George Stevens Jr., documentarian D.A. Pennebaker and stunt performer Hal Needham have won Honorary Academy Awards, while Jeffrey Katzenberg was awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, the Academy’s Board of Governors announced on Wednesday.
The Board of Governors will present the awards at the Academy’s fourth-annual Governors Awards Saturday, Dec. 1, at the Roy Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland.
No Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award recipient was named Wednesday.
The Academy created the Governors Awards to reward recipients with a more robust tribute and to shorten the protracted Oscar broadcast.
In choosing the recipients, the Board of Governors opted for a diverse group of Hollywood icons — though for the first time since they began presenting the awards on a separate night, they did not choose an actor as one of the honorees.
Needham has worked on more than 300 feature films in his career as a stuntman, including "Chinatown," "Blazing Saddles" and "The Spirit of St. Louis." He went on to co-found Stunts Unlimited, an organization comprising Hollywood's top stunt performers.
Though known best for his stunt work, Needham later worked as a director on such films as "Smokey and the Bandit" and "Hooper."
The Academy honored Needham in 1986 with a Scientific and Engineering Award for his role in the creation of the Shotmaker Elite car and crane. In recent years, stunt performers have lobbied the Academy for an Oscar honoring their achievements.
Pennebaker is one of the most famous documentarians of his time, known best for his work on music documentaries like the "Don't Look Back," which followed Bob Dylan during his 1965 tour of England, and "Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars," a David Bowie concert film.
Stevens Jr., the son of legendary director George Stevens, has spent decades as an arts advocate, serving as the founding director of the American Film Institute. He oversaw the establishment of the Center for Advanced Film Studies and created the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award.
Steven has also worked as a producer, co-founding the Kennedy Center Honors and winning several Emmy Awards for those broadcasts.
Katzenberg has long been a powerful force in the entertainment industry, from his days as an executive at Paramount and Disney to his current perch atop DreamWorks Animation.
The Board of Governors will honor him with the humanitarian award for his role in raising money for the Motion Picture and Television Fund, as well as his role on the boards of everything from the California Institute of the Arts to The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.
Only 43 people vote on the honors, which now hold their own spot on the awards season calendar. The board can nominate as many living people as they like, and the nominees are listed on a board before a secret vote. The biggest vote-getter then moves forward for a second round of voting.
The process repeats itself with two more candidates, and after those three, a fourth candidate must receive yes vote from three-fourths of the governors in order to receive an award.
Last year, the voters chose three honorees – James Earl Jones, Dick Smith and Oprah Winfrey. The first two years, the voters chose four honorees. Lauren Bacall, John Calley, Roger Corman and Gordon Willis won in 2009, while Kevin Brownlow, Francis Coppola, Jean-Luc Godard and Eli Wallach won in 2010.