ATLANTA (FOX 5 Atlanta) - Some of Hollywood's biggest stars gathered Saturday in southwest Atlanta for the grand opening of Tyler Perry Studios.
The sprawling, 330-acre studio complex at Fort McPherson, a former Confederate army base, is owned Tyler Perry. The director, who rose from homelessness to become a playwright and then one of entertainment's most influential filmmakers, hosted a gala for the site that contains 12 sound stages named after people who inspire him.
Many of those stars attended the high-profile event, including media mogul Oprah Winfrey, Oscar winners Whoopi Goldberg, Halle Berry, and Spike Lee, as well as legendary Emmy winner Cicely Tyson.
The late Diahann Carroll has a stage named in her honor as well. The 84-year-old star died of cancer on the eve of the gala.
On the red carpet, stars paid tribute to Carroll, who became the first black woman in the late sixties to star in a television series with her show, "Julia." The Tony Award winner also gained critical acclaim in the 1974 film "Claudine" as well as shows "Dynasty" and "A Different World."
Fellow industry trailblazer Cicely Tyson told FOX 5's Marissa Mitchell she had known Carroll for more than five decades and visited the ailing actress last Sunday at her Los Angeles home.
"I knew that I wouldn't see her again," Tyson tearfully shared. "And while I was there ... Lenny Kravitz, who's my godson, showed up because he was on his way to Japan. She was not well but I didn't expect her to go so fast. But she was in a lot of pain so she is out of that. She and her daughter made up, so I think she left feeling good about that."
Tyson added she and other actors in her generation appreciate Perry's recognition of their contributions to the industry. "And if I were not, I would come down from heaven to experience this moment," she said.
Halle Berry said Carroll was a mentor to her, particularly when she portrayed the late actress and singer Dorothy Dandridge. Carroll appeared in a secondary role in Dandridge's 1954 film "Carmen Jones."
"I'm really sad. She was someone who was very special to me. When I did my 'Introducing Dorothy Dandridge' movie, she was with me a lot on that and consulted," Berry recalled. "I wanted to get it right. She was there to help and we forged our friendship from that moment."
Berry also said she looked up to Carroll who played a non-servant role in "Julia."
"She was the first black woman I ever saw on television as a little kid. I was raised by my white mother. My father wasn't in the home. And seeing an image of a black woman, a beautiful black woman. She was a nurse. She wasn't a maid. She was well-spoken. It gave me hope that I, too, could do the same thing," Berry shared.
Tyler Perry stressed, although Carroll didn't get to see her sound stage, her presence and legacy will be felt forever.
"I have never known anyone with so much class and grace, black, white, or other. She was the epitome of all that is inspiring and encouraging. My whole hope is for everyone who doesn't know who she is. They need to find out. She did a lot for all of us," Perry said.
Sound stages at Tyler Perry Studios are also named after Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, the late John Singleton, and the late couple Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee.