The ‘Philadelphia’ actor blamed his emotional state on the fact he was suffering from a cold as he reflected on his career and the support of his family.
After a montage of clips from his work over the years – including his second career role in TV series ‘The Love Boat’ in 1980 – was introduced by Charlize Theron, Tom said: “Most of the people in this room, I would pay to see them to get their cars washed.
“Can I just say honestly, really, really, tell the truth now, how many people in this room have a clip package that includes ‘The Love Boat?'”
After apologising for his cold, Tom looked at the table at the Beverly Hilton hotel where his wife, Rita Wilson, and their children were sitting, and turned back with tears in his eyes.
He said: “A man is blessed with a family sitting down front like that. I can’t tell you how much your love means to me.”
The 63-year-old actor name-checked a number of his past co-stars, including Meryl Streep, Denzel Washington and Meg Ryan.
He said: “You know, you’re a dope if you don’t steal from everybody you have ever worked with.
“And I have stolen from the likes of the people that only need one name, like Meryl, like Denzel, like Antonio, like Meg, like Julia, like Sally Field — even though that’s two names, it’s still one.
“But I have also been made better by watching the examples of some of the greatest actors that have ever walked the stage.”
He also praised the directors he had worked with in the past.
He said: “I have never not been challenged or flummoxed or lost sleep because of the work that was asked of me.
“It’s those moments as an actor where everybody I’ve ever worked with has helped me get to that place — sometimes it’s three o’clock in the morning and sometimes it’s 11 at night — but you just have to somehow put it all together, have faith in what the process is, and go there.”
Tom ended his speech by referencing old Hollywood terminology referring to movies shot on film.
He said: “I have checked the gate. The gate is good. Thank you.”