The Academy’s Governors Awards Serve Up Honorary Oscars and a Whole Lot of Emotion

“I’ve waited 34 years to say this: I want to thank the Academy.” Diana Warren began her acceptance speech, capturing what the annual Governors Awards are all about: honoring those in Hollywood whose recognition by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has been a long time coming.

This year’s honorees – Warren, Directors Euzhan Palcy and Peter Weirand recipient of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award Michael J Fox— were celebrated at the Fairmont Century City on November 19, where they were surrounded by staff, film veterans and others they had helped along the way.

But the event traditionally served a different purpose, as well as being the premier major awards event for actors, filmmakers and other performers hoping to hold their Oscars on stage in March. Due to COVID concerns, last year’s event was pushed back to late March, two days ahead of the Oscars and outside of the voting window, resulting in a reduced invitee list that didn’t include anyone on the campaign trail. It’s back on form this year, brimming with talent as soon as you step into the lobby for aperitif cocktails. There were unexpected and interesting interactions everywhere: Eddie Redmayne embrace Jeremy Pope; Joe Alwyn chat with Taron Egerton; Jonathan Majors massage jokingly Ke Huy Quan‘s shoulders; Michelle Yeoh warmly hugs her former The Mummy: The Tomb of the Dragon Emperor co-star Brendan Fraser; and Colin Farrell, Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott discuss intensively with each other.

A highlight of the long campaign season, the Governors Awards are a non-televised event that allows for a relaxed atmosphere and often draws film legends to support the award winners. Among them were this year Cher, who introduced Warren; EdHarris, who was sitting at Weir’s table; and Christopher Lloydwho ate with him Back to the Future co-star Fox.

Fox was the first to receive his Oscar, presented by Woody Harrelson. He recalled his feelings when he was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991 at the age of 29 after becoming a global star thanks to it Back to the Future and teenage wolf. “I went into denial for seven years trying to make sense of it,” Fox said onstage. “The hardest part of my diagnosis was dealing with the uncertainty.”

He publicly announced his diagnosis in 1998 while starring on the sitcom spin city; Fox said he encountered a “deluge of support” from both the public and his peers. He began meeting with people and medical experts in the field of Parkinson’s disease and founded the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which has raised $1.5 billion in research funds to date. “I am grateful to all of these people and thousands more who are making a cure for Parkinson’s a reality,” he said. “My optimism is fueled by my gratitude. And with gratitude, optimism is sustainable.”

Fox’s speech, like so many tonight, was at times comedic, at times thoughtful, and at times deeply emotional. Each of the honorees – some made it very clear that they had been waiting a long time for a moment like this – found a different message to share with the crowd.

For Warren, the prolific songwriter who has created and collaborated on original songs for more than 100 films Beyoncé, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston and Lady GagaShe had 13 Oscar nominations worth of exercise. She had “a lot of speeches that got crumpled up in my bag,” she said, seemingly in awe of finally having her Oscars moment. “That’s what I was born for, that’s what I like to do. I can’t believe I’m standing here now and this is really happening.”

It was quite the comeback night for Weir – the Australian director behind it Witness, Dead Poets Society, The Truman Show and Master and Commander: The other end of the world has retired from filmmaking since 2010 the way back. Many of his previous associates were in the room (Jeff Bridgeswho starred in his 1992 film Fearless, did the opening speech for him), and in his video role, several of them expressed their wish for the director to return to work. But Weir seemed content to appear in front of this Hollywood audience just for the moment, sharing stories from his time on set and most importantly praising many of his staff, including Harrison Ford, Norman Lloyd and Robin Williams. “I love crafts. I think that’s what it’s really about… I’ve had a wonderful 20 years doing studio pictures. I’m very happy to be here,” said the six-time Oscar nominee at the end of his speech. The Academy’s Governors Awards Serve Up Honorary Oscars and a Whole Lot of Emotion

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