Steve Iervolino/ABC(ATLANTA) — Hollywood stars and icons united on Saturday night to celebrate the grand opening of Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, Georgia.
The gala, which took place on the 330-acre filming complex, was once the home of Confederate Army base Fort McPherson. It is now the site of the only major film studio in the nation owned by an African-American: Tyler Perry.
On the red carpet, ABC Audio caught up with numerous celebs about the historic nature of the night’s event.
“Tyler Perry is doing stuff that’s unprecedented,” said Oscar winner Spike Lee. “He’s doing stuff that’s never been done before. So, this is a very extraordinary night, just not for black America– this is for globally. This is a historic night.”
Lee’s fellow Oscar winner Viola Davis agreed and added that Perry’s accomplishment will also be an inspiration to others.
“He’s a trailblazer,” Davis said. “He’s doing something that is iconic which is building the first black studio. And I think it’s very timely…the big thing for me in terms of inclusion and diversity, the big step is autonomy. We need ownership. We need to know that we’re in control of our content.”
Tiffany Haddish, who called Perry her mentor, told ABC Audio that she was deeply inspired by the director and even looked forward to following in his footsteps one day.
“He said he’s gonna teach me. And he better not be lying, because I’ll tell,” she joked.
For Samuel L. Jackson, however, Perry’s studio opening meant something more significant. It meant young people in the community who had big dreams of going to Hollywood would now get the same experience locally.
“That they have a place that they can come to and learn and understand and demystify the film process and hopefully become great filmmakers themselves and make this studio equal to Fox, Universal and Warner Brothers,” he said.
Perry would agree, adding his humble beginnings from a once-struggling playwright to even living out of his car, were just a drop in a bucket from what was truly in store for him as an entrepreneur and studio owner.
“My whole intention tonight, my whole hope is that somebody gets inspired,” he said. “If that happens then, I’m good.”
Perry added that he also wanted “to inspire somebody to dream, to believe that they can do it too. No matter where he came from.”
Meanwhile, Tyler’s good friend, legendary actress Cicely Tyson, 94, was just thankful to be there and witness Perry’s vision come to life.
“I just wonder if I didn’t live this long, where would I be,” she laughed. “I would come down from heaven. To experience this moment. That’s what I would do. That’s how much it means to me to be here. And I’m so grateful to God that he’s speared me. Really I am.”
While the sentiment of the night was undoubtedly focused on Perry’s great accomplishment, many stars also spoke on the recent death of legendary actress and singer Diahann Carroll, who passed away from cancer at the age of 84 on October 4. Carroll was one of the 12 chosen actors to have a sound stage named after them.
“She paved the way. She was what the dreams are based on why we wanted to be actresses,” said Loretta Devine, who revealed that she recently saw Carroll and thought she’d see her again at Perry’s sound stage dedication.
Devine’s good friend Jenifer Lewis shared similar feelings, adding that Carroll was truly “an amazing human being.”
“One of the most beautiful women I’ve ever known,” she said. “And I’m proud to have known her.”
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