Governors Awards: Michael J. Fox, Diane Warren, Peter Weir & Euzhan Palcy Set For Academy Honors

As one of its final acts, the current Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has voted honorary Oscars to directors Peter Weir and Euzhan Palcy and songwriter Diane Warren and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to Michael J. Fox. They will be presented at the 13th Governors Awards on Saturday, November 19, in Los Angeles.

Weir is a six-time Oscar nominee, including four as director of Witness, Dead Poets Society, The Truman Show and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World and is a leading voice as well in Australian cinema. Palcy made history at the 1983 Venice Film Festival when her first feature, Sugar Cane Alley took the Silver Lion, not just the first for a Black female director, but any Black director. Among other achievements she also became the first Black woman to direct a Hollywood studio film with 1989’s A Dry White Season which earned Marlon Brando a Best Supporting Actor nod, his ninth and final Oscar nomination. Warren with 13 Best Original Song nominations, most recently for last year’s “Somehow You Do” from Four Good Days, was increasingly becoming known as the Susan Lucci of the Academy Awards — always a bridesmaid and never a bride, as the old saying goes. There has been recent movement among her supporters to get her an Honorary Oscar, and for the Music branch she becomes the first songwriter to do just that. Thirteen past nominations and now an Honorary Oscar at the 13th Governors Awards proves the lucky number for the prolific artist.

Fox, a multiple Emmy winner has never received an Oscar nomination, but his work in creating the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research seemed like an obvious choice for this year’s Hersholt — and in fact long overdue for the actor who also has Parkinson’s.

Read more about this year’s recipients below.

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“The Academy’s Board of Governors is honored to recognize four individuals who have made indelible contributions to cinema and the world at large,” said Academy President David Rubin. “Michael J. Fox’s tireless advocacy of research on Parkinson’s disease alongside his boundless optimism exemplifies the impact of one person in changing the future for millions. Euzhan Palcy is a pioneering filmmaker whose groundbreaking significance in international cinema is cemented in film history. Diane Warren’s music and lyrics have magnified the emotional impact of countless motion pictures and inspired generations of musical artists. Peter Weir is a director of consummate skill and artistry whose work reminds us of the power of film to reveal the full range of human experience.”

The Honorary Award, an Oscar statuette, is given “to honor extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to the state of motion picture arts and sciences, or for outstanding service to the Academy.”

The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, also an Oscar statuette, is given “to an individual in the motion picture arts and sciences whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry.”

No more than four Governors Awards can be selected in any given year, with the board following a set pattern of voting rounds in order to achieve consensus on the chosen few. Names usually are put into nomination by individual governors who make a case for their choice.

Earlier this year, Samuel L. Jackson, Elaine May, and Liv Ullmann received Honorary Oscars, and Danny Glover was awarded the Hersholt. That ceremony was delayed due to pandemic concerns and presented in a stripped-down version on March 25, two days before the Oscar show. Also due to Covid complications, the 2021 Governors Awards were limited to two Hersholt awards, presented to Tyler Perry and the Motion Picture and Television Fund on the actual April 25, 2021, Oscar telecast.

This year’s Governors Awards returns to its normal November date for the first time since 2019. In addition to celebrating the honorees, it increasingly has become a key campaign stop during awards season for those hoping for Oscar nominations.

Here is how the Academy describes the 2022 Governors Awards honorees:

Fox gained fame playing Alex P. Keaton on the 1980s NBC sitcom Family Ties, winning three consecutive Lead Actor Emmys, and his films include the Back to the Future trilogy, The Secret of My Success, Casualties of War, Doc Hollywood and The American President. He returned to television in his Emmy-winning lead role on Spin City, followed by guest appearances in series including Rescue Me, The Good Wife and Curb Your Enthusiasm. His many accolades include five Emmys, four Golden Globes, a Grammy, two Screen Actors Guild Awards and GQ Man of the Year. In 2000, he launched the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, which now is the leading Parkinson’s organization in the world. He is the author of four New York Times bestselling books — Lucky Man, Always Looking Up, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future and No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality — and the subject of a documentary from Oscar-winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, which is  in production.

Palcy is a writer, director and producer born in Martinique in the French West Indies. Her first feature film, Sugar Cane Alley, won the Silver Lion at the 1983 Venice Film Festival, a first for a Black director. It went on to win a César Award for Best First Work, the first César won by a female director or Black filmmaker. She continued her journey with A Dry White Season (1989), a drama made at the height of apartheid, becoming the first Black woman to direct a film for a major Hollywood studio and guiding Marlon Brando to his last Oscar nomination. Her films also include the musical fairytale Siméon.

Warren is one of the most prolific contemporary songwriters and has written original songs for more than 100 films. She has earned 13 Oscar nominations in the Original Song category, starting in 1987 and within each of the past five decades, for songs including “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” “Because You Loved Me,” “How Do I Live,” “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” “Til It Happens To You” and “Stand Up for Something,” several of which also were pop hits. She has collaborated with such prominent music artists as Beyoncé, Cher, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Jennifer Hudson, Lady Gaga, John Legend, Reba McEntire and Carlos Santana.

A leading figure in the Australian New Wave film movement in the 1970s, Weir emerged as a visionary filmmaker with Picnic at Hanging Rock and The Last Wave. Along with his four Oscar nominations for Directing, he also has received a Best Picture nomination for Master and Commander and an Original Screenplay nomination for Green Card. His other notable films include The Way Back, Fearless, The Mosquito Coast, The Year of Living Dangerously and Gallipoli.

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