Actor/writer/director Spike Lee and actress Gena Rowlands will receive honorary awards from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences tonight, while actress/dancer Debbie Reynolds will receive the organization’s coveted Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
The awards will be presented during the Academy’s seventh annual Governors Awards ceremony at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at the Hollywood & Highland Center.
“We’ll be celebrating their achievements with the knowledge that the work they have accomplished — with passion, dedication and a desire to make a positive difference — will also enrich future generations,” Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs said.
Lee, who won a Student Academy Award while at NYU, was nominated for an Oscar for writing the screenplay for “Do the Right Thing.” His other film credits include “She’s Gotta Have It,” “School Daze,” “Jungle Fever,” “Crooklyn,” “Malcolm X,” “Inside Man” and “Miracle at St. Anna.”
Rowlands received Oscar nominations for her lead roles in “A Woman Under the Influence” and “Gloria,” both of which were directed by her husband, John Cassavetes. Her other credits include “Lonely are the Brave,” “Minnie and Moskowitz,” “Another Woman,” “Hope Floats,” “The Notebook” and “Playing by Heart.”
Their honorary Oscars will be presented to honor “extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to the state of motion picture arts and sciences or for outstanding service to the Academy.”
Reynolds, who rose to stardom dancing with Gene Kelly in “Singin’ in the Rain,” was nominated for an Oscar in 1964 for “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.” She will receive the Hersholt award honoring not only her film achievements, but her community service work, most notably as a co-founder of the Thalians, a charitable organization aimed at promoting awareness and treatment of mental health issues. The group has contributed millions of dollars to the Mental Health Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and to UCLA’s Operation Mend, which assists veterans trying to recover from physical and psychological wounds of combat.
Reynolds will not be able to attend the ceremony because she is recovering from surgery, according to the Academy. She issued a statement through the Academy saying she was “heartbroken” that she will be unable to accept in person “so you could see how unbelievably happy you have made me.”
Her granddaughter is expected to accept the award on her behalf.