LOS ANGELES -- After accepting the first Academy Award ever given for casting, 88-year-old Lynn Stalmaster spontaneously danced onstage with Jeff Bridges.
Bridges called Stalmaster “the master caster, man,” as he presented the casting director with an honorary Oscar on Saturday at the film academy’s Governors Awards. He held his hand as they left the stage.
The Academy Awards may be the jewel in Hollywood’s awards-season crown, but the Governors Awards has become the hottest ticket in town. Packed with industry veterans and awards hopefuls, the untelevised ceremony is a feel-good schmooze-fest that celebrates the most venerable and often overlooked filmmaking talents while welcoming the next crop of potential nominees.
Besides Stalmaster, the eighth annual event honored action star Jackie Chan, film editor Anne V. Coates and documentarian Frederick Wiseman with honorary Academy Awards recognizing lifetime achievement. Joining the party were actors and directors from such buzzy new films as “La La Land,” ‘’Loving” and “Manchester By the Sea,” with guests including Emma Stone, Joel Edgerton, Michelle Williams, Ava DuVernay, Lupita Nyong’o, Andrew Garfield, Marion Cotillard, Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, Helen Mirren, Sylvester Stallone and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Stalmaster was visibly moved by his Oscar moment. No Oscar category exists for casting directors, who only formed a branch within the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences three years ago.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I’d be standing here,” said Stalmaster, whose credits include “West Side Story,” ‘’Fiddler on the Roof,” ‘’Deliverance” and “Tootsie.”
No Oscar category really exists for the kinds of films Jackie Chan makes, either, and he was equally astounded to be receiving a statuette.
The 62-year-old writer-director-producer-actor said he always coveted an Academy Award, but the closest he ever got was seeing one at Stallone’s house.
“I touched it, kissed it, smelled it. I believe it still has my fingerprints,” Chan said. “After 56 years in the film industry, making more than 200 films, with so many bones (broken), finally this is mine.”
Chan accepted his award from actors Michelle Yeoh, Chris Tucker and Tom Hanks, who repeatedly described him as “Chantastic.”
Coates was introduced by Nicole Kidman and Richard Gere, who called her “the greatest of the great, great film editors.”
A five-time Oscar nominee and winner for 1962’s “Lawrence of Arabia,” Coates said she loved her career.
“Can you imagine a job where you’re actually paid to look into the eyes of George Clooney, Peter O’Toole, Richard Burton... Clint Eastwood, Richard Gere, Daniel Craig, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mr. ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ Jamie Dornan?” she said of her 63 years in Hollywood.
Wiseman, 84, has averaged almost a film a year since his first documentary was released in 1967, exploring subjects including blindness, ballet, public housing and juvenile court.
Ben Kingsley urged actors to watch Wiseman’s films “because therein lies the truth.”
Praising the filmmaker for his unflinching perspective and direct style that includes no interviews or narration, fellow presenter Don Cheadle noted the Wiseman’s empathetic eye.
“In these times, there is nothing more important than empathy,” Cheadle said. “The only way we are all going to get to a decent future together is to look at things with our hearts first.”
After 44 films, Wiseman called the breadth of human behavior he’s witnessed “staggering.”
“I think it’s as important to document kindness, civility and generosity of spirit as it is to show cruelty, banality and indifference,” he said.
Kindness and generosity of spirit certainly reigned over the Governors Awards, portions of which could be included in the 2017 Oscar telecast, set for Feb. 26.