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HAMMOND: An Emotional Governors Awards

Pete Hammond

OSCARS: 2011 Governors Awards – Photos

At Saturday night’s third annual Governors Awards, Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody (Juno) was seated next to me and before the show unexpectedly said of being in the room with Oprah: “This is extreme for me. I am an Oprah worshipper.” After this year’s recipient of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award earned a trio of standing ovations and ended her emotional acceptance speech to bring the big night to a close, Cody concluded, “I feel like I have just freebased Oprah”. Indeed it was Oprah’s night in this room. But it also belonged to the other honorary Oscar winners, too – makeup legend Dick Smith and actor James Earl Jones, who accepted his award from London’s Wyndham stage in a segment taped earlier in the day after a matinee performance of Driving Miss Daisy in which he is appearing alongside Vanessa Redgrave.

So far I have been to all three Governors Awards  ceremonies and I would say this seemed the most emotional of them all with both Winfrey and Jones referencing their long journey from Mississippi to this Hollywood moment. One attendee told me afterwards, “I was really moved by this more than any other year”. If only the speeches could be this good on the Oscar show itself. Then the Academy wouldn’t have to worry about who hosts or produces the show.

Academy President Tom Sherak made his entrance in a Darth Vader uniform (in tribute to Jones) and opened with the same line he used to introduce a screening of the Jones film, The Great White Hope on Friday night: “How was your week?” It was an obvious reference to the tumultuous events surrounding this year’s Oscar show. But that was the only time the week’s events came up all evening. This was a night for the honorees and they all made the most of it. Before dinner a stirring reel was shown highlighting the entire 84-year history of honorary Oscar winners, followed by a touching tribute to past Oscar show producers Laura Ziskin and Gil Cates who both died this year.

Alec Baldwin got the show rolling after dinner by honoring his The Hunt For Red October co-star Jones saying, “Unlike many actors, James Earl Jones never had to get his career back because he never lost it. He is one of the greatest actors in history”. Glenn Close came out to praise him by referencing his Broadway triumph Fences. “He is the only actor who has broken me apart and transformed me until I was a screaming slobbering mess. James Earl Jones is indeed a world treasure.” Redgrave via tape surprised her co-star by bringing on Sir Ben Kingsley with an Oscar to present to Jones. ”You achieve what every actor is striving for. You are always so damn good,” Kingsley praised.

Jones was genuinely taken aback. “If an actor’s nightmare is being onstage butt-naked and not knowing his lines, then what the hell is this?” he laughed. ”This is an actor’s wet dream. I am gobsmacked at this improbable moment in my life. You cannot be an actor like I am and not have been in some of the worst movies like I have. But I stand before you deeply honored, mighty grateful, and just plain godsmacked.” Read More »

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OSCARS: 2011 Governors Awards – Photos

HAMMOND: An Emotional Governors Awards

J.J. Abrams, Glenn Close, John Travolta, Alec Baldwin, Larry Gordon, Rick Baker, Mary J. Blige, and Maria Shriver were some of the names who helped the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences present Honorary Awards to actor James Earl Jones and makeup artist Dick Smith and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to philanthropist Oprah Winfrey. It was the Academy’s 3rd Annual Governors Awards dinner last night at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center. Photos on next page: Read More »

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OSCARS: Academy To Launch Governors Awards Film Fest With Oprah And ‘Exorcist’

Pete Hammond

EXCLUSIVE: The American Film Institute’s AFI Fest that gets underway on November 3 isn’t the only big movie organization with a festival in the next couple of weeks. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is giving it some competition and getting into the act promoting the third annual Governors Awards on November 12 by launching their first-ever Governors Awards Film Series, set for November 9-11 at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills.

Let’s just call it the Govs Fest.

Bringing attention to the three Honorary Oscar winners this year, the Academy will devote one night to each of them in the run-up to the big event. Each evening will be highlighted by a screening of one of their most significant film accomplishments and remarks from colleagues.

For Honorary Award recipient Dick Smith, the Acad is showing a newly restored digital version of the director’s cut of The Exorcist, perhaps the make-up wizard’s most famous work in which he transformed Linda Blair into the epitome of Satan. The Acad could have chosen Amadeus, which actually won Smith his only previous Oscar in 1984 for Best Makeup, or even The Godfather or Taxi Driver, but this is the way to go. You can bet if the Makeup category actually existed in 1973 when the William Friedkin film was released, it would have easily taken the prize (the Makeup category was not created until 1981). It will screen on Wednesday, November 9 with an introduction from Academy Governor Leonard Engelman and remarks from special guests including seven-time Oscar-winning makeup artist Rick Baker and the film’s cinematographer Owen Roizman. Smith will also be at the screening. Read More »

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HAMMOND: Behind The Scenes Of Tuesday Night’s Honorary Oscar Voting

Pete Hammond

OSCARS: Tom Sherak Wins Third Term As Academy President
OSCARS: Oprah Winfrey, James Earl Jones & Dick Smith To Receive Academy’s Governor’s Awards
Oprah Oscar? Film Academy’s Lousy Choice

Shortly after Tuesday night’s all-important Board of Governors meeting of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, I spoke to newly re-elected president Tom Sherak, who was obviously thrilled about the opportunity to lead the organization for a third straight year. Since he is now beginning his ninth year on the board, he will automatically be termed off next year and ineligible to run for a fourth one-year stint (the maximum allowed). Although Sherak wouldn’t comment, I have learned there was no opposition to his re-election.

