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Eli Wallach Appreciation: How Oscar Finally Got It Right After Nearly 60 Years Of No Nominations

By | Wednesday June 25, 2014 @ 6:02pm PDT
Pete Hammond

Eli Wallach Appreciation: How Oscar Finally Got It Right After Nearly 60 Years Of No NominationsI like the fact that Turner Classic Movies announced today a special 11-hour tribute to the now-late and always-great Eli Wallach, who died last night at age 98. He was such a magnificent actor, particularly onstage, where he won a Tony in The Rose Tattoo or on TV in countless performances including his Emmy-winning turn in 1966′s Poppies Are Also Flowers. His movie roles were memorable too, but he never quite got that truly great moment onscreen that could have ignited his film career and sent it in a different direction. It’s true he was terrific as the evil Calvera in 1960′s The Magnificent Seven (which Denzel Washington is threatening to remake) and 584-G99UK_AuSt_55as the bandit Tuco in the 1966 Sergio Leone classic, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. His 1956 film debut in Baby Doll was a great way to start in cinema for this born stage actor, a disciple of the Actors Studio. There were other turns over the years in the underrated 1958 film The Lineup,  the film adaptation of stage hit The Tiger Makes Out co-starring his wife of 66 years Anne Jackson, How To Steal A Million, The Misfits (opposite Gable, Monroe and Clift in 1961), Cinderella Liberty, The Godfather Part III all the way up to his small but amusing role in 2010′s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.

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Deadline Awards Watch 51: The Governors Hunger Games Episode

Pete Hammond

Listen to (and share) episode 51 of our audio podcast “Deadline Awards Watch with Pete Hammond.”

Deadline’s awards columnist talks with host David Bloom about more highlights from Deadline’s recent The Contenders event, including Meryl Streep‘s all-business approach behind her sterling performance in August: Osage County; how screenwriter Kelly Marcel had to make the irascible author of Mary Poppins just a wee bit more cuddly to help save Saving Mr. Banks; and behind the scenes with the tech and design gurus who helped make Spike Jonze’s latest, Her, another unique cinematic experience.

We also talk about the looming voting deadline for the shortlist of Oscar documentary features, a publicists’ pre-Oscar frenzy at the glitzy and star-filled Academy Governors Awards and how recent festival fever among the major studios might help their entries scoop up more Oscar gold.

Finally, we’ll get Pete’s take on this week’s new movies, which should be dominated by The Hunger Games: Catching Fire as the sequel goes for all kinds of box office records.

With the long Thanksgiving weekend just ahead, however, several other substantial entries will open in U.S. theaters this weekend, including Disney’s animated tale Frozen, which also features a marvelous Mickey Mouse short, Get A Horse, that Pete picks as a can’t-miss for the animated short Oscar; the big festival favorite Philomena, with Judi Dench and do-everything sidekick Steve Coogan; and the somewhat serious comedy remake Delivery Man, with Vince Vaughn in perhaps his most well-rounded performance ever.

Deadline Awards Watch 51: The Governors Hunger Games Episode (.MP3 version)

Deadline Awards Watch 51: The Governors Hunger Games Episode (.M4A version)
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OSCARS: Governors Awards Honor Best Of The Best And Provide Lots Of Opportunity For Schmoozing

Pete Hammond

Captain Phillips newcomer and Oscar-buzzed Barkhad Abdi, who plays the lead Somalian pirate in the film, told me he thought the Governors Awards meant prizes actually handed out by the Governor and he seemed a bit overwhelmed by the whole occasion. Of course these honorary awards bestowed on Saturday night at the Hollywood & Highland Grand Ballroom are not presented by Jerry Brown, but rather voted on by the Board of Governors of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & SciencesAnd in addition to the formal duty of putting a shiny new Oscar statuette in the hands of Jean Hersholt Humanitarian winner Angelina Jolie, Steve Martin, Angela Lansbury and Claudia Cardinale (standing in for absent Costume Designer Piero Tosi who couldn’t make the trip from Italy), this signature awards season event now in its fifth year also has become the official “must schmooze” event of the entire six month awards corridor, a place where Oscar nominee hopefuls can jump from table to table full of Academy members. As presenter Martin Short put it, “the Governors Awards are the highest honor an actor can receive in mid-November.” And there can be no question the timing of the event is extremely important for those out on the campaign trail.

