The actor was honored at the MoMA's 2020 Film Benefit for his contributions as an actor and humanitarian

By Georgia Slater
December 08, 2020 11:34 AM
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Not even a pandemic can hold back George Clooney's costars and friends from coming together — virtually, of course — to celebrate the icon.

On Monday, the Oscar-winning actor, producer, director, screenwriter, and humanitarian was honored at the Museum of Modern Art’s 2020 Film Benefit, presented by Chanel, where stars like Bradley Cooper, Tilda Swinton, and more gathered at the virtual gala to pay tribute to Clooney.

"Isn’t it dumb that we can’t all be in the same room tonight? It’s such a strange year," Clooney, 59, began his remarks, after watching the sweet tributes.

"It's an honor to be in the company of this incredible list of honorees," he continued, teasing, "some are dear friends, a couple whom I don’t care for. You know who you are."

George Clooney
Credit: Courtesy MoMA

The actor then recalled his first trip to the MoMA when he was 12 as "a kid from a small town in Kentucky."

"My parents brought me and my sister to New York. Just standing in front of the museum, I'd never seen anything like it...it opened my eyes to a whole world, a world where anything is possible," he said.

George Clooney
Credit: Jeff Spicer/Getty

"That's what the Museum of Modern Art means to me. And your support for young filmmakers and film preservation, they're deeply personal. Your commitment to artists, through your partnership with Artist Relief, is inspiring in the most difficult year," he added.

Clooney's collaborators and friends each honored the actor for various reasons.

Cooper thanked the Up in the Air star for being an inspiration for young actors and directors.

"You have inspired us and you have allowed us to dream big because of the way you have lived your life as an artist in this business," he said.

Clooney's Michael Clayton costar Swinton, who received the same MoMA honor in 2013, called the actor "one of the best, the greatest ever."

Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Grant Heslov, Tiffany Boone, Demian Bechir, Kyle Chandler, Tilda Swinton, Jeffrey Wright, David Letterman, Sam Rockwell, Julianna Margulies, and Bradley Cooper Presented by CHANEL, A Tribute to George Clooney
Credit: Andrew Boyle

"What a sublime actor and what a citizen of the planet you are. I’m here to say this, you’re just a good one. You’re a good man. You have a great heart. You’re super kind, man," the actress said. "I really love you. I want to see more of you please. Have a beautiful night soaking all this up. Well done, MoMA.”

Julianna Margulies, who starred opposite Clooney in the medical drama ER, credited the actor for helping her advance her career.

"I feel so grateful that you were the one who actually stopped me from taking [another] job, because you were the only one who actually cared enough to call and say, ‘By the way, don’t take the job. I think you tested well and we tested well together. If you just could hold off for a couple of weeks, I think you’re going to get a series regular offer,'" she recalled.

"Forever in my life, I am indebted to you, my friend," she said.

The actress also reflected on a hilarious anecdote between the two when Clooney let her drive his Porche. The star recalled telling Clooney she loved to drive, to which he asked, "Have you ever driven a Porche?" He then proceeded to hand her his keys.

"And I thought, 'Who’s this guy who’s letting me drive his Porsche? This guy can’t be for real,'" she shared. "I would read the telephone book for you, my friend."

Other stars to appear at the event included Demián Bichir, Tiffany Boone, Kyle Chandler, Grant Heslov, Felicity Jones, David Letterman, Michael Ovitz, David Oyelowo, Sam Rockwell, and Jeffrey Wright.

The event, which benefited Artist Relief, an emergency initiative that offers financial support and informational resources to artists across the United States, closed with a musical performance by Grammy nominee Brittany Howard.

Clooney's MoMA honor comes nearly a week after he was named one of PEOPLE's People of the Year.

The actor — who has also been named PEOPLE's Sexiest Man Alive twice — has long been one of Hollywood’s most philanthropic and outspoken humanitarians, using his voice, wealth and powerful platform to do good.

His upcoming film, The Midnight Sky, is available on Netflix Dec. 2.