Oscars: Who Are the Candidates for Governors Awards? (Analysis)

As the Academy's board of governors meets to choose the honorees, here's a look at who could be in the running — from Doris Day to Douglas Trumbull.
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Doris Day

The recipients of the seventh annual Governors Awards — a non-televised fall ceremony at which the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' board of governors presents special awards to no more than four individuals  — will be decided Tuesday night at a meeting of the board. The awards themselves, which will be publicly announced once all the recipients have been notified, will be presented at the awards banquet set for Nov. 14.

Which means it's time for last-minute speculation!

First, a bit of background ...

The accolades that the 51-member board can vote to bestow are the honorary Oscar (presented each year as sort of a lifetime achievement award), the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award (given periodically — 39 times, including a record three to Darryl F. Zanuck — to a producer with an outstanding body of work) and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award (the least frequently presented — only 37 times — to someone who has done important work for others).

In light of the fact that the board is comprised of members from 17 different branches — executives, cinematographers, writers, etc. — each seeking to see practitioners of their own art or craft celebrated, it is fairly safe to assume the honorees will hail from a variety of backgrounds. (The only branches that have ever been represented by more than one honoree at a single ceremony are the actors branch, which is by far the most populous, and the directors branch.)

It also is likely that at least one honoree will hail from a branch not previously represented by an honoree. Seven branches fit that bill: casting directors, film editors, music, public relations, sound, designers and visual effects.

The edge tends to go to people who have been egregiously overlooked by the Academy in the past (honorees like Gordon Willis, Lauren Bacall and D.A. Pennebaker) — but that isn't always the case (Francis Ford Coppola already had five Oscars on his shelf before being awarded the Thalberg in 2010).

Only five of the 23 individuals who have been honored at a Governors Awards ceremony have been women (Bacall, Oprah Winfrey, Angela Lansbury, Angelina Jolie and Maureen O'Hara). Since the Academy recently has made a concerted effort to demonstrate that it is no longer an old white man's club, it is fairly safe to assume that at least one and probably two of this year's honorees will be female.

One other thing: While a person's ability to accept an award in-person is not mandatory, it obviously is preferred, particularly in light of the fact that the Academy wants folks to buy tables at the Governors Awards.

So who are this year's likeliest honorees?

I suspect that at least one respected and popular actor — probably a woman — will be getting a phone call late Tuesday or early Wednesday from Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs. The people's choice would be the reclusive actress and animals advocate Doris Day for the Hersholt Award. A box-office phenomenon of the 1950s and 1960s, she never would show up in-person — something that I've heard has deterred the board from picking her in the past — but a videotaped acceptance speech still would steal the show. The time has come for that to happen.

Instead of, or in addition to Day, I could see an honorary award being voted to Cicely Tyson (though the 90-year-old still is active in her career), Gena Rowlands (a presenter at the 2013 Governors Awards), Debbie Reynolds (the Singin' in the Rain star who would be accompanied by her daughter, Carrie "Princess Leia" Fisher), Kim Novak (star of Vertigo, the greatest movie of all time, according to Sight and Sound magazine) or foreign-born Leslie Caron (star of two best picture Oscar winners, An American in Paris and Gigi), Catherine Deneuve, Jeanne Moreau, Gina Lollobrigida or Liv Ullmann (only Caron, Deneuve and Ullmann ever were even nominated).

Or, if a male Oscar-less thesp makes the cut, it could be Gene Wilder (beloved master of screen comedy), Ned Beatty (the ultimate living character actor) or the still active Max von Sydow (legendary international actor), Martin Sheen (still-active star of classics Badlands and Apocalypse Now), Albert Finney (star of 1963's best picture Tom Jones and many other memorable pics), James Caan or Donald Sutherland. In fact, why not give one to Harrison Ford? The star of innumerable blockbusters was nominated only once and, in this year of a Star Wars reboot, would be a popular choice. (Producer Saul Zaentz was presented with the Thalberg in the same year in which he won best picture for producing The English Patient.)

Worthy Oscar-less candidates from other branches that already have had representatives feted include directors Peter Bogdanovich, Werner Herzog, James Ivory, Richard Lester, Ken Loach, Terrence Malick, Jacques Rivette and Ridley Scott; writer Philip Kaufman; documentarians Michael Apted and Frederick Wiseman; cinematographer Roger Deakins (0-for-12-and-counting at the Oscars); and producer/ex-Paramount chief Robert Evans, who makes a lot of sense for the Thalberg (as would Scott Rudin or Harvey Weinstein, although they both, unlike Evans, have won Oscars for producing and are still very active in their careers).

Of the branches that haven't yet been represented, I think the people most likely to be pushed by their branches are Anne V. Coates (film editors), inventor of the match-cut in Lawrence of Arabia, for which she won an Oscar more than a half-century ago, and who, until recently, also served on the board; Philip Glass (music), who has been 0-for-3 in competition; Lynn Stalmaster (casting directors), a true giant of his profession; Richard Marks (film editing), who has been 0-for-4 in competition, with a résumé that includes The Godfather, Apocalypse Now and all of James L. Brooks' films; Albert Brenner (designers), who has been 0-for-5 in competition; Douglas Trumbull (visual effects), who also has been 0-for-3 in competition but was the recipient of 1993's Scientific and Engineering Award and 2012's Gordon E. Sawyer Award; Kevin O'Connell (sound), a former member of the Board who holds the record for most Oscar noms without a win — he's 0-for-20; and the hard-charging, game-changing personal publicist Pat Kingsley (public relations).

Time will tell!

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