Opening the seventh annual Governors Awards on Saturday evening in Hollywood, film academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs pointed to the event’s guests of honor -- actresses Gena Rowlands and Debbie Reynolds and filmmaker Spike Lee -- noting she was “pleased that this year two of our honorees happen to be women and one an African American man.”
Boone Isaacs followed those words with a proposed course of action, announcing a new academy initiative, A20/20, a five-year plan that calls for an “industry-wide commitment” to partner with the academy to “hire, mentor, encourage and promote talent in all areas of our profession.”
Academy members filling the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center applauded Boone Isaacs’ sentiments, which followed an initial stand of solidarity with the people of France following the recent attacks in Paris.
Filmmaker Spike Lee accepts an award onstage during the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ 7th annual Governors Awards at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center on Nov. 14, 2015 in Hollywood.(Kevin Winter / Getty Images)
Billie Lourd, granddaughter of Debbie Reynolds, smiles after accepting the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award on behalf of her grandmother.(Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images)
Gena Rowlands watches as her son Nick Cassavetes holds her award.(Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images)
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs attends.(Valerie Macon / AFP/Getty Images)
Samuel L. Jackson, left, and Wesley Snipes(Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty Images)
Actress Emily Deschanel(Valerie Macon / AFP/Getty Images)
Paul Dano, left, Bill Pohlad and John Cusack(Jordan Strauss / Invision/AP)
Actress Meryl Streep speaks onstage.(Kevin Winter / Getty Images)
Nick Cassavetes presents an honorary Oscar.(Chris Pizzello / Invision / Associated Press)
Samuel L. Jackson, left, Wesley Snipes and Denzel Washington(Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty Images)
Rachel Weisz, left, and Michael Caine arrive.(ordan Strauss / Invision/AP)
Peter Fonda and Jane Fonda(Valerie Macon / AFP/Getty Images)
Actress Helen Mirren(Valerie Macon / AFP/Getty Images)
Actress-comedian Amy Schumer(Valerie Macon / AFP/Getty Images)
Sunrise Coigney and actor Mark Ruffalo(Valerie Macon / AFP/Getty Images)
Samuel L. Jackson, right, and Denzel Washington(Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty Images)
Actors Will Smith, left, and Idris Elba(Valerie Macon / AFP/Getty Images)
Actors Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz(Valerie Macon / AFP/Getty Images)
Actor Paul Dano, left, director Bill Pohlad and actor John Cusack(Kevin Winter / Getty Images)
Actress Patricia Clarkson(Kevin Winter / Getty Images)
Actors Laura Linney and Ian McKellen(Kevin Winter / Getty Images)
Actress Cate Blanchett(Valerie Macon / AFP/Getty Images)
But the overall vibe during the untelevised evening, which the academy established in 2009 to split off its honorary awards, was relaxed and convivial, with Hollywood’s old guard meeting and greeting new members as well as actors and filmmakers looking to win voters’ favor this year.
So you had scenes like Will Smith zeroing in on cinematographer Roger Deakins (“I’m a total Deakins groupie,” Smith said) and then turning around to find 9-year-old “Room” star Jacob Tremblay tapping his shoulder to tell him how much he liked “Men in Black.” (“You weren’t even born yet,” Smith told the youngster, who had otherwise spent the cocktail hour playing Minecraft on his phone.)
Ice Cube accepted congratulations from the “OGs of Hollywood.” Real-life couple Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz bowed before movie couple Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay from the upcoming drama “45 Years.” And just about every actress in the room, including Cate Blanchett, Lily Tomlin and Laura Linney, paid their respects to honoree Rowlands.
“Gena Rowlands was always completely truthful,” Carey Mulligan said before the ceremony. “And she was never remotely concerned with vanity. She’s been a huge inspiration for my career.”
“What’s great about being an actress is you don’t just live one life, you live many lives,” Rowlands said.
Reynolds, unable to attend because of health, received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. Jane Fonda and Meryl Streep feted the actress for her acting career as well as her work in promoting awareness of mental health issues and preserving Hollywood memorabilia. Zooey Deschanel sang the wistful “Tammy,” a No. 1 hit for Reynolds in 1957.
Reynolds’ granddaughter, Billie Lourd, accepted the Oscar, saying she thought Reynolds would put the statue “in a place she’s always secretly saved for it. I think it’s next to the ruby slippers.”
At one point, Lee remembered his parents telling him that he had to be 10 times better than his white college classmates in order to excel.
“Nothing’s changed,” Washington said.
“It’s easier to be the president of the United States as a black person than to be the head of a studio,” Lee added.
“Everybody in here probably voted for [Barack] Obama, but when I go to offices, I see no black folks except brotherman and the security guard who checks my name on the list as I go into the studio,” Lee said. “We need to have some serious discussion about diversity and get some flava up in this.”
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