LOS ANGELES – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Governors Awards – or as Martin Short called them, the “highest honor an actor can receive … in mid-November” – were presented Saturday evening in Hollywood.
And Short’s joking comment aside, the evening made for a heartfelt tribute to three movie legends – Steve Martin, Angela Lansbury and Italian costume designer Piero Tosi, picking up honorary awards for their body of work – and to Angelina Jolie, winner of the academy’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
George Lucas and Gena Rowlands were among those presenting Jolie the award for the work she has done during more than 40 field missions with the United Nations refugee agency, as well as her countless other social justice efforts.
Jolie spoke eloquently of the impact the work she has done with the U.N. and other agencies has had on her life.
“I have never understood why some people are lucky enough to be born with the chance that I had to have this path in life,” Jolie said, “and why, across the world, there’s a woman just like me, the same abilities, the same desires, the same work ethic and love for her family, who would most likely make better films than me – better speeches. Only she sits in a refugee camp.”
Unlike Jolie, Martin broke down a couple of times, overcome with appreciation. And this was after an introduction by Short that resembled a Friars roast and had the audience roaring.
Tom Hanks compared Martin to H.L. Mencken, Voltaire, Satchel Paige and Yogi Berra, and Martin, holding his Oscar while Hanks stood to the side, initially joked that he couldn’t express how excited he was because “the Botox is fresh.”
But Martin soon turned thoughtful, and emotional.
“To get an award for something that you realize has seeped into your bones and to understand tonight that the work over the decades has at least meant something to someone is especially satisfying,” he said.
Oscar winners Emma Thompson and Geoffrey Rush paid tribute to Lansbury, with Rush calling her the “living definition of range” and Thompson remembering throwing a pie at the legend while making the 2005 film “Nanny McPhee.”
Tosi did not attend the event. Actress Claudia Cardinale, who worked with the famed Italian designer on 10 films, accepted in his honor.