Awards season hasn’t officially kicked into high gear yet, but over the weekend the Academy’s Governors Awards ceremony was held, at which two honorary Oscars and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award were handed out.
The first of the two honorary Oscars went to actor James Earl Jones, who is most remembered for his deep, booming voice that he has applied to such iconic roles as Darth Vader and Mufasa. AMPAS president Tom Sherak even got into the spirit of the occasion by appearing onstage dressed as Vader. Unfortunately, Jones couldn’t be at the ceremony as he is currently in London working on a stage production of Driving Miss Daisy with Vanessa Redgrave.
Instead, the Academy chose to surprise Jones by having Sir Ben Kingsley present him the award in London. Jones had a rather humorous reaction, saying “If an actor’s nightmare is being onstage buck naked and not knowing his lines, what the heck do you call this? I had my clothes on, I knew my words, then out from the wings steps Sir Ben Kingsley, and he hands me an Oscar! What the heck do you call that but an actor’s wet dream?”
The second honorary Oscar went to makeup artist Dick Smith, who has had a long and distinguished career working on such great films as The Godfather, The Godfather, Part II, The Exorcist, and Amadeus, for which he won an Oscar. Speakers included Linda Blair (The Exorcist), J.J. Abrams, and another makeup master, seven-time Oscar-winner Rick Baker.
Smith, upon receiving the honor, said “Forgive me, my memory is not very good these days. When they showed the video (of his career highlights), I thought ‘Wow, that guy had a great career! This has been an incredible joy. … I have loved being a makeup artist so much, but this puts a cap on all that. To have so much kindness shown to me at once is too much.”
The final honoree was Oprah Winfrey, who received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. Speakers included producer Larry Gordon and John Travolta. Winfrey took the stage and spoke at some length, saying “To be here tonight, if you are not a former colored girl born in Mississippi in 1954, it’s unimaginable (for you) to know what this journey has meant. [This] means more to me than any film or even an Oscar, because it means you get it. Every single person who incarnates on the planet matters. That’s what I’ve been trying to say through all of my work.”
The event closed with the announcer telling the crowd “We’ll see you at the Oscars,” but they are still some time away, and awards season is just about to get started with the National Board of Review giving out their awards on December 1st.
The Oscars will air on February 26, 2012 and will be hosted by Billy Crystal.