Director Sidney Lumet wins honorary Oscar. The five-times nominated director of such films as ''Dog Day Afternoon'' and ''Network'' will finally get a golden guy in February

By Gary Susman
Updated December 16, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST
Credit: Sideny Lumet: Rick Mackler/Rangefinders/Globe

The engraving on the Oscar will cite the honoree’s ”brilliant services to screenwriters, performers, and the art of the motion picture.” The statuette will go to Sidney Lumet, who’s been a top Hollywood director for nearly 50 years, having earned Oscar nominations for 12 Angry Men (1957), Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Network (1976), Prince of the City (1981), and The Verdict (1982). He will finally be given an Academy Award, in the form of an Honorary Oscar, at the upcoming awards ceremony in February.

”Lumet is one of the most important film directors in the history of American cinema,” Academy president Frank Pierson said in a statement Wednesday, ”and his work has left an indelible mark on both audiences and the history of film itself. It was a great personal pleasure and professional honor to call Sidney to tell him he’d won his profession’s highest honor.” Left unsaid was that Pierson was the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Lumet’s 1975 classic Dog Day Afternoon.

Lumet, who began his career in the 1950s as a director of TV dramas, earned an Oscar nomination for his first film, the jury-room drama 12 Angry Men (1957). He’s best known for such gritty courtroom and crime dramas, including Serpico (1973), Dog Day, Prince, Verdict, Q & A (1990), and Night Falls on Manhattan (1997). Other memorable Lumet films include Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1962), Fail-Safe (1964), The Pawnbroker (1964), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), Equus (1977), The Wiz (1978), Deathtrap (1982), and Running on Empty (1988).

Because it recognizes an honoree’s entire body of work, the honorary Oscar is often seen (fairly or unfairly) as a consolation prize for those who’ve never won a competitive Oscar, or a gold watch for journeymen whose careers are over. Lumet, who is 80, surely doesn’t see himself this way; in fact, he’s currently shooting another gritty courtroom drama, Find Me Guilty, starring Vin Diesel as an accused mobster who defends himself in court.