Gene Siskel Film Center Raises $400K in Benefit Honoring 

Actress Scarlett Johansson 

Scarlett Johansson received the Gene Siskel Film Center Renaissance Award and participated in an intimate discussion at the the Film Center's annual gala on June 30, 2016 (photo by Robert Carl).

The Gene Siskel Film Center (GSFC) of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) once again saluted a leader in cinematic artistry honoring Scarlett Johansson, one of Hollywood’s most talented young actresses, Thursday, June 30, 2016 at The Ritz-Carlton Chicago. The evening celebrated the Tony and BAFTA winner and four-time Golden Globe nominee’s accomplishments throughout her illustrious career and gave attendees the rare opportunity to listen in as Johansson spoke with Film Critic Richard Roeper divulging her favorite roles, beginning her career at such an early age, and so much more. A retrospective of film clips from her most memorable performances accompanied the conversation. Attended by more than 350 guests and raising more than $400,000 for the Film Center, the evening culminated with the presentation of the Gene Siskel Film Center Renaissance Award to Johansson by Gene Siskel Film Center Advisory Board Chair Ellen Sandor and SAIC President Dr. Walter E. Massey. Massey received his own honor when Sandor presented him with the Illustrious Leader Award for his six years at the helm of SAIC before he steps down as President and transitions to Chancellor this July. 

“It was a true honor to celebrate the incomparable Scarlett Johansson and present her with this years’ Renaissance Award,” said GSFC of the SAIC Executive Director Jean de St. Aubin. “Not only did we ‘Celebrate Scarlett’ during the special evening, we also recognized the work of the Gene Siskel Film Center to bring people together to experience the best in international, classic and independent cinema through screenings, discussions and special events.”

​“Celebrate Scarlett,” co-chaired by longstanding GSFC supporters and Advisory Board members Marlene Iglitzen and Ellen Kollar, supports the Gene Siskel Film Center’s eclectic film programming as well as lecture series and discussions with visiting scholars and filmmakers, providing the opportunity for students and the Chicago community to not only see the best in the cinematic arts but to also engage with filmmakers. The annual fundraiser celebrates the art of film by honoring a filmmaker who advances the art of cinema and is the primary fundraising event of the Film Center, ensuring that they continue to present the highest quality films and film-related events in Chicago. Past Renaissance Award honorees have included some of the most respected actors and directors working in the film industry today such as Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Reese Witherspoon, Jamie Foxx, Robert Downey Jr.,George Lucas, Nicole Kidman and William H. Macy and Felicity Huffman. 

The evening festivities began at 6 p.m. with a cocktail reception in the lobby of The Ritz-Carlton Chicago, where guests mingled with one another while getting their own photos snapped. Simultaneously, Scarlett Johansson walked the Red Carpet speaking about her reaction to being honored with the GSFC Renaissance Award and how she felt about just being named the highest grossing female actress of all time that same day. 

As guests entered into the grand ballroom they were greeted by event co-hairs, Iglitzen and Kollarbefore hearing from GSFC Director of Programming Barbara Scharres who welcomed both Richard Roeper and Scarlett Johansson to the stage where the two engaged in a lively conversation about her career, influences and outlook on her longevity in Hollywood. Clips of her films were interspersed throughout the conversation in which she carefully reflected upon what each film meant to her and what she was able to take away from each distinct role she embodied.

Guests were treated to an elegant four-course dinner that paid tribute to some of Johansson’s most notable films before the magical evening concluded.

​Since 1972, the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago has presented cutting edge cinema to an annual audience of 80,000. The Film Center’s programming includes annual film festivals that celebrate diverse voices and international cultures, premieres of trailblazing work by today’s independent filmmakers, restorations and revivals of essential films from cinema history, and insightful provocative discussions with filmmakers and media artists. Visit to learn more about film center programming and initiatives.