Many of the movie industry's biggest names came out to pay tribute to an eclectic group of honorees at the Academy's fourth annual Governors Awards held on December 1 at the Hollywood & Highland Center's Ray Dolby Ballroom. Below, watch Jeffrey Katzenberg accept the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the ceremony.
Famous friends and colleagues gathered for an unforgettable evening of laughter, fun, and affection to celebrate the indelible contributions of honorees D.A. Pennebaker, George Stevens Jr., Hal Needham, and Jeffrey Katzenberg to filmmaking and the world.
Attendees were greeted with a gala cocktail reception including performances by a jazz quartet, followed by an official welcome from Academy President Hawk Koch. A video clip saluted the history of the Academy's Honorary Award, which was begun in 1948 to honor achievements outside the categories of the existing Oscars.
This year, three honorees received Honorary Awards for their work, which ranged from Needham's death-defying stunts to Pennebaker's groundbreaking documentaries and Stevens' landmark film preservation, while Katzenberg was recognized for his trailblazing philanthropic efforts.
Seated near Koch were Seth MacFarlane, host of the upcoming 85th Academy Awards ceremony, as well as the show's producers, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. Also present were a number of notable faces including Richard Gere, Amy Adams, Helen Hunt, Bradley Cooper, Ewan McGregor, John Krasinski, David O. Russell, Kathryn Bigelow, John Lasseter, Robert Zemeckis, Judd Apatow, Leslie Mann, Sean Hayes, Kristen Stewart, and many more.
A toast from Koch signaled the beginning of the evening's dinner, a creation from the famous Wolfgang Puck featuring roasted filet mignon. Then the official presentations began as Senator Al Franken, subject of the documentary "Al Franken: God Spoke" (2006), took to the stage to share his thoughts on the evening's first recipient, D.A Pennebaker, "who redefined the language of film and taught a generation of filmmakers to look to reality for inspiration."
Following Franken's introduction, Michael Moore, the Oscar-winning director such films as "Roger & Me" (1989) and "Bowling for Columbine" (2002) and Governor of the Academy's Documentary Branch took the stage to present Pennebaker with his award.
Moore notEd Pennebaker revolutionized documentaries by taking the camera off the tripod, and choosing to "write the movie AFTER it was shot." To the accompaniment of Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues," Pennebaker took to the stage and thanked many including his wife - "the love of my life" and "the partner I was always looking for" - recalling a life spent capturing reality on film in a way no one had ever achieved before.
The son of the famed director of "A Place in the Sun" and "Giant" (about whom he made the acclaimed 1984 documentary, "George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey"), Stevens grew up around Hollywood sets and, after considering a career as a sportswriter, oversaw the production of hundreds of documentaries as part of the United States Information Agency including the Oscar-winning 1963 short, "The Five Cities of June."
As a founding director of the American Film Institute and co-creator of the Kennedy Center Honors, he helped launch watershed preservation efforts, film programs, and recognition for performing artists in many disciplines. Complete with the familiar fanfare from the Kennedy Center Honors, Stevens's award was presented by Oscar-winning actor Sidney Poitier, who had the privilege of working for both Stevens and his father on separate film productions and praised Stevens for proving that, "Art and activism are never very far apart."