Hollywood Stars Honored at Berlin's Golden Camera Awards

Barely known outside the country, inside Germany the awards ranks alongside the Oscars and the Grammys.

There's a scene in Sophia Coppola's Somewhere where a Hollywood star, played by Stephen Dorff, travels to Italy to receive a lifetime achievement award. Dorff doesn't quite understand what's going on but it is obviously a huge deal for the locals. If Somewhere were set in Germany, that prize would be the Golden Camera.

Barely known outside the country, inside Germany the awards ranks alongside the Oscars and the Grammys as the most prestigious and brag-worthy honor the entertainment industry has to offer. Between 4-6 million Germans tune in every year to watch the three-hour awards show.

The Golden Camera's honor roll is an encyclopedia of A-listers from Meryl Streep, Jodie Foster, Clint Eastwood and Arnold Schwarzenegger to Cate Blanchett, Robert de Niro, Richard Gere and both Michael and Kirk Douglas.

This year the gilded trophies went to John Travolta and Rene Zellweger and to the lifetime achievement honor to Michael J. Fox. In the Golden Camera's musical categories, winners included disco queen Gloria Gaynor and Italian popstar Eros Ramazzotti.

German listings magazine Horzu organizes the Cameras and, together with a jury of industry professionals, picks the winners.

"For the international winners we always have a list of three or four names," says Horzu editor-in-chief Christian Hellmann. "We don't always get the number one but we rarely go below number three. Germany might not be Hollywood but it is still one of the most important international markets and the really big stars understand that."

The actual Golden Camera show has the sort of casual charm the Golden Globes used to have -- this year, Danny De Vito paused during his laudation for Michael J. Fox to hike up his trousers -- combined with a heavy dose of tear-jerking sentiment.

"My favorite part of the Golden Camera Awards are those surprising, emotional moments that we have every year," says Hellmann. "Like last year, when we had Michael Douglas as a surprise guest -- to present Danny De Vito his lifetime achievement award. You could see in De Vito's face that he was completely surprised and touched. That's something you can't fake."

This year the surprise moment came not from one of the Hollywood VIPs but from a local girl. German sports journalist Monica Lierhaus, who had spent the last two years recuperating from a near fatal brain aneurysm, took the stage. After thanking her family, friends and doctors she turned to her partner and, on live TV, asked him to marry her. There wasn't a dry eye in the house.