Lynn Stalmaster and Frederick Wiseman were also honored

By C. Molly Smith
Updated November 13, 2016 at 12:00 PM EST
Credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science presented actor and martial artist Jackie Chan, editor Anne V. Coates, casting director Lynn Stalmaster, and documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman with Honorary Awards at its 8th annual Governors Awards, held on Saturday at the Ray Dolby Ballroom in Los Angeles. Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs kicked off the evening, speaking to the power of film to entertain and also, indirectly referencing the election, to “connect us, change us, and unify us.” Below is some of what was said about and by these four major film industry players, who have done just that.


“As you know, the Governors Awards are a chance for the Academy to recognize unique achievements across an artist’s whole body of work,” said Tom Hanks, a Governor in the Actors Branch along with Annette Bening and Laura Dern, “and because Jackie Chan, the man who puts the ‘Chan’ in ‘Chan-tastic,’ because he has worked mostly in martial arts films and action comedies, two genres that have been for some reason, shall we say, historically underrepresented at the Oscars—a fact that will change if I have any pull on the Board of Governors!—it is especially gratifying to be able to acknowledge Jackie’s enormous creativity, his great gift for physical performance, and incredible dedication to his work with this Governors Award tonight.”

Hanks, who at one point enthusiastically danced with Bening to the tunes of the on-site band, went on to liken the actor, writer, director, producer, and more to John Wayne and Buster Keaton because of his dramatic and comedic abilities. He was followed by Michelle Yeoh, who worked with the “forever young” talent on Police Story 3: Supercop and recalled how competitive the pair were over stunts. Then came Chris Tucker, who quipped that the “living legend” tolerated his untimeliness on the Rush Hour sets—and that he made a lot of people rich. When Chan, whose other credits include Shanghai Noon, Shanghai Knights and the Kung Fu Panda series, took to the stage to accept one of four Oscar statuettes handed out to the night’s honorees, he joked of how he always wanted an Oscar of his own and said, “After 56 years [in the] film industry, making more than 200 films, I broke so many bones, finally this is mine.”


Coates is a famed film editor with a 60-year career, whose credits include Lawrence of Arabia, The Elephant Man, Erin Brockovich, and so many more. While she certainly challenged gender inequality, presenter Nicole Kidman spoke of her more broadly. “Anne V. Coates is not a great female editor, she is a great, great editor,” Kidman said. “She’s not a trailblazer for women, she’s a trailblazer for all of us.” Richard Gere soon followed, and was thankful to Coates for her work on Unfaithful. “She understood the characters, she understood the mysterious emotions that human beings have,” he said. When accepting, Coates was gracious and funny. “Can you imagine a job where you were actually paid to look into the eyes of George Clooney, Peter O’Toole, Richard Burton, Peter Finch, Sean Connery, Albert Finney, Clint Eastwood, Richard Gere, Daniel Craig, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and those of Fifty Shades of Grey himself, Jamie Dornan?”


Laura Dern and Bruce Dern introduced Stalmaster, with Laura remembering how he helped her find her voice as a person and actor, and Bruce joking that with the casting director on board, a movie stands a chance at being good. Jeff Bridges spoke too, and relayed the importance of the “master caster” to the Bridges family. After that, Stalmaster danced his way to the stage, and became the first casting director to receive a Governors Award. He was emotional and spoke of how he’s worked with some of the most gifted directors in film history, saying “they were always open to a new talent they never encountered and incidentally open is one of my favorite words because, as I’ve said many times, you never know where or when you will find the answer—and I’ve found the answer in some very strange places.” There you have it, the secret. As for the state of things, “Casting is alive and well in the new millennium.” When done, he left the way he came, dancing his way off stage—this time, with Bridges by his side.


Wiseman has made one film almost every year since 1967, including Titicut Follies, Law and Order, and In Jackson Heights. Presenter Sir Ben Kingsley was highly praising, saying “I would urge every actor, in this room and outside this room, to watch every single one of Mr. Wiseman’s films because therein lies truth.” As was Don Cheadle, who applauded Wiseman’s powerful, compelling, and empathetic works. “In these times, there is nothing more important than empathy,” he said. “The only way we are all going to get to a decent future together is to look at things with our hearts first, whether they’re ugly or beautiful, tragic or triumphant.” Wiseman addressed his process, explaining how he usually doesn’t know about a subject before starting, he doesn’t start with a point of view nor does he do research in advance—rather, he let’s the film sort of guide itself. “The goal is to make a film that is closer to a visual novel than a journalistic account,” he said, adding, “I think it’s as important to document kindness, civility, and generosity of the spirit, as it is to show cruelty, banality and indifference.”

Other speakers from the night included Helen Mirren, and Governors Michael Tronick (Film Editors Branch), David Rubin (Casting Directors Branch), and Rory Kennedy (Documentary Branch). Guests in attendance included Warren Beatty, Michelle Williams, Sylvester Stallone, Lily Collins, Judd Apatow, Leslie Mann, Aaron Eckhart, Dev Patel, and many more. Heather Headley performed Elton John’s “The Trail We Blaze,” and the ceremony was produced by Rubin. For more, check out other speeches, here.