Related: Governors Awards Gallery: Angelina Jolie, Angela Lansbury, Steve Martin

But ultimately this event is about honoring those the Academy feels are worthy of career recognition, generally a lifetime achievement award.  Cheryl Boone Isaacs, new president of the Academy, welcomed each of the honorees and noted the importance of the honor. “Congratulations to all of you. Your work on screen and off captivates and invigorates society. You challenge us to see each other and the world in different ways. We are all richer for your brilliance,” she said before breaking for dinner.

Once the 90-minute show began, Jolie’s In The Land Of Blood And Honey cast, actress Gena Rowlands, and George Lucas presented Jolie, the youngest winner of the Hersholt award, with her Oscar. A detailed film package clearly explained why this tireless global humanitarian is getting the award but she seemed overcome by it, saluting her late mother for the inspiration (father Jon Voight was in the audience). Read More »

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Governors Awards: Angelina Jolie, Angela Lansbury, Steve Martin Feted At Honorary Oscars (Gallery)

2013 Governors Awards: Angelina Jolie, Angela Lansbury, Steve Martin

The Academy‘s fifth annual Governors Awards kick off tonight at 8 PM at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland, hosted by Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, CEO Dawn Hudson and the Academy’s Board of Governors. Receiving honorary Oscars tonight are three-time Oscar nominee Angela Lansbury, three-time Oscars host Steve Martin, and costume designer Piero Tosi (The Leopard, Death in Venice), a five-time Oscar nominee. (Tosi will not be in attendance.) The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award will be awarded to Angelina Jolie. Paula Wagner is producing tonight’s event. Hit the jump for the photo gallery and check back tonight for Pete Hammond’s coverage.

Related: OSCARS: Governors Awards Provide Lots Of Opportunity For Schmoozing

Related: OSCARS: Big Names, Deserving Recipients For Governors Awards Read More »

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Paula Wagner To Produce 2013 Governors Awards

By | Thursday September 12, 2013 @ 10:25am PDT

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – Paula Wagner will produce the 5th Annual Governors Awards for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs announced today. The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and three Honorary Awards will be presented to Angelina Jolie, Angela Lansbury, Steve Martin and Piero Tosi, respectively, on Saturday, November 16, at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center®.

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OSCARS: Big Names, Deserving Recipients For Governors Awards

Pete Hammond

With recipients like Angela Lansbury, Steve MartinAngelina Jolie, and legendary Italian costume designer Piero Tosithis November 16th Governors Awards promises to be the starriest of all four held to date. One new Governor who had received the briefing book on those being considered told me last week that the list ran from big stars to names they had never heard of. Looks like the Academy’s Board of Governors decided to go with the “big names”. But as Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs just told me, “it’s a wide range of talent from many different aspects of filmmaking”.

Jolie’s Hersholt award is richly deserved. Some might be surprised to see her getting this honor at such a young age, and at 38 she is the youngest recipient of this award and the youngest recipient of a Governors Award since their inception. Her tireless globetrotting humanitarian efforts are a remarkable example for other actors of her generation and it’s nice the Academy decided to recognize them.

Related: Academy Unveils 2013 Governors Awards
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Academy Unveils 2013 Governors Awards: Honorees Angelina Jolie, Angela Lansbury, Steve Martin, Piero Tosi

Related: Hammond: Big Names, Deserving Recipients For Governors Awards

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – The Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present Honorary Awards to Angela Lansbury, Steve Martin and Piero Tosi, and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to Angelina Jolie. All four awards will be presented at the Academy’s 5th Annual Governors Awards on Saturday, November 16, at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center®.

“The Governors Awards pay tribute to individuals who’ve made indelible contributions in their respective fields,” said Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs. “We couldn’t be more excited for this year’s honorees and look forward to bringing their peers and colleagues together to celebrate their extraordinary achievements.”

Lansbury has received three Academy Award® nominations for her supporting performances on film – the first in her 1944 feature debut in “Gaslight,” followed by “The Picture of Dorian Gray” (1945) and “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962). Her numerous other credits include “The Long, Hot Summer,” “Blue Hawaii,” “The World of Henry Orient,” “Bedknobs and Broomsticks,” “Death on the Nile” and “Mr. Popper’s Penguins,” as well as voice work for the first animated feature to receive a Best Picture nomination, “Beauty and the Beast.”

