Jane Fonda and the late filmmaker Laura Ziskin were honored at the breakfast ceremony Wednesday at the Beverly Hills Hotel, held by the Hollywood Reporter in concert with its annual Power 100 ranking of the entertainment industry's most powerful women.
"This list matters," said Janice Min, the magazine's editorial director. "Acknowledging the achievements of women in a town where only 16 percent of all powerful, behind-the-scenes jobs are held by them - and that number is declining - is important."
Chelsea Handler, who ranked 97th on the list, welcomed guests including Nancy Grace (ranked 86th) and reality star Bethenny Frankel (No. 100 on the list), along with actresses Kate Bosworth and Emmy Rossum and the ubiquitous Kim Kardashian.
Actress Kirsten Dunst and Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal (No. 2 on the Power 100 list) presented a tribute to "Spider-Man" producer and Stand Up To Cancer founder Ziskin, who helped raise more than $180 million for cancer research before succumbing to the disease in June.
Former Paramount Pictures chief Sherry Lansing lauded her friend Fonda for her pioneering work in film, fitness, philanthropy and activism, presenting the 73-year-old actress with the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award.
Lansing said she idolized Fonda and credited the actress with teaching her to have faith in her ideas and stand up for herself. Lansing shared a story from early in her career when she worked with Fonda on "The China Syndrome."
Executives wanted to change the film's title, and rather than argue, Lansing dutifully passed word along to Fonda.
"She said to me, `Are you a corporate tool?"' Lansing recalled as the audience exploded in laughter. That exchange, Lansing said, taught her to "never let the numbers or the research cause me to go against my instincts ... that my instincts and my passion were more valuable than anything else."
Lansing went on to say that Fonda has "led us artistically and made us question our lives politically."
"I still idolize you, Jane, and you still inspire me," the former studio chief said.
"Did I really say corporate tool? No wonder people didn't like me," Fonda quipped as she accepted the crystal trophy, "which I guess is made out of a chunk of the glass ceiling that Sherry Lansing broke through."
Fonda said that while women have made strides in front of and behind the camera, the entertainment industry needs more female decision-makers.
"Until more women wield the power to decide what movies and TV shows get made, Hollywood culture won't really yield all the fascinating complexities that are the realities of women's lives," she said. "Until then, we're accepting supporting roles in an industry many of us have devoted our lives to."
The next generation of female leaders also participated in the annual Women in Entertainment breakfast. "The Help" author Kathryn Stockett and stars Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer introduced 12 Los Angeles-area high school juniors who will be mentored by female entertainment executives for the next year through a program launched in 2009 by the Hollywood Reporter and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
The full Power 100 list, which also includes the cast of "Bridesmaids" at No. 44, can be found online and in a special issue out this month. Anne Sweeney, co-chairman of Disney Media Networks, tops the list.