At the 2023 Screen Actors Guild Awards Sunday, Sally Field was given the acting union’s highest honor: the Life Achievement Award, recognizing “career achievement and humanitarian accomplishment.”
The award was presented to her by her The Amazing Spider-Man co-star Andrew Garfield, who remarked “you evoke awe in every actor’s heart” in his introduction, speaking to Field. “You never drink the Kool-Aid of your own brilliance,” Garfield said. He spoke about Field leading the way for actresses in a misogynistic industry, fighting for women’s and LGBTQIA+ rights. “Sally, you show us how to live a life devoted to art, love and service,” he concluded.
In her acceptance speech, Field remarked: “In the fall of 1964, I was standing in front of a camera on a freezing cold beach in Malibu, and I said my first lines of dialogue as a professional actor,” in Gidget. “I first found a stage when I was 12 years old, in the seventh grade,” she remembered, talking about her school’s drama department. “Offstage I felt shy and careful and hidden. But onstage I never knew what I would say or do. I would surprise myself. I wasn’t looking for the applause, or attention, even though that’s nice.”
“Acting, to me, has always been about finding those few, precious moments when I feel totally, utterly, sometimes dangerously alive,” she explained. “The task has always been to find a way to get to that.”
She shared that “struggling to climb my way out of the box of situational comedy in the ’60s and ’70s took a fierceness I didn’t know I had,” she recalls. She talked about how difficult it was coming up as a young woman in the industry and acknowledged how even more challenging that struggle is for actors of color. “My fight, as hard as it was, was lightweight compared to some of yours,” she said, before stating triumphantly, “easy is overrated.”
Referencing her extensive, iconic filmography, she said “I’ve been Mrs. Doubtfire’s employer, Forrest Gump’s mother, Lincoln’s wife, and Spider-Man’s aunt,” continuing: “Sometimes I have been lucky enough to be a part of projects whose screenplays were so good that my hands shook the first time I read them… They opened and revealed parts of myself I would not have known otherwise. I’ve worked my whole life. In all of these almost 60 years, there is not a day that I don’t feel quietly thrilled to call myself an actor.”
Field has received nine SAG Award nominations, winning for actress in a drama series in 2009 for Brothers & Sisters. She’s been nominated for three Oscars, winning twice for best lead actress: for 1979’s Norma Rae and 1984’s Places in the Heart. She was nominated for supporting actress for Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln in 2013.
Additionally, Field has nine Emmy nominations and three wins, for the aforementioned Brothers & Sisters as well as guest actress on ER and lead actress for Sybil.
She recently appeared in Spoiler Alert, from director MIchael Showalter, and the buddy comedy 80 for Brady, which sees her joined by fellow acting legends Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Rita Moreno.
On the humanitarian side, Field was arrested with her Brady co-star Jane Fonda for protesting the lack of governmental action around climate change, and she brought a spotlight to issues like nuclear proliferation with another Brady star, Lily Tomlin.
Check out a full list of Sunday’s winner here. Check out the star-studded red carpet arrivals here.