Martin, who got his start in television, is a versatile actor, writer, comedian and musician who began to display the breadth of his big-screen talent as the screenwriter and star of the 1977 Oscar®-nominated short film “The Absent-Minded Waiter.” He wrote and starred in “The Jerk,” “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid,” “Three Amigos,” “Roxanne,” “L.A. Story,” “The Pink Panther” series and “Shopgirl,” which he adapted from his critically acclaimed book of the same name. His other acting credits include “All of Me,” “Parenthood,” “Father of the Bride” and “It’s Complicated.” He also is a three-time host of the Oscars®, most recently in 2010 with Alec Baldwin.

Tosi rose to prominence through his collaborations with Italian director Luchino Visconti on such films as “White Nights” and “Rocco and His Brothers,” and continued to work with him on several other features, including the Costume Design nominees “The Leopard,” “Death in Venice” and “Ludwig.” Tosi received two more nominations for his designs for “La Cage aux Folles” and “La Traviata.” His other notable credits include “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” a Foreign Language Film winner, and “Marriage Italian Style,” a Foreign Language Film nominee, both directed by Vittorio De Sica.

Jolie, who won an Oscar for her supporting performance in “Girl, Interrupted,” has been an impassioned advocate for humanitarian causes, traveling widely to promote organizations and social justice efforts such as the Prevent Sexual Violence Initiative. Staking out a career at the nexus of entertainment and philanthropy, Jolie has worked for a number of global advocacy groups including the Council on Foreign Relations and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), for which she was appointed Special Envoy of High Commissioner António Guterres in 2012 after twelve years of service. Her dedication to these causes has also shaped her work in films that tackle global humanitarian issues including “A Mighty Heart” and her feature film directorial debut “In the Land of Blood and Honey.”

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Academy’s 4th Annual Governors Awards Draws Heavy Hitters And Oscar Contenders

Pete Hammond

Flight director Robert Zemeckis was sitting next to me at Saturday’s fourth annual Governors Awards of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences saluting Hal Needham, George Stevens Jr., D.A. Pennebaker, and Jean Hersholt Humanitarian winner Jeffrey Katzenberg. He asked what I thought the news coming out of tonight would be. I quickly replied, “It’s become a very big place, perhaps the biggest in the season, for Oscar campaigning.” No question since this very important event is taking place closer than ever to official Academy voting (which begins December 17th and runs through January 3rd – 10 days earlier than usual). So contenders were out in force. What better place to be seen than in a room full of Academy voters? “Now it begins. This is the first really big one of the season,”  one studio marketing executive said about the very impressive turnout.

Related: Honorary Oscars Ignore Veteran Actors For Industry Insiders

Zemeckis noted the heavy studio presence making a big difference in star turnout. Studios this year have more Oscar hopefuls than usual, and many potential nominees eager to talk were at those tables: Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal and co-star Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty); director Juan Antonio Bayona, stars Ewan McGregor and Tom Holland (The Impossible); Bradley Cooper, Jacki Weaver, director David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook); director Nicholas Jarecki, star Richard Gere (Arbitrage); John Krasinski, Rosemarie DeWitt (Promised Land); John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, director Ben Lewin (The Sessions); writer Tony Kushner, director Steven Spielberg (Lincoln); director Tom Hooper, Producer Eric Fellner (Les Misérables); Omar Sy (The Intouchables);  Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann (This Is 40); director Joe Wright (Anna Karenina); Kristen Stewart (On The Road); Amy Adams (The Master); Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas (The Dark Knight Rises); Writer Chris Terrio (Argo); Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained). And this is just a partial list.

