Governors Awards 2013: Angelina Jolie, Steve Martin on upcoming honors

U.S. actress and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie talks with refugees in Severny refugee camp on the border between Ingushetia and Chechnya, 22 August 2003.
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It's an Oscar ceremony with dinner, drinks and no commercial breaks: For the fifth consecutive year, the board of the Governors of the Academy of the Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present its honorary Academy Awards at a private, untelevised black-tie dinner.

 Angelina Jolie, Angela Lansbury, Steve Martin and Italian costume designer Piero Tosi will receive Oscar statuettes at this year's Governors Awards, where they'll be feted by the likes of Anthony Hopkins and Tom Hanks in front of about 500 audience members consisting of the entertainment elite.

"This event is a celebration of film, and it is really the beginning of Academy Awards season," said Paula Wagner, one of the ceremony's producers.

In the lead-up to prestigious event, the stars weighed in on how they felt receiving their awards.

Angelina Jolie was "completely surprised" when she learned the academy leaders wanted to recognize her with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

Oprah Winfrey received the honor last year. Past recipients also include Elizabeth Taylor, Quincy Jones, Jerry Lewis and Paul Newman.

"Paul Newman has been a hero of mine since I was a little girl," Jolie wrote in an email to The Associated Press from Australia, where she is directing her latest film, "Unbroken." "Receiving the Hersholt award makes me feel like I am on the right path but also reminds me I have more to do."

The 38-year-old actress-director is co-founder of the Prevent Sexual Violence Initiative and serves as special envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Even with a flourishing career and family, Jolie said she always has time for humanitarian work.

"It is an honor and a pleasure to work on behalf of refugee children and victims of rape," she said. "No matter how much I have to do, how busy my life is, I am always aware that the challenges are absolutely nothing in comparison to what they face on a daily basis."

Even after five Tony awards, 18 Emmy nominations and three Oscar nominations, Angela Lansbury was overwhelmed to learn she would be getting an Academy Award for lifetime achievement.

"It was quite an emotional moment," the 88-year-old actress said. "It's a nod for everything I've done, in a sense. That's what it means to me: It is really an acknowledgement of a good career, a good career as an actress in Hollywood."

Before audiences knew the British actress on stage in "Mame" or on television as Jessica Fletcher in "Murder, She Wrote," Lansbury was a movie star who earned a supporting actress Oscar nomination for her debut role in 1944's "Gaslight."

"National Velvet" with Elizabeth Taylor followed, then "The Picture of Dorian Gray," for which Lansbury earned her second Oscar nomination. The third was for 1962's "The Manchurian Candidate."

"That was a very exciting period," she recalled. "A tragic period, too, because it came right on the heels of JFK's assassination."

Steve Martin had no idea what academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs was calling about.

"I thought maybe a host had fallen out or something," Martin said. "I thought maybe they needed a favor or wanted me to introduce somebody."

The 68-year-old comic actor was touched when he realized he would be the one getting introduced - as the recipient of an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement.

"It goes back to the '80s and '90s -- that all that work was actually registering with somebody in a kind of serious way," Martin said, reflecting on the early films he wrote and starred in, such as "The Jerk," "Three Amigos!" and "L.A. Story." "I and all the people I worked with, we took it very seriously and we worried a lot about it, so it's quite a compliment to have it regarded in some way. It's quite an honor."

He's appeared in more than three dozen movies and hosted the Oscars three times, but has never been nominated for an Academy Award.

Costumer Piero Tosi has earned five Academy Award nominations for his designs in films such as "La Traviata" and "La Cage aux Folles" and calls his honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement "the crowning of a career."

"Given my young age, I was really shocked," the 86-year-old wrote in an email to the AP from his home in Italy.

Tosi's collaborations with Italian director Luchino Visconti consistently caught the academy's eye, with Oscar nods for Tosi's costumes in 1963's "The Leopard," 1971's "Death in Venice" and 1973's "Ludwig."

The designer said he has been "fascinated by the cinema" since he was a child.

"Mostly, I dreamt a lot watching American movies of the `30s and `40s," he said. "That wonderful season fed me throughout my career," which spans six decades and includes some 60 films.

The 5th annual Governors Awards ceremony will be held on Saturday in Los Angeles.