The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Governors Awards were back to their usual spot on the calendar Saturday night, as Hollywood turned out to honor Michael J. Fox, Diane Warren, Euzhan Palcy and Peter Weir at the Fairmont Century Plaza.
Last year’s awards had been postponed due to COVID and instead took place just two day’s before the Oscars in March.
Just about everyone with a film in the Oscar race was there to pay respect to the quartet, from Paul Dano and Michelle Williams of “The Fablemans” to Jennifer Lawrence and Brian Tyree Henry of “Causeway” and Laura Dern of “The Son.”
Among other attendees were Cher, Tom Hanks, Ron Howard, Olivia Wilde, Florence Pugh, Jordan Peele, Jonathan Majors, Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis, Austin Butler, Aldis Hodge, Gabrielle Union, Jeremy Pope, Glen Powell, Angela Bassett, Margot Robbie and Jean Smart.
“Back to the Future” star Fox was honored with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, an Oscar statuette given “to an individual in the motion picture arts and sciences whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry.”
Woody Harrelson introduced Fox with a rousing speech. “He didn’t choose to be a Parkinson’s patient or disease advocate, but make no mistake it is his greatest performance,” Harrelson said. “Vulnerable, yes. A victim, never. An inspiration, always and the living breathing symbol and singular voice to help advance progress toward a cure. The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s research so far has raised over $1 billion for the cause. Michael J. Fox sets the ultimate example of how to fight and how to live, and today he is as beloved for his activism as he is for his acting.”
“It is a wholly unexpected honor and I’m truly grateful,” Fox said upon accepting the award. “It has struck me that everything I’ve been given — success, my life with [wife] Tracy [Pollan], my family had prepared me for this profound opportunity and responsibility. It was a gift,” he said about his work to help raise money for Parkinson’s research.
Cher introduced Diane Warren, who has been Oscar nommed 13 times but never won until her Governors award. Warren, who teared up when talking about her late parents, said, “I just love that I get to do this, that I get to write songs, that I get to write a song from a movie that can make someone cry, give someone hope, make someone feel something, make a memorable moment, something they might remember their whole life — this is what I was born to do. This is what I just love to do.
“I’d like to say one more thing,” Warren concluded. “One more time the words I thought I would never get to say but always dreamed I would: I’d like to thank the Academy.”
Jeff Bridges introduced Weir, and recounted some anecdotes about their time working on “Fearless.”
“I love you so much man and I admire you so much,” Bridges said.
Weir, a six-time Academy Award nominee, reminisced about his career directing films such as “Witness” and remembered some of his late collaborators, such as Norman Lloyd and Robin Williams. “It was amazing to watch him when there wasn’t a crowd around, just two or three people, when he would will be seized by this inspiration and become this sort of extraordinary character,” Weir said of Williams.
Viola Davis introduced Palcy, whose film “A Dry White Season” earned Marlon Brando his final Oscar nomination. “Euzhan Palcy has had a fascinating life. But tonight I want to focus on her work. For it is through her work that she has made her mark speaking truth to power, pulling back the curtain on things that were hidden for so many, sharing with a global audience stories that needed to be told.”
Palcy concluded the evening with a fiery, inspiring speech, detailing why she stopped making films because she was “exhausted” by the effort of persuading people to believe in her. “I had lost my willingness to hear those words, Black is not bankable, female is not bankable, Black and female is not bankable. Come on guys! Look at look at my sister standing by me. Black is bankable. Female is bankable. Black and female is bankable!
“My stories are not Black. My stories are not white. My stories are universal, they are colorful,” she said, “I congratulate the Academy for helping to lead the charge to change our industry and for opening the doors to that were closed to the ideas and vision that I championed for so long.”