AFI Conservatory 2015 Honorary Degree Recipients
Angela Lansbury is one of the most celebrated names in entertainment and has remained a bright light on stage and screen for over eight decades.
She began her career at the age of 17, earning the first of three Academy Award® nominations for her film debut in GASLIGHT (1944) — and then another only a year later for THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY (1945). A third nomination came with her chilling performance as Mrs. Iselin in THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962) — but hers is a career marked as much by great performances in great films than by accolades and laurels. In her long and illustrious tenure as one of cinema's finest actresses, Lansbury has appeared in more than 60 features, including such classics as NATIONAL VELVET (1944), THE HARVEY GIRLS (1946), STATE OF THE UNION (1948), THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1948), SAMSON AND DELILAH (1949), THE COURT JESTER (1955), THE LONG HOT SUMMER (1958), BLUE HAWAII (1961), THE WORLD OF HENRY ORIENT (1964), THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD (1965), BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS (1971) and DEATH ON THE NILE (1978). More recently, she leant her voice to ANASTASIA (1997), and co-starred in Emma Thompson's NANNY MCPHEE (2005) and opposite Jim Carrey in MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS (2011).
One of Lansbury's most beloved roles is as Mrs. Potts in Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991) — her soft and soothing singing voice enshrining both the words and the sentiment of the "tale as old as time."
In addition to her epic career on the silver screen, Lansbury is perhaps even more widely known for her work in television in the long-running mystery series MURDER, SHE WROTE (1984) — as the indomitable Jessica Fletcher. The show ran for 12 seasons and earned her an Emmy® nomination each year.
Lansbury is also the winner of five Tony Awards® — for MAME, DEAR WORLD, GYPSY, SWEENEY TODD and BLITHE SPIRIT. She began her celebrated stage career in 1957 in HOTEL PARADISO. Her starring roles since have included Stephen Sondheim's A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, Gore Vidal's THE BEST MAN and a stage adaptation of DRIVING MISS DAISY — with the latter two productions featuring James Earl Jones as her co-star.
"I think of myself as a journeyman actress," she has said. "I will attempt almost anything that I think that I can bring off." For her remarkable ability to tackle "almost anything," Lansbury has been named a Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, and in 2013 was honored with the Academy's Honorary Award in recognition of "extravagant achievements...in her career of 75 years."
Lawrence Kasdan is a celebrated writer, director and producer whose deft hand with complex characters has helped to define the vocabulary of contemporary cinema — inspiring generations of audiences through blockbusters and intimate ensemble dramas alike.
Born in Miami Beach, FL and raised in West Virginia, Kasdan later studied English literature at the University of Michigan — supporting himself through college with a series of writing awards, and initially planning to pursue a career in teaching after receiving his MA in Education. Instead, he worked at an advertising agency before selling his first script — THE BODYGUARD — in 1977 and, though in development for well over a decade, the 1992 film starring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston was a hit.
With STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (on which he shared writing credit with legendary author/screenwriter Leigh Brackett), Kasdan added layers of depth and darkness to George Lucas' developing STAR WARS Saga — delivering what would become the best beloved installment of the venerated science fantasy franchise, and introducing characters, quotes and moments that would become deeply and immediately ingrained in the American cultural vernacular. Other scripts in the pipeline hit screens soon after — including RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981), CONTINENTAL DIVIDE (1981) and the conclusion to the original STAR WARS trilogy, RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983).
It was during this time that Kasdan also launched his career as a celebrated writer/director — debuting his double act with BODY HEAT (1981), the steamy neo-noir film that launched the careers of William Hurt and Kathleen Turner. His second feature, THE BIG CHILL (1983), was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar® and earned another nod for Kasdan's original screenplay (with Barbara Benedek). Often bringing his own scripts to the screen, he continued to demonstrate both his empathy and his humor across a string of audience favorites and critical darlings, including SILVERADO (1985), THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST (1988), GRAND CANYON (1991), THE BODYGUARD (1992), WYATT EARP (1994), DREAMCATCHER (2003) and DARLING COMPANION (2012) — garnering writing nominations from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST and GRAND CANYON, and a Best Picture nomination for THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST. In 2006, Kasdan was honored by the Writers Guild of America with its esteemed Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement for advancing the literature of motion pictures.
"Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life," Kasdan has said of his chosen profession — which has most recently returned him to "a galaxy far, far away" for the upcoming STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, which he co-scripted with director J.J. Abrams.
Kasdan served on the American Film Institute Board of Trustees from 1990 to 1999.