The Academy Awards may be all about honoring the biggest achievements in film, but this year’s ceremony also took a moment to pay tribute to one of the real-life heroes behind one of the Best Picture nominees.
Hidden Figures stars Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae, and Octavia Spencer took to the Oscar stage to introduce the nominees for Best Documentary Feature, but before they opened the envelope and announced the winner, they shined the spotlight on famed scientist Katherine Johnson, who Henson plays in the film. As a longtime mathematician at NASA, Johnson played a key role in some of the agency’s most important missions — including astronaut John Glenn’s orbital mission in 1962.
“Movies about the lives of men and women in the history books have long been a staple of storytellers,” Monae told the audience. “Sometimes the names and deeds of the heroes in those films are known to all.”
“And then there are those films that shine the spotlight on those whose names were known to only a few, but whose stories deserve to be told,” Spencer continued.
Henson then welcomed the 98-year-old Johnson to the stage as “a true NASA and American hero,” leading the audience in a standing ovation.
Hidden Figures is up for three Oscars at this year’s ceremony: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress for Spencer. See the full list of this year’s nominees and winners here.