The imagination, creativity, skill and compassion of the movie industry were celebrated at the Academy's fifth annual Governors Awards held on November 16, 2013 at the Hollywood & Highland Center's Ray Dolby Ballroom. The lives and careers of four unique, talented artists were the focus of the evening, with a host of friends, family and colleagues on hand to raise a toast in their honor. Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs welcomed the honorees and attendees, wishing them a fine dinner and an unforgettable night. The event was produced by Paula Wagner, and highlights will also be presented when the recipients appear as part of the 86th Academy Awards on March 2, 2014.
On hand to provide musical entertainment was The Tonight Show's Rickey Minor and his band, delighting a crowd that included such guests as Amy Adams, Barkhad Abdi, Ben Stiller, Bill Hader, Bruce Dern, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Colin Farrell, Daniel Brühl, David O. Russell, Jacqueline Bisset, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, John Goodman, Jonah Hill, Jonás Cuarón, Judd Apatow, Lupita Nyong'o, Mark Wahlberg, Matthew McConaughey, Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer, Raquel Welch, Steve Coogan, Steve McQueen and many more. Also in attendance were Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who are returning this year to produce the upcoming Oscar telecast in 2014.
The event began with the presentation of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to Angelina Jolie, including an onstage tribute from four of the stars of her narrative feature film debut, In the Land of Blood and Honey (2011): Milos Timotijevic , Vanesa Glodjo, Zana Marjanovic and Nikola Djuricko. The actors had been involved on both sides of the Bosnian conflict that compelled Jolie to make the film as part of her ongoing fight against strife and violence around the world. Jolie's work as a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador and Special Envoy has taken her to over 30 countries including Rwanda, Tanzania, and Cambodia, while she remains deeply involved with numerous charitable organizations and the establishing of the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation, named after her Cambodian-born son who was seated at her table along with her partner, Brad Pitt. Actress Gena Rowlands next took the stage to salute Jolie's artistic and personal strength of will, including her current project about World War II hero and Olympic competitor Loui Zamperini, also at her table. Presenting the award itself was filmmaker George Lucas, who remarked, "Through her storytelling on film, she has depicted the horrors of war and used her art to illuminate justice issues and make positive changes in the world… Through her work in Washington and around the globe, Angelina has come to embody that conscience associated with Jean Hersholt."
Jolie's moving and emotional speech on the stage featured deep thanks to her family at her table and a particular dedication to her late mother, who gave her every chance to become an artist and provided the life-changing advice, "Nothing would mean anything if I didn't have a life of use to others." Jolie found a way through her own life experiences to put those words into action, helping survivors of war, rape and famine to find their voices and build better lives.
Though he was unable to travel to Los Angeles from Italy, innovative costume designer Piero Tosi was the second honoree of the evening and was first honored by famed costume designers Milena Canonero and Ann Roth, with the latter singling out Tosi as "the greatest costume designer in the world, no question, hands down." Since the 1950s, Tosi has stunned audiences with his breathtaking work on Italian classics by directors like Luchino Visconti, Federico Fellini and Franco Zeffirelli, earning Oscar nominations for his work on The Leopard (1963), Death in Venice (1971) and La Traviata (1982). Jeffrey Kurland, a member of the Academy's recently formed Costume Designers Branch and a Vice President of the Board of Governors, praised Tosi's "images that are sealed in the minds of filmmakers everywhere" and introduced the acceptor of his award, one of his most frequent and legendary collaborators: actress Claudia Cardinale, for whom he designed costumes on such films as The Leopard and Rocco and His Brothers (1960). Still glamorous, the international star cheekily remarked that she was asked "me, an actress, to collect his prize because… he made me suffer, a lot, during the ten films we did together" and the Oscar itself would be symbolic of "all the Italian cinema to which I have devoted my entire career."
Bill Taylor, recipient of last year's John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation at the Academy's Scientific and Technical Awards, kicked off the dedication to Steve Martin with a delightful magic trick he learned back in 1962 from a young Martin working at Disneyland; even back then he could keep the crowds laughing and entertained for hours (and was already becoming an accomplished banjo player). A costar with Martin in such films as "¡Three Amigos!" (1986) and "Father of the Bride" (1991), Martin Short had the audience rolling with a riotous speech as he riffed on his friend receiving "the highest honor an actor can receive, in mid-November" before sincerely addressing him as a "breathtakingly brilliant, staggering original."
Tom Hanks, a Governor of the Academy's Actors Branch and two-time Oscar winner, did a fine Martin imitation himself and even snapped a quick selfie after presenting the Honorary Oscar. A lauded actor, television performer, stand-up comic, novelist, essayist and musician, Martin has shown his range from enduring comedies like The Jerk (1979), All of Me (1984) and Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987) to dramatic work in Pennies from Heaven (1981) and The Spanish Prisoner (1997). Martin's acceptance was both hilarious and heartfelt, reflecting on everything from his beloved family to the gift of working in the movies on a decades-long body of work filled with friends, "fascinating, funny and lifelong."
The final presentation began with the elegant and quick-witted Emma Thompson, herself an Oscar winner on two occasions, brilliantly encapsulating her experiences working with Honorary Oscar recipient Angela Lansbury on Nanny McPhee (2005) == including hurling a pie in the screen legend's face. Next Oscar=winning actor Geoffrey Rush delivered an erudite toast referencing the actress' astonishing career from her auspicious, Oscar=nominated debut in Gaslight (1944) through such landmarks as The Manchurian Candidate (1962) and Beauty and the Beast (1991), not to mention an impressive (and appropriate) quote from her brilliant comic turn in The Court Jester (1955). Lansbury's Honorary Oscar was presented by a man she herself felt knew the most about her Hollywood career, Turner Classic Movies' Robert Osborne, who "when it comes to the art of acting, survival, and dedication to one's craft, no one deserves this golden boy more than you." A renowned Broadway and television star as well, Lansbury shared memories of everything from getting a job opposite Spencer Tracy to buying a car just like Clark Gable's, not to mention her recent stage tour opposite James Earl Jones. Her exclamation upon receiving the award was also a perfect description of the entire evening: "What an incredible moment!"