Steven Spielberg teased Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall about the beginnings of their relationship, actress Cicely Tyson brought more than a few people to tears while proudly clutching her Oscar and publicist Marvin Levy sang a few lines from "Hamilton" to an audience that included Lin-Manuel Miranda at a lively Governors Awards Sunday night in Los Angeles.
The event honoring the careers of film industry legends Tyson, Levy and composer Lalo Schifrin brought some of Hollywood's biggest names — Oprah, Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, Quincy Jones, Harrison Ford and Clint Eastwood among them — to the Ray Dolby Ballroom in the heart of Hollywood to reminisce, laugh and schmooze without the pressure, as Hanks said, of "being nervous about who is going to win."
The Governors Awards celebrate the careers of a few entertainment veterans who have not yet won an Academy Award by bestowing them with an honorary Oscar statuette. Recipients are voted on by the board of governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
For the 93-year-old Tyson, it was a half lifetime coming. It had been 45 years since her first and only nomination, for "Sounder" in 1972.
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"This is a culmination of all those years of haves and have nots," Tyson said, noting that she'll be turning 94 next month.
The private, untelevised dinner gala at the Hollywood & Highland complex has also become an important stop on the campaign trail to the Academy Awards for some of the year's awards hopefuls, making the event one of the most star-studded of the season. In a spin around the room, you can see Nicole Kidman chatting with "First Man" director Damien Chazelle, Disney CEO Bob Iger leaving his seat next to Ford to meet Lady Gaga, "Eighth Grade" director Bo Burnham and "Roma" director Alfonso Cuaron deep in conversation, Hanks and Rita Wilson stopping to greet Melissa McCarthy, John Krasinski and Emily Blunt saying hello to Hilary Swank, the cast of "Black Panther" posing for a photo with Marvel chief Kevin Feige and Lin-Manuel Miranda hanging out with the "Crazy Rich Asians" cast and, later, Jonah Hill.
But all turned their full attention to the stage and the titans being honored when the time came. For while the event may be in its 10th year, and the honorary Oscar itself in its 60th, there was still room for a few firsts. Levy became the first member of the public relations branch of the film academy to win an honorary Oscar, while Kennedy became the first woman to win the prestigious Irving G. Thalberg Memorial award — an honor that she shared with her husband and partner Marshall.
The Thalberg award is given to creative producers in recognition of their high-quality body of work, and is infrequently given out. The last Thalberg award recipient was Francis Ford Coppola in 2010.
"I'm incredibly honored to be the first woman to receive this award," Kennedy said to a standing ovation. "I'm not the first to deserve it and I'm 100 percent sure I won't be the last."
Spielberg told the audience about hiring Kennedy to be his secretary years ago, but quickly realized that she had more to offer than just taking notes.
"The breaker of glass ceilings wherever she sets her sights," Spielberg said of Kennedy, who now runs Lucasfilm. "She went from taking notes to taking over."
The director did, however, make his Amblin Entertainment co-founders blush by telling a story about discovering that the two were in a relationship when he caught them "making out on my couch." Kennedy and Marshall have been married now for 32 years and have two daughters.
All the honorees accepted their awards with graciousness and little bit of humor.
Schifrin, who composed the themes to "Mission: Impossible" and "Dirty Harry," had to have a little humor in accepting his award from Eastwood. Eastwood, who said he couldn't read the teleprompter, called Schifrin up to the stage early because he wanted to ask him some questions.
On stage, Schifrin and Eastwood talked about jazz and how many movies they'd worked on together.
"You're sabotaging my speech," Schifrin said in good humor when Eastwood lingered. But Schifrin took hold of his moment of glory after going home from the Oscars empty handed six times in his long career.
"Receiving this honorary Oscar is the culmination of a dream," Schifrin, 86, said. "It is mission accomplished."
And Levy, who has been Spielberg's publicist for over 40 years, since "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" said his job has always been a little hard for people outside the business to understand. "At least now they know I got an Oscar for it," he laughed.