Oscar made them an offer they couldn’t refuse.
The annual Hollywood awards derby was launched in grand fashion with the second annual Governors Awards, where the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences bestowed honors on some of the most indelible forces in cinematic history, paying tribute to Francis Ford Coppola, Jean-Luc Godard and Eli Wallach.
In the second year of shifting its significant lifetime career honors from the televised Academy Awards ceremony to a posh, private and decidedly more heartfelt – and ribald – gathering in the Grand Ballroom of the Hollywood & Highland complex.
Coppola received the prestigious Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, given to film producers for amassing a high-quality body of work. In addition to producing his own iconic directorial accomplishments, including “The Godfather” films, “The Conversation” and “Apocalypse Now,” Coppola has overseen the productions of “The Black Stallion,” “American Graffiti” and his director daughter Sofia Coppola’s “Lost In Translation,” “Marie Antoinette” and the forthcoming “Somewhere,” among others.
Director Kathryn Bigelow, actor/comedian Don Novello (in character as Father Guido Sarducci), son Roman Coppola, and longtime friend and fellow filmmaker George Lucas paid tribute to Coppola. “He was our leader. He was our inspiration," said Lucas of his friend’s role leading the charge of a new vanguard of filmmakers in the late 1960s and early 1970s. “He’s truly the godfather of a generation who changed the course of motion picture history.”
“The fact that this is the Thalberg Award, the significance is not lost on me, because this is an award for producing,” Coppola told the crowd. “This is not about my own writing and my own filmmaking. It’s about the talent that I came to really value.
Wallach collected an Honorary Oscar for his vast collection of memorable performances in films such as “Baby Doll,” “The Magnificent Seven,” “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” “The Misfits,” “Mystic River” and, most recently, “Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps.” The 95-year-old actor received tributes from acting cohorts Clint Eastwood, Robert De Niro, Josh Brolin, James Karen and singer Tony Bennett.
“I’m deeply moved by this honor,” said Wallach. “Your recognition of my artistry means something very dear to me. I don’t act to live. I live to act.”
In a somewhat controversial portion of the evening, not-present Godard – the French New Wave auteur behind influential films including “Breathless,” “A Woman Is a Woman” and “Contempt” who has famously taken swipes at Hollywood and the Academy Awards during his long career and has been charged with anti-Semitic sentiments – received tributes from cinematographer Haskell Wexler, film editor and director Mark Goldblatt, producer Mark Johnson, composers Charles Fox and Bruce Boughton, actor Vincent Cassel, documentarian Lynn Littman and writer/director Phil Alden Robinson.
Also honored was film historian Kevin Brownlow, esteemed for The Parade’s Gone By, his scholarly books on the silent era, and documentary works on Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd. Also praised for his efforts in film restoration, Brownlow received an Honorary Oscar from actor Kevin Spacey.