LOS ANGELES – If you’ve ever met Lee Daniels or seen an interview with him, you’d quickly ascertain that the director of “Precious” and “The Butler” is his own force of nature. He has a charisma and passion that has helped fuel his success as a filmmaker. So, to be fair, only a true diva could upstage him and especially on a night he’s receiving a prestigious lifetime achievement award.
Enter Jane Fonda.
I’m still not sure whether Fonda received a standing ovation from the Orpheum Theater audience at the 2013 Outfest Legacy Awards because she’s Jane Fonda or because of the sequined-zebra-striped-meets-black-and-white floral jumpsuit she wore on stage (did we mention it was black and white zebra striped?). Once she revealed Daniels had only asked her to present for him four hours before the event, obviously you can only assume the latter (yes, she just pulled that out of her closet at the last minute). A diva and she knows it. How appropriate for Outfest. (Oh, and Fonda stepped in for Gabourey Sidibe, who couldn’t escape from the New Orleans set of “American Horror Story: Coven” in time.)
Daniels was speechless after receiving the honor, admitting he hadn’t prepared any remarks after days of trying to come up with something. It was clear receiving the lifetime achievement award from the nation’s premier GLBT film organization moved him. Cuba Gooding Jr., who starred in Daniels’ “Shadowboxer” and “The Butler,” recalled how Daniels had once remarked that it was hard enough being a black filmmaker, it was hard enough being a gay filmmaker, but a black and gay filmmaker? That’s almost impossible. Gooding also reminded everyone that Daniels was the first black gay man to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Director. And it’s not out of the realm of possibility he’ll earn a second nod for the aforementioned “The Butler” early next year.
The rest of the night’s short program had some significant moments. Outfest puts on the the Legacy Awards primarily to celebrate and raise funds and awareness for their joint program with the UCLA Film Archive to restore and preserve the history of gay film and media. Recently “out” Raven-Symoné made what is believed to be her first “publicly out” appearance at a gay event as she presented one of the evening’s restored films. Another show popular with gays, “Scandal,” was represented by both stars Guillermo Díaz – who presented 1995’s “Stonewall” where he played a drag queen (it wasn’t a good movie then, it isn’t one now) – and Dan Bucatinsky – who presented Pat Rocco’s 1976 documentary “We Were There,” a film chronicling the massive and impressive gay pride parade in Hollywood of the same year.
As for Daniels, he’ll be looking at the awards season tea leaves very carefully over the next few months to see if he can duplicate some of that “Precious” magic for “The Butler.” He’ll know for sure when Oscar nominations are announced on Jan. 16.