HAMMOND: Honorary Oscars To Be Voted Next Week; Who Will Get Them?

Tuesday night is a big one for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. They hold their annual election for president (expect current prexy Tom Sherak to be easily re-elected for his third and final one-year term) and they will choose the 2011 recipients of the Governors Awards, which will be some combination of Honorary Oscars, The Irving G. Thalberg Award and/or the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. At that meeting, Sherak could also tell the board who is going to produce the 84th Annual Academy Awards among the other things that may come up, including proposals to further regulate Oscar-season campaigning and parties (a move inspired by and initiated in part because of my Jan. 7 Deadline article on the issue, I am told by an Academy insider involved with the new proposals).

Even though recipients of last year’s 2nd Annual Governors Awards, (Jean-Luc Godard, Eli Wallach, Kevin Brownlow and Thalberg winner Francis Ford Coppola) weren’t announced until the last week in August a year ago, Sherak told me he is determined to get this done at the early August meeting this year in order to give Governors Awards producer Phil Robinson more time to put all the logistics of the event together; the ceremony is set for Saturday Nov. 12 and is not televised.

This all leads to the annual game of who will and who should get these prized awards, which were created in 2009 as their own separate show so more of them could be handed out and there would be more time to celebrate the careers of the recipients than during the time-crunched Oscar show. In the recent past, before the creation of the event, the Academy’s board had been limiting presentation of the Honorary awards to one per show. The Jean Hersholt Award to Jerry Lewis was the last given, on the (81st) Oscar telecast. Since then, they have handed out the maximum of four of these honors at each Governors Awards dinner. Lauren Bacall, Roger Corman, cinematographer Gordon Willis and Thalberg winner John Calley received the inaugural awards.

In terms of who will win them this year, it’s anybody’s guess as each of the 43 Governors of every branch has an opportunity to put a name in contention if they wish and a simple majority is generally all that’s required to make someone a winner. It’s clear the Academy likes diversity, repping all corners of the motion picture arts and sciences, and it seems like they have been favoring people who are still active. Wallach may have been 95 when he finally got his Honorary Oscar last year, but he is also still working.

For years, every time the board set about voting for these honors some subtle (and not-so-subtle) lobbying would take place. Veteran stars like Glenn Ford and Richard Widmark were often mentioned but never got the call despite annual letters and pleas on their behalf. Doris Day’s name always comes up in speculation about Honorary Oscars, but it’s never happened and the reclusive 87-year-old star hasn’t made a film since 1968. Director Jules Dassin had his supporters at one time on the board but went to his grave without getting the big honor. On the other hand, a large profile piece on producer Dino De Laurentiis that was (coincidentally?) placed in the L.A. Times on the morning of the selections in 2000 certainly couldn’t have hurt his chances when he was voted the Thalberg later that day.

Should the Academy to decide to award the Thalberg, given strictly for excellence in producing, for a third year in row, names usually bandied about include Alan Ladd Jr and Brian Grazer. Scott Rudin certainly could qualify, but does he have enough supporters? Jerry Bruckheimer’s output is probably too “popcorn” to join the elite list. As a way of honoring the eight-film Harry Potter they might think about David Heyman, who brought the most successful film series in movie history to fruition — a true producing feat since there were multiple directors. And isn’t it about time a woman was considered? No woman has ever won the Thalberg. Even though there is no precedent for voting these things posthumously, certainly the late Laura Ziskin might qualify. It doesn’t hurt that she also produced two Academy Awards telecasts (she would also be a good candidate for the Hersholt for her very public work fighting cancer in recent years). Lauren Shuler Donner’s films have made over $3 billion, nothing to sniff at. Kathleen Kennedy might be a consideration too since she has termed off the Board and is eligible this year. Current Board members and Officers do not qualify for Honorary Awards as long as they are serving.

For the actor slot (if there is one this year), un-Oscared names often mentioned are Max Von Sydow, Albert Finney, Catherine Deneuve and the incredibly never-even-once nominated quartet of Jeanne Moreau, Maureen O’Hara, Donald Sutherland and Christopher Lee. For my money, 83-year-old James Garner is completely deserving and well-liked even though he was only Oscar-nominated once in his long career (for 1985′s Murphy’s Romance). The 81-year-old Christopher Plummer, who received his first acting nomination for The Last Station just two years ago, is another name sometimes mentioned, but he has a shot to actually take Best Supporting Actor this year for Beginners so he’s an unlikely choice here. In the dawn of the new Hudson era, I can think of no more appropiate and deserving recipient than 81-year-old Gena Rowlands, not only a greatly admired talent but someone who represents the true spirit of gutsy, independent filmmaking by way of the collaborations with her late husband John Cassavetes (Dawn Hudson’s former Film Independent even had a special Spirit Award in the Cassavetes name). An Oscar for her would also be a tip of the hat to him. Previously, she has been Oscar nominated only twice and both times for Cassavetes films: Gloria and A Woman Under the Influence.

