Governors Awards: Geena Davis, David Lynch, Wes Studi and Lina Wertmuller Tapped for Honors

David Lynch Wes Studi Lina Wertmüller Geena Davis Split - Getty - H 2019
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Actors Geena Davis and Wes Studi and directors David Lynch and Lina Wertmüller will be honored at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' 11th annual Governors Awards, the organization said Monday.

Lynch, Studi and Wertmüller will receive honorary Oscars, which recognize career achievement, while Davis will become just the 39th recipient of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, which celebrates "outstanding contributions to humanitarian causes."

"These Governors Awards given by the Academy each year recognize individuals who have devoted themselves to a lifetime of artistic accomplishment and brought outstanding contributions to our industry, and beyond," outgoing Academy president John Bailey said in a statement. "It is with great pleasure that we announce this year’s recipients."

The honorees were chosen at the most recent meeting of the Academy's board of governors on Saturday night, which took place in the seventh floor boardroom of the organization's Beverly Hills headquarters while some 1,000 people — perhaps half of them Academy members — packed the ground-floor Samuel Goldwyn Theatre for the official Academy member screening of Rocketman.

Each of the 54 governors was invited to nominate as many people as he or she wished for an award. The names were then posted and each governor was able to vote for one nominee to receive one award. The nominee with the most support was then put before the entire group for a yes or no vote; once a majority voted yes, that person was confirmed as an honoree. The process repeated itself until a second and third honoree was chosen. For the fourth and final award, the threshold increased to a two-thirds majority; in other words, the Academy hopes for at least three honorees, but no more than four — although last year there were five because two shared the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, which salutes producers "whose bodies of work reflect a consistently high quality of motion picture production" — and employs a system that guarantees that a potential fourth honoree is at least as highly regarded as the initial three choices. (The Academy did not announce a Thalberg recipient on Monday; that honor has been awarded 40 times, three to Darryl F. Zanuck.)

The Governors Awards, a black-tie affair that has become a key stop on the campaign circuit for current Oscar hopefuls, takes place at the Hollywood & Highland Center. Like many other awards season events, it is being moved up on the calendar this year (last year's took place on Nov. 18; this year's are set for Oct. 27) because of the Academy's divisive decision to move up the date of the 92nd Oscars itself (this year's took place on Feb. 24; next year's are set for Feb. 9).

Davis, who won the best supporting actress Oscar for 1988's The Accidental Tourist, and is also known for 1988's Beetlejuice, 1991's Thelma & Louise and 1992's A League of Their Own, now splits her time between acting and advocating for gender equality in media. She is the founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, a nonprofit dedicated to educating and influencing film and television content creators to eliminate gender bias and stereotypes and create a wide variety of female characters in entertainment and media aimed at children. She also was appointed Special Envoy for Women and Girls in Information and Communication Technologies for the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union in 2012, and served as chair of the California Commission on the Status of Women. And, in 2015, she launched the Bentonville Film Festival to support women and diversity in the entertainment industry.

Lynch has been one of American cinema's most original and eccentric voices since his days as a student at the American Film Institute's Conservatory. He is best known for 1977's Eraserhead, 1980's The Elephant Man, 1986's Blue Velvet and 2001's Mulholland Drive. Lynch received best director Oscar nominations for The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet and Mulholland Dr., and a best adapted screenplay nom for The Elephant Man.

Studi is a Cherokee-American actor who has appeared in more than 30 films, becoming known for portraying strong Native American characters with poignancy and authenticity. With credits including 1990's Dances With Wolves, 1992's The Last of the Mohicans, 1993's Geronimo: An American Legend, 2005's The New World and 2009's Avatar, he becomes only the second indigenous person ever to receive an Oscar. (Buffy Sainte-Marie shared in the best original song Oscar for "Up Where We Belong" for 1982's An Officer And a Gentleman.)

Wertmuller is an Italian filmmaker who became the first woman ever to receive a best director Oscar nomination when she was recognized for 1976's Seven Beauties, for which she also received a best original screenplay Oscar nom. Her other credits include 1963's The Basilisks, 1972's The Seduction of Mimi, 1973's Love and Anarchy and 1974's Swept Away. Ambassadors of the Italian film community have been lobbying for her to receive this recognition for many years.