Tarantino had come directly to the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood And Highland Center from his DGA screening  of awards-buzzed Django Unchained. The violent spaghetti western homage had not screened in its finished form to an audience anywhere until Saturday afternoon – and it reportedly received two standing ovations, immediately erasing fears that it wouldn’t be ready in time for its Christmas Day release or that it was over-hyped as a serious contender. Twitter reaction is pretty ecstatic, too. Tarantino was clearly in a good mood, saying it was the first time he was able to screen the film to anyone other than the same “8 people” who’ve seen it over and over. “It was really great. They seemed to get all the jokes, and it played very well,” he told me. “You have to see this film,” Sony Chairman Amy Pascal told me as I came over to talk to Tarantino. (Sony has international on the film while The Weinstein Company retains domestic rights.) Film nerd that he blissfully is, Tarantino seemed just as excited when Governors awardee Needham came up to say hello. “I think Smokey And The Bandit is one of the best first-directed features to this day. And it is a real Southern film,” he said to the honoree he would later be toasting. Bradley Cooper, attending his first Governors Awards, noted how great it is that events like these allow people in the industry to talk to others they really admire and respect. Of course the real reason for this event was so the industry could take a good deal of time to honor their own with the highest awards they can bestow.

It made for quite an emotional night. Academy President Hawk Koch began the evening describing the congratulatory phone calls he made telling the four recipients that they had just been voted an Oscar. “I can still hear D.A. Pennebaker asking in disbelief, ‘Are you kidding?’ And George Stevens Jr saying, ‘Oh my God!’ True to form, Hal Needham gave a giant ‘Woo hoo!’ And Jeffrey Katzenberg, believe it or not, was speechless,” Koch said before describing what the evening (flawlessly produced by Don Mischer, Cheryl Boone Issacs, Charlie Haykel, Juliane Hare) was really all about. “The definition of who deserves an Honorary Oscar is simple. Each one of these people we are honoring tonight has made a difference to every single person in the film community, here in Hollywood, and all over the world. They have redefined our art form. They have changed how our movies are made and the impact on our lives.”

Next came a one-hour dinner break which became the Super Bowl of table-hopping as overworked awards consultants made sure their contenders were moving around the room for meets and greets with the Academy crowd.

After dinner U.S. Senator Al Franken came on to extoll the virtues of 87-year old documentary filmmaking legend D.A. Pennebaker, whose career spans music docs for the likes of Bob Dylan and David Bowie to penetrating political docs like 1960′s Primary and The War Room. One of his films even profiled Franken himself (2007′s Al Franken: God Spoke). “He was a pioneer in the use of cinéma vérité and the use of moving, even jerky, camera moves  that has changed the way filmmakers shoot their movies. And his body of work has influenced us all, not just because he’s a great filmmaker but because his films feel so honest and true,” said Franken. Academy Documentary Governor Michael Moore echoed those sentiments in introducing Pennebaker by saying, ”Tonight we are honoring a man who invented the modern documentary.” The night’s first honoree,Pennebaker said referring to the Oscar, “Everyone here probably has one of these already… New York is a long way from here and people who make films in New York never even expect to go to Oscarland, much less even get one. And there’s also the distance between the 16MM and 35MM and the 70 film, so it’s a long stretch – and being here now I am trying to kind of deal with it. It’s hard.”  His speech ran very long but was sincere so the audience went with it. But even he asked if he was overstaying his welcome.

Academy Governor Annette Bening introduced Honorary Oscar winner George Stevens Jr, saying there’s no single word that describes this man of many talents and strong Hollywood heritage who founded AFI and later the Kennedy Center Honors. “He has elevated the act of honoring others and made it a sublime art. He is a true enthusiast for the art of film in all its forms and we have all benefitted from his dogged determination to preserve, promote, and elevate filmmaking,” she said. Sidney Poitier then appeared to a standing ovation and spoke of his long friendship and association with Stevens Jr. who directed him in the TV movie Separate But Equal. Stevens spoke a terrific thank you, telling of going to the Oscars several times including once when his father won for directing A Place In The Sun in 1951. “On the way home I sat next to him in the car with the Oscar between us on the seat. He said, ‘We will have a better idea what kind of film this is in the next 25 years.’ He was talking about the test of time… I thank Dad for that and opening the door for me to a creative life that that has been so rich, and gifted me with so many wonderful friends in our profession,” he said as he clutched his brand new Academy Award.

