Wednesday night the Academy board of governors convened to pick this year’s winners of the Academy’s Governors Awards.
For the fourth year, the annual event will be held at what was the Kodak Theater (now the Dolby) at Hollywood and Highland, on December 1. It’s not televised; it’s a night when the film industry gets to together over dinner and celebrates achievement–incuding the coveted Jean Hersholt humanitarian award, the Irving Thalberg award and honorary Oscars– without having to worry about fitting into ABC’s global kudocast.
It’s great that the Academy is stepping outside the box to award innovative stuntman Hal Needham (“Little Big Man,” “Chinatown”), documentarian D. A. Pennebaker (“Don’t Look Back”) and preservationist George Stevens, Jr. with honorary Oscars. And thanks to his longstanding work with the Motion Picture Film and Television Fund, the Hersholt Humanitarian Award goes to DreamWorks Animation honcho and philanthropist Jeffrey Katzenberg.
The Academy Honorary Award is given for “extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to the state of motion picture arts and sciences, or for outstanding service to the Academy.” The Thalberg Award is given to “a creative producer whose body of work reflects a consistently high quality of motion picture production.”
The Governors Awards will be produced by PR branch board member Cheryl Boone Isaacs, with support from producer Don Mischer. Oprah Winfrey, John Calley, Lauren Bacall, James Earl Jones, Francis Ford Coppola, Gordon Willis and Dick Smith are among recent Governors Award winners.
Full bios are below.
Hal Needham is a legendary stunt performer and coordinator who has worked on more than 300 feature films including “The Spirit of St. Louis,” “How the West Was Won,” “Blazing Saddles,” “Little Big Man” and “Chinatown.” A pioneer in improving stunt technology and safety procedures, Needham also co-founded Stunts Unlimited, and is known for mentoring young stunt performers. In 1986, the Academy presented Needham with a Scientific and Engineering Award for the design and development of the Shotmaker Elite camera car and crane, which allows filmmakers greater versatility in shooting action sequences. Needham made his directorial debut with “Smokey and the Bandit.” He went on to direct such features as “Hooper” and the “Cannonball Run” films.
D. A. Pennebaker, a pioneer of modern nonfiction film, has directed more than 20 feature-length documentaries, including “Don’t Look Back,” “Monterey Pop,” “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars,” “Moon over Broadway,” “Kings of Pastry” and “The War Room,” for which he received an Oscar® nomination. During his career of more than six decades, Pennebaker has inspired generations of filmmakers with his “you are here” style. He is considered one of the founders of the cinéma vérité movement, beginning with his collaboration on the seminal 1960 film “Primary.”
George Stevens, Jr. has spent a lifetime celebrating and preserving the heritage of motion pictures. After several years at the United States Information Agency, where he championed the work of young documentary filmmakers and was Oscar-nominated for producing the documentary short subject “The Five Cities of June,” Stevens went on to become the founding director of the American Film Institute. Under his leadership, the AFI established the Center for Advanced Film Studies, created the AFI Life Achievement Award and embarked on a host of educational initiatives. In 1977, Stevens co-founded the Kennedy Center Honors, which he has produced for the past 34 years.
A studio executive, film producer and philanthropist, Jeffrey Katzenberg has been instrumental in raising money for education, art and health-related causes, particularly those benefiting the motion picture industry. During more than two decades as chairman of the board for the Motion Picture and Television Fund, he helped to raise $200 million for the organization, created “The Night Before” event and worked to expand the MPTF campus. He also serves on the boards of such organizations as the California Institute of the Arts, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, AIDS Project Los Angeles, the Geffen Playhouse, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Katzenberg currently serves as CEO of DreamWorks Animation.