Langella, 78, took the stage on Sunday to accept the award for best performance by an actor in a leading role in a play for his turn in The Father. After thanking those involved in the production, he turned his attention to the tragedy.
“When something bad happens, we have three choices: we let it define us, we let it destroy us, or we let it strengthen us,” he said. “Today in Orlando we had a hideous dose of reality.
“I urge you Orlando to be strong because I’m standing in a room of the most generous humans on Earth and we will be with you every step of the way,” he concluded.
Langella accepted the award just hours after at least 50 people were killed and 53 injured in a shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando.
“We rise and fall and light from dying embers, remembrances that hope and love last longer and love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside,” he said while holding back tears.
A lone gunman reportedly identified as Omar Saddiqui Mateen was killed by authorities, and ISIS has taken responsibility for the attack.
Backstage, while Langella was speaking with PEOPLE, he also opened up about his brother, whom he mentioned in his acceptance speech, and who suffers from dementia.
“My brother has dementia. My brother is very much alive in me every time I play Andre in The Father,” he said, referencing his character in the play. “He’s doing well. He goes in and out. But I’m not alone in this. I’ve never played a role in which so many people come backstage and sit on the floor of my dressing room and weep. Not necessarily because of my performance, but because how many of us are dealing with people who are losing reality. And people who suddenly don’t know who you are. That’s been the most powerful thing I’ve discovered in this.”
With reporting by JEFFREY SLONIM