But what he was most excited about was the opportunity to call each of tonight’s newly selected Governors Awards honorees and tell them they have just won an Oscar. “It’s the best night of the year for me. How wonderful is it to wake up James Earl Jones with this kind of news? He told me, ‘Oh my God, I won’t be able to go back to sleep now!’ ” Sherak said he reached Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award winner Oprah Winfrey in some far-flung location, and she too was thrilled, although it probably takes an honor like this to really impress the multimedia maven and much-honored Winfrey, who was awarded the Hersholt, according to the Academy release, because she has established “herself as one of the most influential figures in entertainment and philanthropy … especially dedicated to supporting educational initiatives and raising awareness of issues that affect women and children, both in the United States and around the globe.”

Jones and Winfrey also represent real diversity. They are the first African Americans to be honored since the Academy created the Governors Awards in 2009. Oddly, the only credit they have shared together in their storied pasts was as voice talents on a 1999 hourlong video inspired by the life of Martin Luther King titled Our Friend Martin. Jones has an incredible 179 credits on IMDb as an actor, beginning with his first film role in 1964′s Best Picture nominee Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. He was Oscar nominated only once as Best Actor, for 1970′s The Great White Hope, but lost to George C. Scott in Patton. Providing some symmetry to the Governors Award ceremony this year, he also played a significant role in 1989′s Best Picture nominee Field Of Dreams, which was written and directed by Governors Awards producer Phil Robinson.

Winfrey has had only a handful of film roles including 1985′s The Color Purple, Native Son and Beloved. She reportedly is currently attached to a potential project with Meryl Streep and Sandra Bullock. As a producer, though, she has several TV film credits along with three theatrical movies. I thought perhaps the Academy might turn to a mega-star known for current humanitarian efforts such as George Clooney, Sean Penn or Angelina Jolie, but it was not to be. Winfrey is the first Hersholt winner since Jerry Lewis in 2008, a fact that makes Sherak proud.

“I am especially happy we were able to award the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award this year,” Sherak told me, since it’s given for work he likes to see the Academy recognize among its members and those in the industry. Winfrey is no stranger to Academy Awards, having been nominated as Best Supporting Actress for Color Purple, serving as a show presenter several times and for the last few years has had unprecedented access to the Kodak Theatre and newly minted Oscar winners when she taped her now-defunct talk show the morning after the big event. There has been speculation printed elsewhere about Oprah actually hosting this year’s Oscar telecast, but Sherak shrugged that off when I previously asked him about the rumors. The fact is the show’s producer is the one who hires a host for the show. The common feeling is the Oscars want to return to a comedian anyway after last year’s less-than-critically acclaimed hosting pair of James Franco and Anne Hathaway.

The 89-year-old Dick Smith, known as the “godfather of makeup artists,” has no listed credits since 1999′s House On Haunted Hill remake but is obviously revered in the industry with a resume that includes The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, The Exorcist, Taxi Driver, Little Big Man and a previous Oscar for 1984′s Amadeus — for doing Salieri’s old makeup. Despite the common wisdom, it’s not altogether rare for a previous Oscar winner to also later win an Honorary Award as I pointed out Friday in my preview of the Honorary Oscar voting. (See HAMMOND: Honorary Oscars To Be Voted Next Week; Who Will Get Them?) Sophia Loren, Sidney Poitier, Laurence Olivier, Robert Redford, Elia Kazan and others have received Honorary Oscar statuettes years after first winning a competitive Oscar. Still, the long list of deserving recipients who have never even had a nomination would suggest that these awards be handed out with that fact in mind, too. ”The board was well aware Dick Smith had already won an Oscar when they voted tonight, but that isn’t necessarily a factor in the decision. He got the votes. I am very happy that a below-the-line person got one of the honors this year,” says Sherak.

When asked why there was no fourth award or Thalberg given out tonight (four is the maximum number allowed), he said no one was able to get to 75% of the tally, the number required for a fourth to be awarded. The first three only require a simple majority of the voting. Read More »

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OSCARS: Oprah Winfrey, James Earl Jones, & Dick Smith To Receive Academy’s Governors Awards

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – The Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted tonight to present Honorary Awards to actor James Earl Jones and makeup artist Dick Smith and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to philanthropist Oprah Winfrey. All three awards will be presented at the Academy’s 3rd Annual Governors Awards dinner on Saturday, November 12, at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center®.

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