The Savannah Film Festival honored Matt Dillon last night.

I found his brief acceptance speech genuine and gracious. He dedicated the award to an actor friend who died just a couple of days ago — Leonard Termo.

I’d never heard of Termo, a character actor with a long filmography. From The Hollywood Reporter:

Leonard Termo, a streetwise character actor who appeared in five 1980s films with soulmate Mickey Rourke and guest starred in a memorable episode of Seinfeld, has died, his friend, actor Elias Koteas, confirmed Friday. He was 77.

Those films included The Pope of Greenwich Village, Year of the Dragon, and Barfly. On Seinfeld, he sold an aphrodisiac mango.

It seemed fitting that Dillon — a household name and face — would dedicate the award to Termo.

“I love the craft,” Dillon said after mentioning the loss of his friend. “I love what I do.” It’s the work that matters, Dillon seemed to be saying, not the fame.

“There’s no secret handshake,” Dillon apparently told some SCAD students earlier in the day about making it in Hollywood.

I say “apparently” because I was listening to a couple of students engaged in an animated conversation last night just before the lights dimmed. Whatever precisely Dillon said at that session, the students came away excited by possibility. You go to Hollywood, and you make your future yourself. No one hands it to you.

Of course, things aren’t so simple, and thousands of would-be stars and directors are never able to achieve their goals.

Dillon himself presents an interesting lesson.

He channeled the bad-boy/pretty-boy thing in Over the Edge when he was just 15, and from there his on-screen attitude and his looks propelled him through a series of surprisingly good films about teenage life in America, including Little Darlings, The Outsiders, and Rumble Fish.

And that sort of type-casting could have been the end of Dillon’s career, but he succeeded better than almost anyone has in negotiating the transition from teen idol to serious adult actor. By the time he was 25, he was starring as an addict in the gripping and witty Drugstore Cowboy, and in this century he has done films as diverse as There’s Something About Mary and Crash. His IMDB page shows him with four films currently in post-production and two in pre-production.

It will sure be interesting to watch as his career continues to evolve.

UPDATE: A tweet from Seinfeld: