Power play on night of honorary Oscars

| 29 Oct 2019

Inequality in the film industry was spotlighted at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' 11th annual Governors Awards, where Cherokee actor Wes Studi, Italian director Lina Wertmuller and filmmaker David Lynch received honorary Oscars.

Shocking statistics - the fact Studi is the first native American actor to get an Oscar, that only five women have ever been nominated for best director, that gender inequality is still an issue in front of the camera - existed well before the stars gathered in the heart of Hollywood for the event.

But there is nothing quite like seeing Jane Campion stand beside Greta Gerwig - two of the five female directing nominees in Oscars history - and count in 10s the number of men who have been nominated for best director. She got up to 350.

Academy president David Rubin said there is no agenda when the 54-member board of governors selects honorary Oscar recipients, but this year they seemed to correct a few wrongs.

Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award recipient Geena Davis asked everyone in the room to not make another movie without doing a "gender and diversity pass" on the script first.

While toasting Studi, his co-star in The New World and Hostiles, Christian Bale, noted native and indigenous people have been underrepresented on both sides of the camera, but "we're in a room full of people who can change that."

Indeed, the Governors Awards crowd is a powerful one, featuring A-list stars, directors, producers and executives at nearly every table: Leonardo DiCaprio, Quentin Tarantino, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, Sony Pictures chairman Tom Rothman, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Amy Pascal were among the power players.

The event has become an informal and low-pressure stop for awards hopefuls, and this year was no different with various cast members and filmmakers behind Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Little Women, Booksmart, Dolemite Is My Name, Joker, Marriage Story, Hustlers, Rocketman, Pain and Glory and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood in attendance.

Even Jamie Foxx, who launched the evening, noted the number of big movie stars in this year's highest-profile films, calling on Tom Hanks and DiCaprio to stand up and make their presence known. Hanks did a little dance, while DiCaprio stood and waved. He even made Eddie Murphy go to the stage to congratulate him on Dolemite.

And many chose to greet fellow creatives.

Gerwig spoke with Pedro Almodovar, Rocketman director Dexter Fletcher said hello to Robert Pattinson, and Saoirse Ronan embraced her Little Women mother Laura Dern.

But all eyes turned attentively to the stage for the main event.

Dern, Isabella Rossellini and Kyle MacLachlan all had heartfelt remarks about beloved director Lynch.

But the 73-year-old Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive director kept his remarks brief, thanking the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the honor "and all the people who helped me along the road."

Fellow honorees took a bit more time.

Studi, for one, was not about to cut his historic moment short.

"It's about time," the 71-year-old actor said. "I'm proud to be here as the first native, indigenous American to receive an Academy Award." And few have been nominated.

Q'orianka Kilcher, who acted with Studi in The New World, said he "revolutionized how indigenous peoples are portrayed in cinema, showing us all what is possible."

Wertmuller, another trailblazer in film for being the first woman to ever be nominated for best director for Seven Beauties in 1977, was praised by the likes of Tarantino and Scorsese as well as three of her fellow female directing nominees - Campion, Gerwig and Sofia Coppola.

The petite 91-year-old filmmaker barely cleared the microphone as she stood on stage to accept the Oscar, which she tapped on the head and said through Rossellini, who was translating, that she wanted to rename Anna.

"Women in the room please scream 'We want Anna the female Oscar,'" Wertmuller said.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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