Spike Lee and Gena Rowlands will receive honorary Oscars and Debbie Reynolds will be given the Hersholt Humanitarian Award Nov. 14 at the seventh annual Governors Awards.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences voted the awards at their Aug. 25 meeting. Following tradition, AMPAS reps withheld the announcement until they could notify the recipients.
This is the second time the Academy opted for only three nominees. The org can salute up to four people each year, with the option of several honorary Oscars, and one apiece for the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and the Thalberg Award, which goes to a producer for their body of work. It’s generally been four honorees, except for 2011, when there were three.
Despite the Acad’s recent attempts to increase international membership, it’s an all-American lineup. And while Rowlands and Lee have worked for major studios, they made their name in the indie world. In reflecting the Academy’s diversity push, the trio consists of two women and one black filmmaker; and two of the three are primarily actors.
In 2009, the Academy broke out the Governors Awards into a separate, untelevised ceremony; the Oscarcast time constraints limited the number of honorees and the time devoted to each. So the separate ceremony was an experiment, but an immediate success. There was no pressure to select ratings-friendly individuals, and the board has often gone for people who are well-known in the industry but unfamiliar to the public.
The ceremony also proved a big success for the industry at large: By the second year, it became de rigueur for Oscar contenders to attend, and every awards strategist makes this a key date on the calendar.
Academy rules say the Governors Award cannot be voted posthumously, and no current governor is eligible. There is no rule about previous winners; last year, Hiyao Miyazaki received an honorary, even though he’d won competitively.
The recipients in the past six years:
2009: Lauren Bacall, John Calley, Roger Corman, Gordon Willis
2010: Jean-Luc Godard, Kevin Brownlow, Francis Coppola, Eli Wallach
2011: James Earl Jones, Dick Smith, Oprah Winfrey
2012: Jeffrey Katzenberg, Hal Needham, D.A. Pennebaker, George Stevens Jr.
2013: Angelina Jolie, Angela Lansbury, Steve Martin, Piero Tosi
2014: Harry Belafonte, Jean-Claude Carrière, Maureen O’Hara, Hayao Miyazaki