Director choices might include six-time nominee Peter Weir or three-time directing nominee James Ivory among others who have always been bridesmaids in the competition.

The last Honorary Oscar to a screenwriter was in 2000 to Ernest Lehman. The board might seriously consider the prolific 79-year-old Jean-Claude Carriere, whose numerous collaborations with Luis Bunuel alone would qualify him not to mention movies like The Return Of Martin Guerre, The Tin Drum, Cyrano De Bergerac, Taking Off, Borsalino, Viva Maria and many others. In fact, he has an astounding 136 writing credits listed on IMDb and three previous Oscar nominations shared with Bunuel on The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and That Obscure Object of Desire and with Philip Kaufman on The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Carriere actually did win a statuette near the beginning of his career in 1962 as co-producer (under the name J.C. Carriere) of a live-action short, Heureux Anniversaire, which he also wrote and directed.

Of course, being an Oscar winner already does not disqualify you from winning an Honorary Award. Sophia Loren got one in 1990 despite already having won Best Actress 29 years earlier for Two Women, as did 1963 Best Actor winner Sidney Poitier 10 years ago. Laurence Olivier received one in 1978 despite having won Best Actor for Hamlet 30 years earlier. A very controversial Honorary Oscar was given to director Elia Kazan in 1998 even though he previously already had won two directing statuettes for Gentlemen’s Agreement and On The Waterfront. Usually, though, the Honorarys are given to make up for egregious oversights as in the case of Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr, Kirk Douglas, Art director Robert Boyle, composers Alex North and Ennio Morricone, cinematographer Willis and on and on. Perhaps it is time to give one to a sound designer? Kevin O’Connell has had 20 nominations and not a single win (except as a governor of the Sound branch, he is disqualified this year).

Not everyone is thrilled when they get the call. Seven-time loser Peter O’Toole had to be talked into coming to get his in 2002 because he thought it meant he wouldn’t have a chance to win one in the future (“Since I am still in the game, I would rather try to win one on my own,” he said before finally agreeing to show up). Of course, that isn’t always the case: O’Toole received his eighth nomination four years later for Venus (though not a win), and both Henry Fonda and Paul Newman won competitive Best Actor Oscars the year after the Academy jumped the gun and gave them Honorary Awards.

Despite the speculation of “who should” or “who shouldn’t,” the Academy’s board is always capable of surprising us. All Sherak would tell me is “there are a lot of interesting names”  coming up so far for the board vote Tuesday. When I asked for one example, he said he would tell me but he’d have to kill me.

OK, we’ll just have to wait and see. Any suggestions to help the board in their quest?

    1. Well, I guess if Peter Jackson can get one, in spite of Meet the Feebles, then Waters should be game.

  1. Unless they already gave him an Honorary Oscar, I say Norman Jewison deserves some recognition. He’s never won the big prize although, In the Heat Of The Night, won Best Picture.

    1. Jewison won the Thalberg, I believe, a few years back – and deservedly so.

      I would love to see Ridley Scott be honored – doubt it would happen though.

  2. They should give the actor one out to Sir Christopher Lee, who received the BAFTA honour earlier this year, and deserves respect from his Hollywood peers, he’s getting close to 90 now, and seems to be getting more frail as the years go on.

    1. That would be great! Especially when the Hammer Horror films have come back from the dead recently.

    2. If you want sultry, foreign-language beauty and screen legend, why not Catherine Deneueve? Her body of work goes back to the 1960s with a vast array of films.

    3. Christopher Lee deserves the honor. He’s English cinema history. Or are they going to “honor” him when Jude Law plays him in a movie?

  3. Actor-Producer Kirk Douglas broke the blacklist – his nom would be a good counterweight to the Elia Kazan controversy.

    Actor-Director-Producer Robert Redford for his body of work and the Sundance Institute and film festival.

