Sorry, Doris Day: Honorary Oscars go to Katzenberg, Needham, Pennebaker and Stevens

Stuntman turned director Hal Needham, documentarian D.A. Pennebaker and director/producer George Stevens, Jr. will be feted with honorary Oscars at the Governors Awards on Dec. 1. And studio exec Jeffrey Katzenberg will receive the Hersholt humanitarian award then as well. This is the first time in the four-year history of these kudos that the academy’s Board of Governors failed to fete any onscreen talent. 


Needham, who worked as a stunt man and then coordinator on hundreds of films before turning to directing a string of Burt Reynolds action comedies like “Smokey and the Bandit,” was honored in 1986 with a Scientific and Engineering Award for the design and development of the Shotmaker Elite camera car and crane. Now retired at 81, he never contended for an Oscar. He follows in the footsteps of his mentor Yakima Cannutt, who was honored in 1966. 

Despite crafting such classic documentaries as “Primary,” “Don’t Look Back” and “Monterey Pop”, Pennebaker, 87, was nominated for Best Documentary Features just once. He lost that 1993 bid for “The War Room,” an inside look at the 1992 presidential campaign of Bill Clinton, to “I Am a Promise: The Children of Stanton Elementary School.” 

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Stevens, the namesake of the two-time Oscar winning director George Stevens (“A Place in the Sun,  1951; “Giant,” 1956) spent his career focused on film preservation. A founding member of the American Film Institute, he co-founded the Kennedy Center Honors. Now 80, he has overseen these since their inception in 1978 and won 11 Emmys. He contended for an Oscar for his Documetary Short “The Five Cities of June” in 1963, which lost to “Chagal.” 

Katzenberg, the CEO of Dreamworks Animation, is being celebrated for his charitable endeavors and will receive the 35th Oscar named for the late Jean Hersholt. As chair of the Motion Picture and Television Fund, he helped raise $200 million. He sits on the boards of the California Institute of the Arts, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. 

This quartet will be feted in an evening at the Hollywood and Highland Center. Academy governor Cheryl Boone Issacs, a marketing exec, will oversee the event which will be staged by Don Mischer Productions. 

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