“Being pregnant, I hope I don’t get too emotional taking a walk down memory lane,” said Academy Award-winning actress Reese Witherspoon before her Q-and-A and film retrospective June 23 at the Ritz-Carlton Chicago for an event benefiting the Gene Siskel Film Center. Witherspoon was in town to receive the Renaissance Award, following in the footsteps of honorees who include George Lucas, Jamie Foxx,Robert Downey Jr. and Nicole Kidman.
Jean de St. Aubin, executive director of the film center, introduced two-time Oscar-winning director Alexander Payne, who directed Witherspoon in “Election.” He interviewed her in a lively segment that also showed film clips from her career, including “Walk the Line,” the film for which she won a best actress Oscar.
“It’s difficult for a woman to be able to do both comedy and drama. It’s a privilege to be able to do both,” Witherspoon said. The actress is currently filming “Devil’s Knot” with Colin Firth in Atlanta. After filming is concluded, she plans on taking time off to have her baby.
Marlene Iglitzen, Gene Siskel’s widow, attended the fundraiser with her three children, Kate, Callie and Will. “Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him. He would be so proud to see all of these people here tonight.” Other attendees included Marc Klutznick (co-chair), Anita Liskey (co-chair), Camille Cook (film center founder), Shirley and Dr. Walter Massey (president of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago), Dusty and Alex Stemer, and Diana Palomar.
The more than $340,000 raised will support programming at the film center.