LOS ANGELES (AP) – Four standing ovations in one evening might seem a bit excessive even by Hollywood standards. But at the Governors Awards on Saturday night, where Michael J. Fox, Euzhan Palcy, Peter Weir and Diane Warren were all celebrated with honorary Oscar statuettes, every moment felt worthy.
After several pandemic-cleansed years, the annual event hosted by the governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was back in full swing on Saturday at the Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel.
The ballroom was filled with stars like Tom Hanks, Viola Davis, Colin Farrell, Angela Bassett, Margot Robbie, Jennifer Lawrence, Michelle Yeoh, Robert Downey Jr., Michelle Williams, Cher, Austin Butler, Florence Pugh, Rooney Mara, Jessica Chastain, Damien Chazelle, Jordan Peele, Janelle Monáe and Ron Howard to name a few.
The Governors Awards is a celebration of honorees and an opportunity for many of the filmmakers and actors hoping to win awards to mingle with potential voters before everyone heads off on vacation with an armful of screeners cheering them on look and think.
“It’s a really special night,” said Butler. “I just had a very special moment with Robert Downey Jr.”
These were the first Governors Awards for the “Elvis” star, who was joined by director Baz Luhrmann and Priscilla Presley.
The room at the Governors Awards brings with it many unexpected star pairings as everyone hungers to meet someone they admire. Near a table, Hanks was seen laughing with Yeoh. In another part of the room, Chastain chatted with Billy Eichner, while Jude Law met with director Daniel Kwan and Ke Huy Quan posed for a photo with Elizabeth Banks and Rian Johnson.
But the main event got everyone in their seats: the presentation of the honorary Oscars.
Fox, who received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for his contributions to Parkinson’s disease research, stood first and received a colorful introduction from his friend Woody Harrelson.
“He’s a really great guy,” said Harrelson. “What can I say? He’s Canadian.”
The 61-year-old ‘Back to the Future’ and ‘Family Ties’ star was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1991 at the age of 29 and in 2000 set up a foundation to fund further research into the disease. To date, the foundation has raised more than $1.5 billion.
“My optimism is fueled by my gratitude,” Fox said.
Fox gave a sharp, funny and thoughtful speech to accept the award. He shared how he dropped out of high school to give acting a chance, and a teacher told him, “Fox, you’re not going to be cute forever.”
“I didn’t know what to answer and I said, ‘Maybe just long enough,'” Fox said.
He’s had a particularly challenging year with injuries including a broken cheek, hand, shoulder, arm and elbow, and the loss of his mother, who died in September, which he spoke about at length on a recent cover of People Magazine’s History. Tracy Pollan, Fox’s wife, with whom he has four children, was there to support him and he called her on stage to conclude his speech.
“I can’t walk and carry this thing (the Oscar), so I’m asking Tracy to carry the weight again,” Fox said.
Cher was on hand to introduce Warren, the prolific songwriter and 13-time Oscar nominee. She laughed that Warren often calls her to tell her she’s written her best song yet, to which Cher replies, “You always say that.”
As Warren took the stage, she said the words she’d been waiting for 34 years since receiving her first Oscar nomination: “I want to thank the Academy.”
“Mom, I’ve finally found a man,” Warren said, looking at the gold statuette. “I know you wanted him to be a nice Jewish boy, but that’s really hard to say.”
Jeff Bridges came out to celebrate Weir, the Australian filmmaker who directed him in the 1993 film Fearless. He said it was Robin Williams who brought them together.
Weir, too, reflected on Williams, with whom he worked on Dead Poets Society, and marveled at what Williams was like when no one was around and inspiration would strike.
Weir, 78, was a leading voice in Australia’s new wave movement, with images including Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Last Wave and Gallipoli, before successfully transitioning into Hollywood filmmaking, where he worked in genres Traversed ease and directed films ranging from Dead Poets Society and The Truman Show to Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. The Australian author has received many Oscar nominations over the years, but hasn’t made a feature film since 2010’s ‘The Way Back’.
“I’ve had a wonderful 20 years recording in the studio,” Weir said. “I love crafts. I think that’s the point. Don’t you love something that is well made, whether it’s a chair, a table, or a statue?”
Davis helped close the night celebrating Palcy, who became the first black woman to direct a film produced by a major studio (MGM with “A Dry White Season”).
“I always defend my femininity and my blackness,” Davis said. “You said, ‘I’m not going to do that. I will wait for the work worthy of my talent.’ You used it as fuel for warriors.”
Palcy has also retired from Hollywood filmmaking over the past decade, but unlike Weir, the 64-year-old Martinique native is ready to come back and start making films again.
“Black is bankable. Women are bankable,” Palcy said. “My stories are not black, they are not white, they are universal.”