Laura Dern Talks Aging at AARP’s Movies for Grownups Awards: ‘I’m Having the Time of My Life’

Ageism may be a significant problem in Hollywood, but not at AARP’s “Movies for Grownups” Awards, where actors over 50 are revered like fine wine — and honored for getting better with age. Inevitably, there were some jokes about the ceremony’s name: “When I was asked to attend an award show called Movies for Grownups, I assumed you were honoring me for my career in pornography,” cracked Conan O’Brien, who introduced Adam Sandler, teasing him for his eagerness to receive the Best Actor award. “You’re like a chimp that saw a banana.”

Before the ceremony began, Sandler reflected on his own “grownup” performance. “I understand what they’re saying because I certainly don’t want my kids to watch ‘Uncut Gems,’ ” Sandler told Variety. “But I think any movie at any age can connect with you. I go to these animated movies with my kids and I love them. I also click with ‘Marriage Story.’ I get it all. But I understand what tonight’s about and it’s a good feeling to be included in that.”

“Marriage Story” writer-director Noah Baumbach accepted the best screenwriter award, telling the crowd, “It’s taken me roughly 50 years to appreciate the importance of celebrating things — I grew up in a household where the unspoken vibe was: Don’t celebrate now because it might all go to shit.” On the red carpet, he told Variety: “I tend to make movies about human experience and maybe that tilts more toward an adult taste in movies, but I also wrote ‘Madagascar 3,’ so I’m keeping you guessing.”

Aging was a central theme of several of the year’s most acclaimed movies, like “Pain and Glory.” Director Pedro Almodóvar joked of reuniting with the actor he discovered in 1981, Antonio Banderas, who stars in the film: “We are getting older at the same so this movie that talks about the passage of time is very appropriate.” The winner of Best Foreign Language Film lamented the lack of grownup films these days, echoing Martin Scorsese’s controversial assertion that Marvel movies are not cinema. “I’m a good moviegoer — I go every week,” he told Variety. “For me it’s becoming more and more difficult to find one or two movies to see that are not superheroes. And it’s a pity because humanity — to be human beings — and our relations? You can make a thousand movies with that as entertaining as the others, and a big adventure, too.”

Of Best Picture winner “The Irishman,” the film’s producer Jane Rosenthal told Variety, ‘This movie is looking at somebody’s life — I don’t think Scorsese or De Niro could have made it ten years ago because of their own reflection [on] and sense of the passage of time.”

“Go back and look at the great Walt Disney quote that he was always making movies for the child in all of us,” she continued. “I’d like to flip that around — it’s about looking at the humanity in all of us whether you’re an adult or a child — but certain films are clearly more sophisticated.”

Other honorees at the ceremony, held Saturday night at the Beverly Wilshire, included best actress winner Renée Zellweger and “Harriet” director Kasi Lemmons, who picked up the award for best time capsule film. Annette Bening, who attended with husband Warren Beatty, was honored with the Career Achievement Award. Bening admitted that she thought about — but ultimately decided against — stealing the speech Helen Mirren made when she received the same award at a past AARP event. “It was so humble and economic and perfect,” she recalled. “I really thought I could just do Helen’s speech because we’re all senior citizens so no one would even remember.”

The actors in attendance shared mixed feelings about AARP membership: “Thank you for inviting me into your club because guess what guys?” said Best Supporting Actress winner Laura Dern. “It’s sexy, it’s fun, it’s amazing, it’s creative, it’s inventive — I’m having the time of my life!” Don Johnson was less enthusiastic when his card arrived in the mail. “I got pissed off,” he said. “So I immediately went out and had three more children.” Then he turned beet-red on stage when his “Knives Out” costar Jamie Lee Curtis got political: “The world needs more adults,” she said. “The White House needs an adult.”

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