The Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted to present honorary awards to stunt performer Hal Needham, documentarian D. A. Pennebaker and arts advocate George Stevens, Jr.. In addition, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award will be awarded to philanthropist Jeffrey Katzenberg. All four awards will be presented at the Academy’s 4th Annual Governors Awards dinner, Dec. 1, at The Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center.
Needham is a stunt performer and coordinator who has worked on more than 300 feature films including The Spirit of St. Louis, How the West Was Won, Blazing Saddles, Little Big Man and Chinatown. A pioneer in improving stunt technology and safety procedures, Needham also co-founded Stunts Unlimited, and is known for mentoring young stunt performers. In 1986, the Academy presented Needham with a scientific and engineering award for the design and development of the Shotmaker Elite camera car and crane, which allows filmmakers greater versatility in shooting action sequences. Needham made his directorial debut with Smokey and the Bandit. He went on to direct such features as Hooper and the Cannonball Run films.
Pennebaker, specializing in modern nonfiction film, has directed more than 20 feature-length documentaries, including Don’t Look Back, Monterey Pop, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Moon over Broadway, Kings of Pastry and The War Room, for which he received an Oscar nomination. During his career of more than six decades, Pennebaker has inspired generations of filmmakers with his “you are here” style. He is considered one of the founders of the cinéma vérité movement, beginning with his collaboration on the seminal 1960 film Primary.
Stevens has spent a lifetime celebrating and preserving the heritage of motion pictures. After several years at the United States Information Agency, where he championed the work of young documentary filmmakers and was nominated for an Oscar for producing the documentary short subject, The FiveCities of June, Stevens went on to become the founding director of the American Film Institute. Under his leadership, the AFI established the Center for Advanced Film Studies, created the AFI Life Achievement Award and embarked on a host of educational initiatives. In 1977, Stevens co-founded the Kennedy Center Honors, which he has produced for the past 34 years.
A studio executive, film producer and philanthropist, Katzenberg has been instrumental in raising money for education, art and health-related causes, particularly those benefiting the motion picture industry. During more than two decades as chairman of the board for the Motion Picture and Television Fund, he helped to raise $200 million for the organization, created “The Night Before” event and worked to expand the MPTF campus. He also serves on the boards of such organizations as the California Institute of the Arts, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, AIDS Project Los Angeles, the Geffen Playhouse, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Katzenberg currently serves as CEO of DreamWorks Animation.