roasting Howard, said that the director's bald head was the real reward for all the great films he made over his career.
On a more serious note, Vaughn said Howard's success is based on moviegoers leaving the theater, "feeling better than when they went in, and feeling that all things are possible, because Howard has hope in his films together with the hopefulness of the human spirit."
Howard's films include "Splash," "Backdraft," "Apollo 13," "Frost/Nixon" and "A Beautiful Mind," for which he won an Academy Award for Best Director/
Chicago Battalion Fire Chief Steve Chikerotis, who was a technical adviser for "Backdraft," also stood up, praising Howard for initiating and funding a memorial for 563 Chicago firefighters who have died in the line of duty. The chief closed saying that Howard "makes the world a better place and spreads good morals while telling such tremendous stories."
The astronaut Jim ""Houston, we have a problem" Lovell was also attended this weekend's event. "Apollo 13" was based on Lovell's book, "Lost Moon," except Lovell revealed to the audience that Howard purchased the movie rights to the book, before it was even written.
Master of Ceremonies for the evening, A&E Network's Bill Kurtis, a former Chicago news anchor, hailed Ron Howard as "the modern day Howard Hawks," a film director credited with discovering actress Lauren Bacall and pairing her with actor Humphrey Bogart in several film classics.
Others who have received Career Achievement Awards from the Chicago International Film Festival, now in its 46th year, include actors Susan Sarandon, Jodie Foster, Richard Gere and Sigourney Weaver. Directors include Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Quentin Tarantino and now Ron Howard.
WATCH Howard discuss his appreciation for Chicago here: