The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Governors Awards took place this weekend and honoured Michael J. Fox, Diane Warren, Euzhan Palcy and Peter Weir at the Fairmont Century Plaza in Century City.
Now in its 13th year, the Governors Awards is essentially the Oscars chance to right past wrongs and correct some oversights. It presents special Oscars for lifetime achievements… and allows future Oscar contenders to begin networking ahead of lengthy Oscar campaigns for the coming year’s awards.
The four icons were celebrated by the likes of Michelle Williams and Paul Dano of The Fablemans, Cate Blanchett of Tár, Brendan Fraser of The Whale and Laura Dern of The Son.
Other attendees included Tom Hanks, Florence Pugh, Jordan Peele, Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis, Gabrielle Union, Angela Bassett, Margot Robbie and Jean Smart.
Back to the Future and Family Ties star Fox, 61, was honoured 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.
“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.”
Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991. In 2000, he launched the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, which has raised $1.5 billion for research into the disease.
“You guys are making me shake,” Fox said after receiving a standing ovation while accepting his award.
“It is a wholly unexpected honour and I’m truly grateful. (...) 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."
Cher introduced American songwriter and 13-time Oscar nominee Diane Warren.
“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,” said Warren.
“I’d like to say one more thing,” the 66-year old added. “One more time the words I thought I would never get to say but always dreamed I would. I've waited 34 years to say this: I'd like to thank the Academy.”
Jeff Bridges introduced Australian director Peter Weir, 78, who recounted some anecdotes about their time working on Fearless.
Weir, the director of Dead Poet’s Society and The Truman Show, reminisced about his late collaborators, such as 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.
Mindy Kaling, who hosted the event, spoke about the last honoree of the evening, Martinique-born filmmaker Euzhan Palcy, referencing her film A Dry White Season (which earned Marllon Brando his final Oscar nomination) or “what I used to call awards season.”
Viola Davis introduced Palcy.
“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.”
“You did not defend your Blackness, you did not defend your womanhood,” Davis added. “You used it as warrior fuel.”
Palcy, 64, was the first Black female filmmaker to direct a film for a major Hollywood studio - MGM’s A Dry White Season in 1989.
She shared 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!,” said Palcy.
“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.”
Palcy also shared a message for the next generation of flmmakers:
“When you love something, don’t let anyone get you off track from your dream.”
Last year’s awards were postponed due to COVID and took place just before the Oscars in March. The Oscars will be held on Sunday 12 March 2023.