AN EVENING TO DIE FOR

While the year’s entertainment calendar is filled with a slew of award presentations, there is one that always stands out as a definite delight – American Cinematheque’s (AC) annual tribute dinner. Every year, those dedicated film-loving folks showcase the career of one of the world’s finest actors. And this year was no exception. AC’s toast of Tinseltown was Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman. Ms. Kidman joins a long and prestigious list of previous honorees including Bond-man Sean Connery, mega-director Steven Spielberg, former hubby Tom Cruise and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The lobby of the Beverly Hills Hotel was awash in a blinding sea of strobe lights as the paparazzi from around the world jockeyed to capture the dazzling parade of glittering guests. NK arrived looking as glamorous as ever, wearing a sleek black gown with a trio of deep-red amaryllis blossoms adorning her crown of heavenly curls.

But no matter which end of the camera you happen to be on, the AC dinner with its film retrospectives and shared stories is stellar all around.

“I’m doing Blade 3 in Vancouver and flew down just for tonight,” film editor Howard Smith said. “It’s always a really special evening and you get a lot of insight.”

Inside, The Grand Ballroom was aglow in shades of lavender and ochre. The stage was done up in the style of the newly restored Egyptian Theater with grand columns, pharaohs, pyramid and temple motifs.

As for Ms. Kidman, the $15 million-a-flick chic has come a long way in a very short period of time. The 36-year-old actress has more than two dozen films to her credit including “Moulin Rouge,” “Portrait of a Lady,” “The Others” and “The Human Stain” as well as her Oscar-winning performance as Virginia Wolf in “The Hours.”

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“Nicole explores new worlds and characters,” Lauren Bacall noted. “with a range that is quite extraordinary.”

That range has covered everything from playing a Southern Belle in the epic drama “Cold Mountain” to a sexy psychologist in “Batman Forever,” a mischievous witch in “Practical Magic” and an ambitious TV weathercaster in the cult classic “To Die For.”

Many of the guests in attendance were friends, execs and co-stars who worked with Nicole over the years including Matt Dillon, Adrien Brody and Sidney Pollack.

A few go way back to Nicole’s Aussie roots. Actress Naomi Watts has been a close pal since the two were teens. “I remember when she started off in films like ‘Bush Christmas’ and ‘BMX Bandits’,” Naomi quipped. “Her career choices have really gone downhill since then.”

With an Oscar, three Golden Globes and oodles of critical acclaim, Nicole has left her audiences clamoring for more. And you can be sure we’ll have our eyes wide open as we continue to marvel at the stunner from Down Under and her 24-karat career.

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