Every year, industry folks lobby the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with their candidates for honorary Oscar winners at the annual Governors Awards. And sometimes they get their way. Over the years Mike Kaplan, a publicists branch Academy member, has successfully lobbied for Lillian Gish, Robert Altman and John Ford’s favorite actress Maureen O’Hara, who happily collected her gold man the year before she died.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Board of Governors voted Tuesday night on the 2016 (un-televised) Governors Awards, which often including the coveted producer’s award, the Thalberg, and the Hersholt humanitarian award. You know what they’re looking for: someone who is still respected — if not revered. Francis Ford Coppola, John Calley and Dino DeLaurentiis have collected the Thalberg in recent years; Harry Belafonte, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie have accepted the Hersholt. Recent honorary Oscar winners include Lauren Bacall, Gena Rowlands, Hayao Miyazaki and Jean-Claude Carriere.
On November 12, 2016 the Academy will present four Honorary Oscars: To actor Jackie Chan, film editor Anne V. Coates, casting director Lynn Stalmaster and documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman. The show — always packed with Oscar contenders — will be held at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland.
Chan made his motion picture debut at the age of eight, and used his rigorous childhood training with the Peking Opera to build global stardom. The dazzling and charismatic athlete starred in – and often wrote, directed and produced – more than 30 martial arts features in his native Hong Kong. Since “Rumble in the Bronx” in 1996, he has gone on to worldwide success with the “Rush Hour” movies, “Shanghai Noon,” “Shanghai Knights,” “Around the World in 80 Days,” “The Karate Kid” and the “Kung Fu Panda” series of animated films.
Raised in Reigate, England, Coates worked her way up to lead editor before collaborating with David Lean on “Lawrence of Arabia” and winning her first Oscar. In her more than 60 years as a film editor, she has collaborated with many top directors including Sidney Lumet (“Murder on the Orient Express”), Richard Attenborough (“Chaplin”) and Steven Soderbergh (“Erin Brockovich”). She also earned four additional Oscar nominations, for “Becket,” “The Elephant Man,” “In the Line of Fire” and “Out of Sight.”
From Omaha, Nebraska, Stalmaster began working in casting in the mid-1950s after being trained as a stage actor. Over the next five decades, he cast more than 200 feature films, including such classics as “Inherit the Wind,” “In the Heat of the Night,” “The Graduate,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Harold and Maude,” “Deliverance,” “Coming Home,” “Tootsie” and “The Right Stuff.” He worked with directors Stanley Kramer, Robert Wise, Hal Ashby, Norman Jewison and Sydney Pollack, and helped to build the careers of such actors as Jon Voight, Richard Dreyfuss, Scott Wilson, Jill Clayburgh, Christopher Reeve and John Travolta.
From his base in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Wiseman has made one documentary almost every year since 1967, exploring lives in the context of social, cultural and government institutions. He created a sensation with his first documentary feature, “Titicut Follies,” which went behind the scenes at Bridgewater State Hospital for the criminally insane. The film established an unobtrusive, observational verite style that has identified his work, from “Law and Order,” “Public Housing” and “Domestic Violence” to “La Danse – The Paris Opera Ballet,” “National Gallery” and “In Jackson Heights.”
The Honorary Award, an Oscar statuette, per the Academy, is given “to honor extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to the state of motion picture arts and sciences, or for outstanding service to the Academy.”
I once wrote in on behalf of visionary VFX master Dennis Muren, who has been delivering wondrous works at ILM since “Star Wars,” and I hope they come through for him one day. His problem is that he’s won so many Oscars (six) that the Governors can be forgiven for wanting to award someone who has been undeservedly overlooked. I keep waiting for them to honor 0 for 13 cinematographer Roger Deakins and composer Thomas Newman, but both are still at the height of their powers and could still eventually earn a gold statuette on their own.