Perhaps the liveliest presentation was to stunt man/director Hal Needham whom presenter Tarantino noted was only the second stunt person to receive an Oscar. (The first going to legendary Yakima Canutt.) Producer Albert S. Ruddy followed Tarantino with an absolutely hilarious tale about the making of a Needham film called Megaforce which caused major destruction on the Goldwyn lot where it was shooting. A very large missile built for the film inadvertently misfired sending a giant hole into an adjacent stage that then burned down. That didn’t stop Needham, who continued making the film despite personal injury and calamity. (“It was a very interesting movie. When you say ‘interesting’ as a producer it means it didn’t make any money,” Ruddy joked.) “You’re looking at the luckiest man alive and lucky to be alive,” said Needham in an emotional acceptance in which he also remembered his late mother. He told of early jobs including a fortuitous budget meeting with director Billy Wilder on his first gig as a stuntman, The Spirit Of St. Louis. “I want to thank the entire Hollywood community for allowing me to be a part of it.”

Last up was Katzenberg whose presentation also was responsible for the biggest starpower of the night (Spielberg, George Lucas and Kirk Douglas were among those sitting at his table) with both Will Smith and Tom Hanks offering their assessments of why Katzenberg is so successful as a philanthropist. “It’s not just a phone call, it’s the invitation to breakfast,” said a deadpan Hanks. “It’s the lunch that lasts exactly 47 minutes. It’s the follow-up phone call. It’s the visit to the office. It’s the tour of the facility. It’s the follow-up phone call. It’s a letter to remind you you had a phone call and a tour of the facility. And finally it is a thank you for the contribution you made.”

Related: Katzenberg Interviewed On Humanitarian Award

Then Hanks became serious about the humanity of Katzenberg Read More »

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OSCARS: Jeffrey Katzenberg On Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award — “I Don’t Feel Like This Is My Award”

By | Thursday November 29, 2012 @ 10:43am PST
Pete Hammond

On Saturday night, four shiny new Oscars will be handed out at the fourth annual Governors Awards being held at The Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland. Those receiving Honorary Oscars this year are legendary stuntman-director Hal Needham, documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker, and producer and film champion George Stevens Jr. And receiving the prestigious Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award that has gone in recent years to Jerry Lewis, Sherry Lansing and Oprah Winfrey is DreamWorks Animation head and philanthropist Jeffrey Katzenberg, who tells me he was “almost totally” surprised to be getting the honor.

Related: Academy Names 2012 Governors Awards

“There were two people who shall remain nameless who had said over the summer, ’Hey you know there’s a little bit of talk that maybe this is the right moment, the right time to acknowledge the work you’ve been doing’, but honest to God it didn’t register,” Katzenberg said. “I tried to be humble and gracious and say I appreciate it but no need. So when (Academy president) Hawk (Koch) called me, I had no idea they were meeting. I was floored. I get this urgent call at 10:30 PM from Hawk and I was genuinely taken by surprise.”

So what does it mean to him?

“I am gonna talk about it on Saturday night because I have had time to think about it like I hadn’t before”, he said. “What I really believe is in a way is this is a reflection back on our own community. The real fact is all I did was ask, and it’s Hollywood that has done the giving. I really feel I am receiving this on behalf of Hollywood and our community and the extraordinary generosity that we have for the real world that we live in. The Oscars are given out for great work in the fantasy world that is moviemaking. And the Hersholt Award is about the great work that is done in the real world that we actually all live in together. I don’t believe there is a more generous community than ours. I don’t really feel like this is my award. I don’t feel this is me. I feel this belongs to all of us together”. Read More »

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Hawk Koch Interview: Top Priorities For New Academy President Are Oscar Show & Movie Museum

By | Wednesday August 1, 2012 @ 12:59pm PDT
Pete Hammond

FINKE: Behind-The-Scenes Of Hawk Koch’s Academy Win
Hawk Koch Takes Leave Of Absence As PGA President

With his election last night as the new President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Hawk Koch is not wasting any time getting into the job. Because this is his ninth year on the Board Of Governors, he can only serve one year as President before he is termed out. With only a year to accomplish his goals, Koch sounded like a man who has just hit the ground running but it doesn’t sound like he is going to spark a revolution in the way things are being run. As he sat in his office this morning, he detailed for me a list of priorities starting with the task of getting a producer and host for the 85th Oscar show, fundraising for the planned Academy museum (in association with the Los County Museum Of Art), and expanding educational efforts  to promote Academy activities other than the main awards. He also reiterated support for the expansion of nominees in the Best Picture category, keeping the Honorary Governors Awards the way they are now, and expressing strong support for Academy CEO Dawn Hudson. Here’s the interview.

