Gena Rowlands and Debbie Reynolds also received honors on Saturday night.
In its 7th year, the Governors Awards has become both a mandatory stop on the Oscar campaign trail and a chance for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences to both correct its misdeeds of the past and honor Hollywood legends.
But this year’s Governors Awards — where Gena Rowlands, Debbie Reynolds, and Spike Lee received awards — also felt like the Academy wanted to move its 6,000 member organization in a new direction. It was no longer willing to just praise what its members have achieved but hoped to lead them towards a future where different voices and cultures are recognized and represented. In a year where the cry for diversity in Hollywood seems to have reached a fever pitch, the Academy began the night’s proceedings with president Cheryl Boone Isaacs announcing a new initiative, called A2020, a five-year plan to actively increase diversity in Hollywood and she asked for the leaders in the room — and all the studio heads were there — to help her.
Saturday night’s events will get mentioned during the 88th annual Academy Awards on Feb. 28, where Chris Rock is set as host.