Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs on Thursday praised the passion of the board members in choosing the three honorees for Governors Awards.
The board had been given suggestions made by Academy members before they convened Aug. 25. Boone Isaacs said there is “a lot of good conversation” as various names are discussed. “It’s one of the most fun meetings of the year,” she said. “We’re a group of filmmakers and creatives and many board members have worked with the people under consideration. People nominate their favorites, and their passion about that person is exciting. Sometimes they offer an anecdote or story that really personalizes it.”
She described the three recipients — Spike Lee, Debbie Reynolds and Gena Rowlands — as “a very interesting group.” Lee was cited “because of the impact he has had. When I first saw ‘She’s Gotta Have It,’ I had never seen anything like that before.” She saluted him for being “such an advocate of the indie world and someone who has always stayed true to himself.”
Rowlands “is another one who has made a big difference in independent filmmaking. She’s so unique in her look and style.” Boone Isaacs described her as an icon, and said the same of the third honoree. “No matter where you are in the world, if you say the name ‘Debbie Reynolds,’ everyone knows who she is. And she has spent so much of her time helping those who are less fortunate. There are so many creatives who give back and it’s important to recognize their work.”
In the past, the Acad has made some out-of-the-box choices, such as Kevin Brownlow and Piero Tosi, but this group of one filmmaker and two actresses are all more well-known Americans.
As in every other year, there was some second-guessing. Some Oscar pundits were surprised that the 58 year-old Lee is a relative newcomer — he’s been making films for “only” 29 years. That’s short, compared to the two actresses, who have been in the public eye for more than 50 years.
When Variety offered a dozen proposals last week, readers responded enthusiastically with their own choices, with Doris Day getting several endorsements. Other names mentioned by readers included James Ivory, Martin Scorsese (for his contributions to film preservation) and Laurence Fishburne, who’s been notable in films since his big screen debut with the 1975 “Cornbread, Earl and Me.”