Deadline: You made no secret that you wanted this job and now you have it for the next year.
Hawk Koch:  I’m on top of the world. … Read More »

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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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HAMMOND: Honorary Oscars To Be Voted Next Week; Who Will Get Them?

Pete Hammond

Tuesday night is a big one for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. They hold their annual election for president (expect current prexy Tom Sherak to be easily re-elected for his third and final one-year term) and they will choose the 2011 recipients of the Governors Awards, which will be some combination of Honorary Oscars, The Irving G. Thalberg Award and/or the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. At that meeting, Sherak could also tell the board who is going to produce the 84th Annual Academy Awards among the other things that may come up, including proposals to further regulate Oscar-season campaigning and parties (a move inspired by and initiated in part because of my Jan. 7 Deadline article on the issue, I am told by an Academy insider involved with the new proposals).

Even though recipients of last year’s 2nd Annual Governors Awards, (Jean-Luc Godard, Eli Wallach, Kevin Brownlow and Thalberg winner Francis Ford Coppola) weren’t announced until the last week in August a year ago, Sherak told me he is determined to get this done at the early August meeting this year in order to give Governors Awards producer Phil Robinson more time to put all the logistics of the event together; the ceremony is set for Saturday Nov. 12 and is not televised.

This all leads to the annual game of who will and who should get these prized awards, which were created in 2009 as their own separate show so more of them could be handed out and there would be more time to celebrate the careers of the recipients than during the time-crunched Oscar show. In the recent past, before the creation of the event, the Academy’s board had been limiting presentation of the Honorary awards to one per show. The Jean Hersholt Award to Jerry Lewis was the last given, on the (81st) Oscar telecast. Since then, they have handed out the maximum of four of these honors at each Governors Awards dinner. Lauren Bacall, Roger Corman, cinematographer Gordon Willis and Thalberg winner John Calley received the inaugural awards.

In terms of who will win them this year, it’s anybody’s guess as each of the 43 Governors of every branch has an opportunity to put a name in contention if they wish and a simple majority is generally all that’s required to make someone a winner. It’s clear the Academy likes diversity, repping all corners of the motion picture arts and sciences, and it seems like they have been favoring people who are still active. Wallach may have been 95 when he finally got his Honorary Oscar last year, but he is also still working.

For years, every time the board set about voting for these honors some subtle (and not-so-subtle) lobbying would take place. Veteran stars like Glenn Ford and Richard Widmark were often mentioned but never got the call despite annual letters and pleas on their behalf. Doris Day’s name always comes up in speculation about Honorary Oscars, but it’s never happened and the reclusive 87-year-old star hasn’t made a film since 1968. Director Jules Dassin had his supporters at one time on the board but went to his grave without getting the big honor. On the other hand, a large profile piece on producer Dino De Laurentiis that was (coincidentally?) placed in the L.A. Times on the morning of the selections in 2000 certainly couldn’t have hurt his chances when he was voted the Thalberg later that day. Read More »

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Phil Robinson To Produce Academy’s Governors Awards

Beverly Hills, CA – Writer-director Phil Robinson will produce the 3rd Annual Governors Awards for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Academy President Tom Sherak announced today. He will share the duties with the producing team of Charlie Haykel and Juliane Hare of Don Mischer Productions. One or more of the Academy’s highest honors – the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and the Honorary Award – will be presented at the event, set for Saturday, November 12.

“I am thrilled that Phil has agreed to produce our 3rd Governors Awards. He is not only a fellow board member, he is also an officer of the Academy, and a dear friend. His love of his craft, film and the Academy makes him the ideal person to produce this special event,” said Sherak. “It is also a pleasure to have Don Mischer and his associates back for their third year. Led by Charlie and Juliane, they provide the continuity that will once again give us a memorable night.”

Robinson received an Oscar® nomination for the adapted screenplay for Best Picture nominee “Field of Dreams (1989),” which he also directed. His other credits include “Sneakers” and “The Sum of All Fears.” He serves on the Academy’s Board of Governors representing the Writers Branch. Since 2007 Robinson has chaired the Academy’s International Outreach Committee and has led member delegations to Vietnam and Iran.

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