Diane Warren has gone 0-13 at the Academy Awards in the best original song category, but her luck is changing in a big way. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences announced on Tuesday (June 21) that its board of governors voted to present honorary awards to Warren, director Peter Weir, and filmmaker Euzhan Palcy, and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to actor Michael J. Fox. The four Oscar statuettes will be presented at the Academy’s 13th Governors Awards on Nov. 19 in Los Angeles.
Warren is the first person primarily known as a songwriter to be selected to receive an honorary Oscar. Previous honorary Oscars have been awarded to three famed film composers — Alex North, Lalo Schifrin and Ennio Morricone. These awards date back to 1950.
“The Academy’s Board of Governors is honored to recognize four individuals who have made indelible contributions to cinema and the world at large,” Academy president David Rubin said in a statement. “Michael J. Fox’s tireless advocacy of research on Parkinson’s disease alongside his boundless optimism exemplifies the impact of one person in changing the future for millions. Euzhan Palcy is a pioneering filmmaker whose groundbreaking significance in international cinema is cemented in film history. Diane Warren’s music and lyrics have magnified the emotional impact of countless motion pictures and inspired generations of musical artists. Peter Weir is a director of consummate skill and artistry whose work reminds us of the power of film to reveal the full range of human experience.”
Warren is one of only nine songwriters in Oscar history to amass 13 or more nominations. But she’s also the only one of those nine songwriters who has yet to win. This honorary award won’t count as a competitive Oscar, though it’s a lovely tribute. And it may be the precursor to a competitive award. Morricone won an honorary award in 2006, when his Oscar track record for best original score stood at 0-5. He won the very next time he was nominated, in 2016, for The Hateful Eight.
Here’s what an Academy press release says of Warren: “Warren is one of the most prolific contemporary songwriters and has written original songs for more than 100 films. She has earned 13 Oscar nominations in the original song category, starting in 1987 and within each of the past five decades, for songs including ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,’ ‘Because You Loved Me,’ ‘How Do I Live,’ ‘I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing,’ ‘Til It Happens To You’ and ‘Stand Up for Something.’ She has collaborated with such prominent music artists as Beyoncé, Cher, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Jennifer Hudson, Lady Gaga, John Legend, Reba McEntire and Carlos Santana.”
Like Warren, Weir has been a perennial Oscar bridesmaid. He has gone 0-6 at the awards, despite four nominations for directing, one for writing and one for best picture.
While Fox has never had a hit on the Billboard Hot 100, a song from a box-office smash in which he starred, and the TV show in which he rose to fame, both reached No. 1. Those songs were Huey Lewis & the News’ “The Power of Love” from Back to the Future (1985) and Billy Vera & the Beaters’ “At This Moment” from Family Ties (1987).
Both Warren and Fox are Grammy winners. Warren won the 1996 award for best song written specifically for a motion picture or for television for “Because You Loved Me” from Up Close & Personal. Fox won the 2009 award for best spoken word album (includes poetry, audio books & story telling) for his audio book Always Looking Up.
The Academy statement notes that in 2000, Fox launched the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, which is now the leading Parkinson’s organization in the world. He is the author of four best-selling books: Lucky Man, Always Looking Up, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future and No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality. Fox is the subject of an upcoming documentary from Oscar-winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, which is currently in production.
The honorary award is given “to honor extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to the state of motion picture arts and sciences, or for outstanding service to the Academy.”
The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award is given “to an individual in the motion picture arts and sciences whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry.”