LOS ANGELES - A constellation of stars gathered in Hollywood for an off-camera celebration of four stalwart film talents.
Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell, Kevin Costner, Mark Wahlberg, Sidney Poitier, Ed Norton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Rock, Eddie Redmayne, Ron Howard and Hilary Swank were among the celebrities toasting the first Oscar winners of the season at the film academy's Governors Awards Saturday night.
Actress Maureen O'Hara, filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere and actor and activist Harry Belafonte accepted honorary Oscars at the private dinner ceremony at Hollywood & Highland's Ray Dolby Ballroom.
Jessica Chastain, Warren Beatty, Octavia Spencer, Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Duvall, Robert Downey Jr. and Tilda Swinton, sporting a platinum faux-hawk, also attended the three-hour celebration.
Pixar chief John Lasseter presented Miyazaki with an Oscar statuette, calling the Japanese animator "the most original filmmaker to ever work in our medium."
Accepting the trophy, Miyazaki said through a translator that he considered himself lucky, adding, "My greatest luck is that I got to meet Maureen O'Hara today."
The 94-year-old O'Hara was introduced by Liam Neeson and Clint Eastwood, each of whom confessed to having a crush on the Irish-born beauty. Neeson described her as "one of the true legends of cinema" and "one of the most adventurous women who ever lived," explaining the actress was a pioneer in doing her own stunts on screen.
O'Hara came to the stage in a wheelchair and read a brief statement of thanks in which she acknowledged filmmakers Charles Laughton and John Ford, along with her co-star in several films, John Wayne.
When Neeson handed her the Oscar, she asked in disbelief, "What's this?!"
"I only hope it's silver or gold and not like a spoon out of the kitchen," she said.
Carriere accepted his Oscar from "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" director, Philip Kaufman. The French screenwriter lauded the many directors he's collaborated with over his five decades in film, saying, "They're always present, even today. When I'm working, I hear their voices."
Chris Rock and Susan Sarandon introduced Belafonte, who received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for his decades of activism for social justice.
"I'm not here to honor you," Rock said. "I'm here to thank you."
Sarandon called the 87-year-old entertainer "a real-life, flesh and blood hero."
Belafonte said he was moved by the recognition.
"To be rewarded by my peers for my work for human rights, civil rights and for peace... It powerfully mutes the enemy's thunder," he said.
He shared the honor with Poitier, whom he referred to as "my elderly friend."
"He redirected the ship of racial hatred in American culture," Belafonte said.
He spoke of Hollywood's progress toward telling stories that offer "deeper insights into human existence," such as "Schindler's List," ''Brokeback Mountain," and "12 Years a Slave," and film's far-reaching ability to influence popular opinion.
"Maybe, just maybe, it could be civilization's game-changer," he said.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences established the Governors Awards in 2009 to celebrate the annual winners of its honorary awards. Highlights from the ceremony will be included in the 2015 Oscar telecast.
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