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Beloved actor and Parkinson’s disease activist Michael J. Fox will be celebrated with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award while 13-time songwriting Oscar bridesmaid Diane Warren, six-time directing-writing Oscar runner-up Peter Weir and trailblazing Black director Euzhan Palcy will collect honorary Oscars at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ 13th Governors Awards on Nov. 19, the Academy announced Tuesday.
“The Academy’s board of governors is honored to recognize four individuals who have made indelible contributions to cinema and the world at large,” outgoing Academy president David Rubin said in a statement. “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. And 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 Hersholt Award, which has been presented only 42 times — previous recipients include Gregory Peck, Frank Sinatra, Oprah Winfrey, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Angelina Jolie — is awarded on occasion “to an individual in the motion picture arts and sciences whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry.” Fox, 61, who is best known for the TV series Family Ties and the Back to the Future films, was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s disease in 1991, when he was just 29, and has devoted the decades since to fighting for a cure. In 2000, he launched the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, which is now the leading Parkinson’s organization in the world. And he is the subject of a documentary, now in production, from the Oscar-winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim.
Honorary Oscars, which “honor extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to the state of motion picture arts and sciences, or for outstanding service to the Academy,” have been presented more frequently — 186 times, at least one per year, usually to an individual, sometimes to a group of people, an organization or even a film.
Warren, 65, will be the first songwriter ever so honored. An immensely popular and admired figure in Hollywood, she has collaborated with the likes of Beyoncé, Cher, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Jennifer Hudson, Lady Gaga, John Legend, Reba McEntire and Carlos Santana. And, rather infamously, she has been nominated for the best original song Oscar 13 times (by far the highest accumulation in that category for someone who has not won at least once), including in each of the past five years and in seven of the past eight years. Among the songs for which she received nominations are giant hits including “How Do I Live,” “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” and “There You’ll Be.”
Weir, meanwhile, is the first Australian ever selected for an honorary Oscar. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest living filmmakers who has never won an Oscar in competition — he was nominated once as a producer, four times as a director and once as a writer — despite an output that includes classics spanning the Australian New Wave (Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Last Wave and Gallipoli) through Hollywood productions of subsequent decades (The Year of Living Dangerously, Witness, The Mosquito Coast, Dead Poets Society, Green Card, The Truman Show and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World). Now 77, he hasn’t directed a film since 2010’s The Way Back.
And Palcy, who was born in Martinique, French West Indies, and is 64, will become just the eighth Black recipient of an honorary Oscar, following in the footsteps of James Baskett (1947), Sidney Poitier (2001), James Earl Jones (2011), Spike Lee (2015), Charles Burnett (2017), Cicely Tyson (2018) and Samuel L. Jackson (2021). She was one of the first Black female filmmakers to win major film festival recognition (her first feature, Sugar Cane Alley, in 1983 won the Venice Film Festival’s Silver Lion, a first for a film from a Black director, and a César Award, a first for a female director or a Black director), and she was the first Black female filmmaker to direct a film for a major Hollywood studio (guiding Marlon Brando to his final Oscar nomination in 1989’s A Dry White Season). Numerous filmmakers from younger generations have cited her as an inspiration.
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