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Hollywood legends gathered Saturday night to celebrate Nicole Kidman as she received the prestigious AFI Life Achievement Award, the highest honor bestowed by the American Film Institute.

The annual tribute was held at Los Angeles’ Dolby Theatre, where some of Kidman’s closest friends and colleagues, including Oscar winners Meryl Streep, Morgan Freeman, Reese Witherspoon and Oscar nominee Naomi Watts, paid tribute to her illustrious career.

Wearing a form-fitting gold sequin gown, Kidman entered the theater Saturday night to a standing ovation as a recording of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” played overhead.

The program began with a video featuring Freeman in a spoof of Kidman’s recent ad campaign for AMC Theatres to promote the return to moviegoing in the wake of the pandemic. “Somehow she makes heartbreak feel good in a place like this,” Freeman said in the video.

Freeman then came out on stage at the Dolby to extend his congratulations to the Kidman as a fellow AFI Life Achievement recipient, who was honored in 2011. He noted that Kidman’s 2001 musical “Moulin Rouge” is one of his favorite movies. He closed by singing a line from Elton John’s ballad “Your Song”: “How wonderful life is while you’re in the world,” Freeman sang to Kidman.

Watts offered her memories about the woman she thinks of as “the sister I never had.” The fellow Australians met as 15-year-old aspiring actors in Sydney. “She’s tall, elegant and wicked smart with the most infectious laugh you’ve ever heard,” Watts said. “Nic has always been the most generous person,” noting that Kidman offered her years of support at times of struggle in her career. “She has this heart of a lioness,” Watts added.

AFI president Bob Gazzale, who also served as the writer and executive producer of the gala, praised Kidman in a Variety interview, describing her as embodying “the glamour and romance of Hollywood past.”

Kidman’s remarkable range of performances was highlighted during the event, showcasing roles from the spirited showgirl Satine in Baz Luhrmann’s “Moulin Rouge” to her transformative portrayal of author Virginia Woolf in Stephen Daldry’s “The Hours.” It was for the latter role in 2002 that she secured her Academy Award for best actress.

More to come…

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