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Countdown to Oscars

Wednesday, August 3, 2011
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HONORARY OSCARS WILL GO TO JAMES EARL JONES, DICK SMITH, AND OPRAH!

Last night, the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted to present honorary Academy Awards to actor James Earl Jones and makeup artist Dick Smith, and its Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award — which has only been awarded to 33 other people (three posthumously) — to philanthropist/talk show host/actress/producer Oprah Winfrey. All three awards will be presented at the Academy’s third annual Governors Awards dinner on Saturday, November 12, at the Grand Ballroom at the Hollywood & Highland Center, an event that has come to mean nearly as much to true cinephiles as Oscar night itself. In addition to receiving tributes from family, friends, and colleagues on that evening, the three honorees will also be acknowledged during the actual 84th Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday, February 26, 2012.

Jones, 80, made his big screen debut playing a small part in Stanley Kubrick’s classic satire “Dr. Strangelove” (1964), and got his big break playing a black boxer in love with a white woman in Martin Ritt’s “The Great White Hope” (1970), for which he received a best actor Oscar nod (becoming just the second black man, after Sidney Poitier, to be nominated by the Academy). He is best known, however, for providing the voice (if not the body) of Darth Vader in George Lucas’s “Star Wars” trilogy (1977, 1980, 1983), a character that the American Film Institute once named as the third greatest screen villain of all-time. Other films in which he gave standout performances include: “Claudine” (1974), “Conan the Barbarian” (1982), “Matewan” (1987), “Coming to America” (1988), “Field of Dreams” (1989), “The Hunt for Red October” (1990), “Sneakers” (1992), “The Sandlot” (1993), “The Lion King” (1994), and “Cry, the Beloved Country” (1995).

Smith, 89, is arguably the most famous living movie makeup artist. After getting his start in television, through which he became a specialist in prosthetic face, body, and old-age makeups, he transitioned to the big screen, where he did performed some of the most famous makeup jobs ever recorded onto celluloid. He aged 33-year-old Dustin Hoffman into a 121-year-old man in “Little Big Man” (1970), 48-year-old Marlon Brando into an elderly mafia king in “The Godfather” (1972), and 45-year-old F. Murray Abraham from a young man into an old one in “Amadeus” (1984, for which Smith won his lone competitive Oscar). Moreover, he made it look like Linda Blair could swivel her head around in “The Exorcist” (1973), gave Robert De Niro a mohawk in “Taxi Driver” (1976), and morphed Jeff Bridges from an alien into a child into a movie star in “Starman” (1984).

Winfrey, 57, is probably the most famous and popular woman in the world, having hosted the nationally-syndicated TV talk show “Oprah” (1986-2011) — the highest-rated program of its kind in history — for 25 years. Many forget that she has been involved in the world of film even longer: she gave a haunting performance in Steven Spielberg’s “The Color Purple” (1985), for which she received a best supporting actress Oscar nod (the film was also nominated for best picture); starred in the Jonathan Demme’s adaptation of Toni Morrison’s novel “Beloved” (1988); and produced numerous inspirational/acclaimed films that highlighted important social issues, such as “The Great Debaters” (2007) and “Precious” (2009). Most notably, she has been incredibly generous with her enormous wealth/influence (she was the world’s first first black billionaire and remains one of the world’s richest people), donating tens of millions of dollars to all sorts of causes around the world, including the one closest to her heart, childhood education.

Photos: James Earl Jones, Dick Smith, and Oprah Winfrey. Credit: AMPAS.

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  • http://twitter.com/robert_hamer Robert Hamer

    Congratulations to the recipients, although my personal hopefuls – Mia Farrow, Gena Rowlands and Robert Evans – remain unrewarded. The latter probably due to his own personal notoriety, and the former two can be blamed on the misogyny that we all KNOW the Academy has.

  • http://twitter.com/robert_hamer Robert Hamer

    Congratulations to the recipients, although my personal hopefuls – Mia Farrow, Gena Rowlands and Robert Evans – remain unrewarded. The latter probably due to his own personal notoriety, and the former two can be blamed on the misogyny that we all KNOW the Academy has.

  • wow

    Oprah??!! give me a break. What a joke..