Tyler Perry and the Motion Picture and Television Fund have been selected by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Board of Governors to both receive Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Awards to be presented at the 93rd Annual Academy Awards on Sunday April 25.
Perry is being honored for his extensive work on humanitarian and social justice causes, while the MPTF will receive the first Hersholt ever awarded to an organization, an act the AMPAS board had to approve on this one time only basis as MPTF heads towards its 100th of “taking care of our own”.
In the past several years, since the 82nd Oscar year, the Hersholt, Thalberg Award, and Honorary Oscars have been presented at the Governors Awards, a separate ceremony, usually in November, designed to separate these special awards from the regular Oscar ceremony, but the Coronavirus pandemic has upset the normal way of things, including the move of this year’s Oscars to its latest date ever. These Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Awards (an Oscar statuette) thus will be presented on the actual televised ceremony, and there will be no separate Governors Awards or other honorary Oscars presented in conjunction with the 93rd Academy Awards. The last time a Hersholt was on the actual Oscar show was when it was presented to Jerry Lewis in February 2009. This is not the first time two separate Hersholts will be presented in the same year. Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn (the latter posthumously) both received the honor in 1993.
“There has been such widespread generosity in our industry that limiting the Hersholt Humanitarian Award to one recipient, this year in particular, was impossible. So, we are breaking with tradition and giving two awards to honor that spirit,” said Academy President David Rubin. “Tyler’s cultural influence extends far beyond his work as a filmmaker. He has quietly and steadily focused on humanitarian and social justice causes from the beginning of his career, caring for people who are most often ignored. The work of the MPTF is more vital than ever, and the organization has gone above and beyond to help our community. The sheer number of individuals and families — from every corner of our industry’s workforce — aided during the pandemic and over the last 100 years is nothing short of extraordinary.”
The Academy’s release goes on to describe Perry is “a prolific producer, director, actor, writer, entrepreneur and philanthropist, whose commitment to a wide spectrum of charitable and social justice causes has been particularly impactful during the challenges of the past year, addressing economic distress caused by the pandemic, racial reckoning and homelessness in his community. In 2019, he opened his privately owned motion picture studio on the site of a former Confederate Army base in Atlanta, Georgia. Tyler Perry Studios now occupies more than 330 acres and is home to a state-of-the-art production facility with 12 soundstages that provides hundreds of job opportunities in film and television production in the local area. Perry was instrumental in quickly creating a safe way to return to production during the worldwide health crisis. His credits as writer, director and/or producer include A Fall from Grace, Acrimony, Madea Goes to Jail, Madea’s Family Reunion and Diary of a Mad Black Woman. His television credits include such series as Sistas, The Haves and the Have Nots, The Oval and House of Payne, and he has written numerous stage plays.
Although the Hersholt has been presented to industry figures largely for their strong ties to working on behalf of MPTF causes, like Roger Mayer and Jeffrey Katzenberg, this is a first for the organization itself. Now in its 100th year, the Motion Picture & Television Fund (MPTF) offers a variety of services to provide emotional and financial relief to entertainment industry members and their families during times of need, including case management, financial assistance for basic living expenses, palliative care, and senior and childcare services. The organization’s contribution during the pandemic has made a significant impact on the entertainment community, providing social services support to nearly 9,000 industry members in 2020. MPTF also offers a wide range of housing accommodations from independent and assisted living to nursing and memory care. Jean Hersholt, for whom the Academy’s humanitarian award is named, served as president of the Fund for 18 years, from 1938 until his death in 1956.
The Board of Governors voted to amend the rules for the Governors Awards and here is the official language: “For this year only, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award may be given not just to an individual, but also to a group of individuals or an organization in the motion picture arts and sciences whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry. The Board may bestow up to two Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Awards.”
The 93rd Oscars will be held Sunday, April 25, and will be televised live on ABC and in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.