Four standing ovations in one night might seem a little over-the-top, even by Hollywood standards. But at the Governors Awards Saturday night, where Michael J. Fox, Euzhan Palcy, Peter Weir and Diane Warren were celebrated with honorary Oscar statuettes, each moment felt worthy.
After several pandemic-adjusted years, the annual event to hand out honorary Oscar statuettes, put on by the Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, was back in full form at the Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel on Saturday.
The ballroom was teeming with stars including 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 and Ron Howard, to name just a few.
The Governors Awards is a celebration of the honorees and a chance for many of the filmmakers and actors hoping to win awards to mingle with potential voters before everyone takes leave for the holidays with an armful of screeners to watch and consider.
“It’s a really special night,” Butler said. “I just had a really special moment with Robert Downey Jr.”
This was the first Governors Awards for the “Elvis” star, who was accompanied by director Baz Luhrmann and Priscilla Presley.
“Armageddon Time” actor Jaylin Webb, another first-timer and self-proclaimed “superhero nerd,” was excited to see several people from “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”
“It’s a little overwhelming,” Webb said.
The room at the Governors Awards brings many unexpected star pairings, as everyone clamors to meet someone they admire. Near one table, Hanks could be seen sharing a laugh with Yeoh. In another part of the room, Chastain chatted with Billy Eichner, while Jude Law caught up with director Daniel Kwan and Ke Huy Quan posed for a photo with Elizabeth Banks and Rian Johnson.
But the main event brought everyone to their seats: The presentation of the honorary Oscars.
Fox, who was given the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for his contributions to Parkinson’s disease research, was up first and received a colorful introduction from his friend Woody Harrelson.
“He’s a genuinely great guy,” Harrelson said. “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 age 29 and in 2000 started a foundation to fund further research into the condition. 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, thoughtful speech to accept the award. He recounted how he dropped out of high school to give acting a shot and a teacher told him, “Fox, you’re not going to be cute forever.”
“I didn’t know how to respond and I said maybe just long enough,” Fox said.
He has 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, all of which he spoke about in-depth in a recent People Magazine cover story. Tracy Pollan, Fox’s wife with whom he has four children, was there to support him and he called her on stage to close his speech.
“I can’t walk and carry this thing (the Oscar) so I once again ask Tracy to carry the weight,” Fox said.
Cher was on hand to introduce Warren, the prolific songwriter and 13-time Oscar nominee. She laughed that Warren will often call her to say she’s written her best song yet, to which Cher responds, “You always say that.”
When Warren took the stage, she said the words she’s been waiting to say for 34 years, since she got her first Oscar nomination: “I’d like to thank the Academy.”
“Mom, I finally found a man,” Warren said, looking at the golden statuette. “I know you wanted him to be a nice Jewish boy but it’s really hard to tell.”
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 about Williams, with whom he worked on “Dead Poets Society” and marveled about how Williams was when no one was around and inspiration would strike.
Weir, 78, was a leading voice in the Australian New Wave movement, with pictures like “Picnic at Hanging Rock,” “The Last Wave” and “Gallipoli,” before successfully transferring to Hollywood filmmaking where he traversed genres with ease directing films like “Dead Poets Society” and “The Truman Show” to “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.” The Australian auteur received many Oscar nominations over the years, but hasn’t made a feature since “The Way Back,” from 2010.
“I had a wonderful 20 years of making studio pictures,” Weir said. “I love craft I think that’s what it’s all about. Don’t you love something that’s well made whether it’s a chair a table or a statue?”
Davis helped close out the night celebrating Palcy, who was first Black woman to direct a film produced by a major studio (MGM with “A Dry White Season.”)
“I am always defending my womanhood and my blackness,” Davis said. “You said, ‘I ain’t gonna do that, I’m going to wait for the work that is worthy of my talent.’ You used it as warrior fuel.”
Palcy also retreated from Hollywood moviemaking in the past decade, but unlike Weir, the 64-year-old Martinique native is ready to come back and make films again.
“Black is bankable. Female is bankable,” Palcy said. “My stories are not Black, they are not white, they are universal.”