Oscars: Tyler Perry, MPTF Tapped for Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Awards

Courtesy of MPTF; Slaven Vlasic/Getty Image

In a most unusual awards season, it only goes to reason that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will be doing a most unusual thing at its Oscars: making two separate presentations of its Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

Tyler Perry, the filmmaker and philanthropist, and the Motion Picture & Television Fund, an organization that takes cares of the industry's own, will both be honored during the Oscars on April 25, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced on Thursday.

Citing the pandemic-era work of both Perry and MPTF, the Academy's board of governors voted to make a one-time exception to its bylaws to allow for more than one Hersholt to be presented in a single year.

No organization has ever previously been recognized with a Hersholt.

This will be the first Oscars ceremony since the one in early 2009 at which special awards of any kind will be presented during the Oscars telecast. Later that year, the Academy began hosting its separate Governors Awards ceremony specifically for that purpose. But the pandemic forced the postponement of the Governors Awards that had been scheduled for 2020, and the Academy now confirms that these presentations will occur "in lieu of" that event.

Three or four special awards have been presented at the Governors Awards each year. But no additional special awards — i.e. honorary Oscars or the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award — will be presented this cycle.

"There has been such widespread generosity in our industry that limiting the Hersholt Humanitarian Award to one recipient, this year in particular, was impossible," Academy president David Rubin said in a statement. " So, we are breaking with tradition and giving two awards to honor that spirit. Tyler's cultural influence extends far beyond his work as a filmmaker. He has quietly and steadily focused on humanitarian and social justice causes from the beginning of his career, caring for people who are most often ignored. The work of the MPTF is more vital than ever, and the organization has gone above and beyond to help our community. The sheer number of individuals and families — from every corner of our industry’s workforce — aided during the pandemic and over the last 100 years is nothing short of extraordinary."

The Academy notes:

Perry is a prolific producer, director, actor, writer, entrepreneur and philanthropist, whose commitment to a wide spectrum of charitable and social justice causes has been particularly impactful during the challenges of the past year, addressing economic distress caused by the pandemic, racial reckoning and homelessness in his community. In 2019, he opened his privately owned motion picture studio on the site of a former Confederate Army base in Atlanta, Georgia. Tyler Perry Studios now occupies more than 330 acres and is home to a state-of-the-art production facility with 12 soundstages that provides hundreds of job opportunities in film and television production in the local area. Perry was instrumental in quickly creating a safe way to return to production during the worldwide health crisis.

Now in its 100th year, the Motion Picture & Television Fund (MPTF) offers a variety of services to provide emotional and financial relief to entertainment industry members and their families during times of need, including case management, financial assistance for basic living expenses, palliative care and senior and childcare services. The organization's contribution during the pandemic has made a significant impact on the entertainment community, providing social services support to nearly 9,000 industry members in 2020. MPTF also offers a wide range of housing accommodations from independent and assisted living to nursing and memory care. Jean Hersholt, for whom the Academy's humanitarian award is named, served as president of the Fund for 18 years, from 1938 until his death in 1956.