The 76-year-old actor was just one of the famous faces, including the Eagles and James Taylor, feted at this year's gala, hosted by Stephen Colbert on Sunday, the day after they received their medallions at a dinner on Saturday (03Dec16).

A host of actors lined up to pay their respects to Pacino, including Penn, who told the audience: "He makes the gods of acting smile."

Spacey brought a unique touch to the evening when he did his best impression of Pacino, before launching a tutorial to teach the audience members how to properly mimic the actor - looking surprised and exhaling loudly being the key.

Labelling Pacino a "cultural icon", Spacey added that the reason people impersonate him all the time is because "he has created characters that are unforgettable."

Other tributes came from Laurence Fishburne and Lily Rabe, who teamed up for a Shakespeare recitation, and Chris O'Donnell and Gabrielle Anwar, who re-enacted the famous tango scene between Pacino and Anwar from the actor's 1992 Oscar-winning movie Scent of a Woman.

O'Donnell, who played the prep school student who babysits Pacino's blind character, admitted he "considers it one of the greatest honours in his life to have the opportunity to go toe-to-toe with Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman."

And Cannavale said he owes his whole acting career to Pacino, adding: "I don't think there is an actor in the past five decades that hasn't been influenced by Al Pacino."

Other stars recognised at the gala included music veteran James Taylor, with former U.S. president Bill Clinton making a surprise appearance to recall the effect Taylor's music had on him and the American people at the most difficult times.

"Our nation was reeling from the pain of Vietnam," Clinton said. "James was there to satisfy our hunger for both intimacy and authenticity."

Sheryl Crow, Garth Brooks and Darius Rucker all performed medleys of Taylor's music to honour the legendary star, while Vince Gill, Kings of Leon and Bob Seger played the Eagles' music as the band were also honoured at the gala.

While the band were initially selected to be honoured last year (15), they delayed their participation because of Glenn Frey's ill health. The band's founding member died in January (16) aged 67.

Don Henley said as the group accepted the honour: "I want to dedicate this evening to our brother Glenn. He was so much a part of our success. He was the driving force in this band. He believed in the American dream."

Other honourees included Argentine pianist Martha Argerich and gospel singer Mavis Staples.