Governors Awards honor four of film's top talents
There were countless standing ovations, a lot of laughs, great warmth and even Tony Bennett crooning a few tunes at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences' Governors Awards ceremony Saturday night.
During the three-hour event in the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood and Highland, the academy handed out the Irving G. Thalberg Award to Oscar-winning writer-director-producer Francis Ford Coppola, 71 ("A champion of talent," said George Lucas), as well as honorary Oscars to veteran actor Eli Wallach, 94, and British film preservationist-historian-documentarian Kevin Brownlow, 72.
French auteur filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, 79, who directed such New Wave classics as "Breathless" and "Contempt," also received an honorary Oscar but did not attend Saturday's ceremony.
But plenty of other Hollywood luminaries did, including Warren Beatty, Eva Marie Saint, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood and a few representatives of the new guard, including "The Social Network" stars Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield.
Josh Brolin, who appeared recently with Wallach in "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," told the audience that the honorary Oscar is a "long, long time coming" for the actor. "Eli Wallach is happy. He's not cool, he's just happy."
Wallach's wife of 62 years, actress Anne Jackson, joked, "I taught him everything he knows," as she led the audience in a toast to the actor who appeared in such films as "Baby Doll," "The Magnificent Seven" and "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly."
"I'm deeply moved by this honor," Wallach told the appreciative audience. "I don't act to live. I live to act."
Brownlow received his award from Kevin Spacey, who honored the film historian for his"lifetime of determination" to preserve and restore silent films. "If you ever wondered what reflected glory looks like, this is it," said Brownlow, gazing at his Oscar.
Coppola's children, directors Roman Coppola and Sofia Coppola, praised their father. "It doesn't get much better than the Thalberg Award," said Roman. "We're so proud of you," added Sofia, as she toasted her father, who made such seminal films as "The Godfather" trilogy, "The Conversation" and "Apocalypse Now."
''He's truly deserving of this award," said Lucas. "Francis was the guiding light -- he personified a whole era of the American film industry."
Coppola, who is currently shooting a new film, told the audience that he is working nights and didn't get to bed until 4 a.m. Saturday, so he hadn't prepared a speech. He kept it simple, thanking the audience for his award, doing a spot-on impression of the late movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn and proclaiming, "I am so proud of my family."
Though Godard was not in attendance, several people spoke about him, including cinematographer Haskell Wexler, who recalled the time the filmmaker, who has always marched to his own drummer, stayed at Wexler's house for three days "and didn't say four words, but his films have had a profound effect on me."
This is the second consecutive year that the academy has made the Governors Awards a separate event. Previously, these awards were handed out during the Oscar telecast, which will be Feb. 27.
-- Susan King
Photo: Award recipients Eli Wallach, left, Francis Ford Coppola and Kevin Brownlow at the 2010 Governors Awards in the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood and Highland on Nov. 13, 2010. Credit: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences