Katzenberg, Needham, Pennebaker, Stevens Tapped for Academy Honors

The honorees, voted on Wednesday night by the board of governors, will be feted Dec. 1 at the fourth annual Governors Awards.
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Clockwise from top left: Jeffrey Katzenberg, Hal Needham, D.A. Pennebaker and George Stevens Jr.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences board of governors voted Wednesday night to present honorary awards to stunt performer Hal Needham, documentarian D.A. Pennebaker and arts advocate George Stevens Jr. and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to philanthropist Jeffrey Katzenberg.

Stunt performer and coordinator Needham has worked on more than 30 films, including The Spirit of St. Louis, How the West Was Won, Blazing Saddles, Little Big Man and Chinatown. The co-founder of Stunts Unlimited and a mentor to young stunt performers, he earned the Academy's Scientific and Engineering Award in 1986 for the design and development of the Shotmaker Elite camera car and crane, which allows filmmakers greater versatility in shooting action sequences. Needham went on to make his directorial debut with Smokey and Bandit and also helmed such action movies as Hooper and the Cannonball Run films.

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Documentarian Pennebaker is a pioneer of modern nonfiction film, with more than 20 feature-length documentaries, including Don’t Look Back, Monterey Pop, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, Moon over Broadway and the political chronicle The War Room, for which he received an Oscar  nomination. He is considered one of the founders of the cinéma vérité movement, beginning with his collaboration on the seminal 1960 film Primary.

Stevens is being recognized for his work celebrating and preserving the heritage of motion pictures. After several years at the United States Information Agency, where he championed the work of young documentary filmmakers and was Oscar nominated for producing the documentary short subject The Five Cities of June, Stevens went on to become the founding director of the American Film Institute. Under his leadership, the AFI established the Center for Advanced Film Studies, created the AFI Life Achievement Award and embarked on a host of educational initiatives. In 1977, Stevens co-founded the Kennedy Center Honors, which he has produced for the past 34 years. 

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Katzenberg, who will be honored with the Hersholt Award, has been a film executive at Paramount, Disney, DreamWorks and DreamWorks Animation, where he is currently CEO. But he earned this award for his philanthropic work, raising funds for education, art and health-related causes, particularly those benefiting the motion picture industry. During more than two decades as chairman of the board for the Motion Picture and Television Fund, he helped to raise $200 million for the organization, created "The Night Before" event and worked to expand the MPTF campus. He also serves on the boards of such organizations as the California Institute of the Arts, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, AIDS Project Los Angeles, the Geffen Playhouse, the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

The honors will be presented at the fourth annual Governors Awards, to be held Dec. 1 at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at the Hollywood & Highland Center. Cheryl Boone Isaacs, first vp of the Academy, will produce the evening with a production team headed by Don Mischer