    1. Douglas and Redford have both won honorary awards already. They’re not repeating, sorry.

  4. James Ivory has directed 34 movies. Six of them won Academy Awards for people associated with his films. Ivory was nominated by the Academy three times for directing (A Room with a View, Howard’s End and Remains of the Day) yet he has never won an Oscar. There is no other director of his age or status who has been nominated as many times without winning who has not been given an Honorary Oscar. And certainly none have the distinction of having a whole genre of filmmaking named for their work. The expression “Merchant-Ivory film” has made its way into common parlance, to denote a particular type of movie: A sophisticated adaptation of a literary classic, featuring stunning production design, costumes, cinematography and score, with an exacting eye for real period details and incredible performances from the world’s finest actors. An Honorary Academy Award would be the crowing achievement of Mr. Ivory’s illustrious and inspiring career. This is a man whose place in cinematic history will be forever known for creating a unique and enduring cinematic vocabulary.

  5. Why not vote for Marilyn Monroe. Her image has never left us, Her movies stand up today and She was a dam good actress. She has always been overlooked and yet Most people still enjoy Her Movies.

  6. Cinematographer Roger Deakins. Great stuff.

    I’d like to see some composers get their due as well for contributing so much to so many great films.

    1. That’s a good one. I thought for sure last Oscars was finally his year with True Grit but alas, it seems the Academy once again ignores his amazing work.

  7. Absolutely Doris Day. And you’re right about Harry Potter – an amazing achievement, should be recognized.

  8. There are two women that stand out: Amy Pascal of SONY Pictures and
    Veronica Qwane President of International Films Warner Bros.Studios.
    For Acting: Sofia Loren & Rosland Russell.

    Male: Sir Christopher Lee & Sir Sean Connery.
    For Technical Contributions: John P. “Jack” Beckett
    Hollywood Studios
    Occidential Studios

    Everyone should write in Doris Day.

    Sincerely,

    Doc JP Sinda

    1. Not only Sophia Loren won a competitive Oscar for Two Women, but has already received an Honorary Oscar back in 1991.
      Rosalind Russell already received Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award no longer before her death from cancer in 1976. But even if she didn’t received it, she would’ve been ineligible since the award is not given posthumously.
      Sean Connery is already an Oscar winner.

  9. Doris – every year I say the same name. Why not a Jean Hersholt for her humanitarian work with animals?

  10. Donald Sutherland really is a good choice for the award. He’s been consistently great for almost 50 years and never even nominated. I cannot remember him ever giving a bad performance. Could have been nominated for MASH, JFK, or Ordinary People. I’d love to see him get it.

    1. I think Sutherland was nominated for “Ordinary People,” a shame that DeNiro pugged out his great LaMotta that same year as Sutherland was brilliant in that role!

      I find the Moreau vs Deneueve an impossible contest! Both, both, both!

      And lastly, great to see Finke heralding the international artists alongside their more famous American co-workers.

      1. No, Sutherland was not nominated for Ordinary People for an Oscar (though he did get a Globe nom). He’s never been nominated for an Oscar. The three other principals in the cast were all AA nominated — MTM, Judd Hirsch and winner Timothy Hutton. What is sadder than Sutherland is MTM having to go up against Spacek for Coal Miner’s Daughter. Otherwise, MTM would have walked away with it, as she did at the Globes.

        And the article was written by Pete Hammond, not Nikki Finke.

  11. PAUL MAZURSKY. They don’t make them like him anymore. From acting in Kubricks first movie to oft nominated writer and director. It’s time.

  12. Unlike last year or almost every year, there better be at least one woman among this year honorees. To me it’s almost unimaginable that in 83 years old history of the Academy Awards only 9 (!) women have been recognized for their cinematic contributions with The Academy Honorary Award.

    My top 3 wish list:
    1) 3-time Oscar nominee Angela Lansbury
    2) Jeanne Moreau
    3) Oscar nominee Debbie Reynolds

    Among men I would like to see following gentlemen being honored:
    1) 7-time Oscar nominee Mike Leigh
    2) Oscar nominee Max von Sydow
    3) 6-time Oscar nominee Peter Weir

  13. I don’t know why they haven’t given one to Doris Day yet! It doesn’t make any sense. She totally deserves it. John Waters should get one too, just because he would make a brilliant speech. Donald Sutherland–a phenomenal actor, missed his nomination for Ordinary People thirty years ago (which if it weren’t for De Niro in Raging Bull he would’ve won for).

    How about Luise Rainer? Olivia De Havilland? Can we get them to leave their holes?

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