Late Wednesday night, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that stunt performer Hal Needham, documentarian D.A. Pennebaker and arts advocate George Stevens Jr. will receive honorary awards and that DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg will be honored with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
The awards will be handed out Dec. 1 in the Ray Dolby Ballroom at the Hollywood & Highland Center.
This will mark the fourth year that the academy has distributed the awards in a separate event from the annual Oscars ceremony.
Needham is a stunt performer and coordinator who has worked on more than 300 feature films, including "Blazing Saddles," "Little Big Man" and "Chinatown." Needham also co-founded Stunts Unlimited and is known for mentoring young stunt performers. Needham made his directorial debut with "Smokey and the Bandit." He went on to direct such features as "Hooper" and the "Cannonball Run" films.
During his six-decade career, D.A. Pennebaker has directed more than 20 feature-length documentaries, including "Don't Look Back," "Monterey Pop," and "The War Room," for which he received an Oscar nomination. He is considered one of the founders of the cinema verite movement.
George Stevens Jr. is a founding director of the American Film Institute. Under his leadership, the AFI established the Center for Advanced Film Studies and created the AFI Life Achievement Award. In 1977, Stevens co-founded the Kennedy Center Honors, which he has produced for the last 34 years.
The Hersholt award is going to Katzenberg for his decades of philanthropic efforts. He has been particularly 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 organization's campus. He also serves on the boards of 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.
Last year, the academy honored Oprah Winfrey, James Earl Jones and makeup artist Dick Smith ("The Exorcist"). The non-televised event featured tributes to each of the three industry luminaries, though Jones was not in attendance. The 80-year-old actor was starring opposite Vanessa Redgrave in "Driving Miss Daisy" at London's Wyndham's Theatre but received the award from Sir Ben Kingsley at the end of a matinee performance of his show.
Marketing executive Cheryl Boone Isaacs will produce the 2012 Governors Awards show along with Don Mischer and his production team.