The mood at the 13th Annual Governors Awards was celebratory, and rightfully so. The event, hosted by Mindy Kaling, was a star-studded night to remember for Hollywood and the honorees presented with their Oscars. Name a star and they were there to celebrate: Tom Hanks, Cate Blanchett, Colin Farrell, Florence Pugh, Eddie Redmayne, and the list goes on and on.
But the spotlight was on, of course, this year's honorees: Euzhan Palcy, Peter Weir, and Diane Warren, who all received Honorary Oscars for their incredible body of work and stellar careers. And this year's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, which honors an individual in the motion picture arts and sciences whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry, went to Michael J. Fox, for his peerless efforts to raise money for Parkinson's Disease research.
At the event, the honorees were introduced by equally accomplished individuals — Viola Davis, Jeff Bridges, Cher, and Woody Harrelson — before delivering their own heartfelt (and often funny) speeches. Read on for their full remarks.
Palcy made history when she directed 1989's A Dry White Season for MGM; she became the very first Black female director to make a film for a major studio. The political thriller featured Marlon Brando, emerging from a nine-year retirement to star in the film, earning an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his performance. Palcy has directed, written and produced other works, including Sugar Cane Alley and Simeon, in addition to her work in documentary and television.
Oscar winner Viola Davis presented Palcy with her Honorary Oscar, saying "Euzhan has had a fascinating life, but, then again, most legends do." She went on to praise Palcy’s work, tearing up as she described her as an inspiration, saying, "As a black woman artist, I feel like I’m always defending my womanhood and blackness… You did not defend your blackness. You did not defend your womanhood. You used it as warrior fuel."
Here are Palcy’s full remarks:
Thank you. Merci, Viola. Merci. Thank you. Well, I would ask you, my dear friends, to bear with me, because it's a great, great moment of emotion. And also, I hate my accent when I speak English. If I stumble on a word, just applaud, you know? Thank you, dear members of the Academy Board of Governors. And thank you to everyone who came here tonight.
A special thanks to two brilliant female students who came all the way from Martinique, my native country, Erinne and Salome. A few years ago, in Martinique, they called a school the Euzhan Palcy School. And I wanted, absolutely wanted, to have one of the students from that school and from another school, a high school, Cesaire, in Martinique, to be here tonight with us. Because, if I make films, it is for this generation and the one coming. It was important that they come all the way with the support of everybody in Martinique, to be here in that room with you, with us, so they could see it. Then go back home and explain to the other kids what it is, how it was, and the people they met, and how important this experience was for them.
When I look at you all, friends, peers, colleagues, mentors, memory makers, I am reminded of an African proverb. "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." Ladies and gentlemen, you know in your hearts no one reaches this stage alone. I would not be here without the wisdom and love of all those who joined me in my journey. My heart is bursting right now thinking of my grandmother Cami, of my dad Leon, of my mother Mire, and my godmother and godfathers — Maya Angelou, Aime Cesaire, François Truffaut.
Thank you to all the mentors who encouraged me, like Robert Redford, who invited me to attend the Sundance Institute Filmmakers Lab in 1985. It was there, I workshopped 'A Dry White Season.' I thank the cast and crews of all my films, especially those of 'Sugar Cane Alley,' 'The Brides of Bourbon Island,' and 'A Dry White Season.' And a very important thanks to the audiences all around the world. Without them, my films would not be considered as classics today. I love you all.
I would be remiss if I did not thank the source of all my good fortunes, the all mighty God. Now, many have asked me why, for a time, I stepped back from the career I love. The answer is I stepped back so I could truly stand up and stand tall. If I didn't make any movies for a few years, it's because I decided to keep silence. And I kept my silence because I was exhausted. I was so tired of being told that I was a pioneer. I was so tired of hearing praise for being the first of too many firsts, but denied the chance to make the movies I [was] compelled to make.
Over the years, dear friends like Ava Duvernay, Julie Dash, Neema Barnette, Kasi Lemmons, Gina Prince-Bythewood, and others were calling me the queen, sharing my work, thanking me for shattering barriers. I have been humbled, very humbled by such praise. And, why do they speak of me like that? Because they may have recognized and identified with my films and the themes embodied in them, because I am a filmmaker. Because they may have known of the danger I faced going undercover in South Africa, smuggling audio evidence of apartheid victims necessary to tell the truth about their struggle taped in my panties.
I'm fearless, and I want to inspire the new generation, like my godsons, Manuel and Andrew. But, at the end of the day, what is the point of those sincere words? Because I was not behind the camera, doing what I truly, God put me on this earth to do: Aim my camera, my miraculous weapon, as I call it, to bring our collective humanity into focus on the screen. With my camera, I don't shoot, I heal. And why I kept my silence, it was because I had lost my willingness to hear those words. Black is not bankable. Female is not bankable. Black and female is not bankable. Come on, guys, look at my sister [Viola Davis] standing by me.
Black is bankable. Female is bankable. Black and female is bankable. Yes, yes. Black and female is bankable. Right, Chadwick? [gesturing upward] He knows.
Tonight, I have been given credence to what I have always voiced. The impossible is possible, and you sparked in me the joy to shout again. Camera, sound, then action! This is my shout tonight. A shout of inclusion, of pride, of happiness. I congratulate the Academy for helping to lead the charge to change our industry, and for opening the doors that were closed to the ideas and vision that I championed for so long. It encourages me to raise my voice again, to offer you movies of all genres that I always wanted to make in my own way, without having my voice censored or silenced.
Very importantly, my stories are not Black. My stories are not white. My stories are universal. They are colorful. Thanks to all of you, and thanks to that wonderful man, Oscar — my Oscar, shining so brightly. You are a symbol giving hope to us and young girls like Erinne and Salome.
And to all children, little boys and girls with all skin tones, who dream that one day they will proudly, proudly carry you. I mentioned earlier Andrew and Manuel, who are filmmakers and activists. Filmmakers and activists who embody the spirit and ideas of what I talked about tonight. That's why in 2016, they chose me to become the godmother of a movement they created to spark peace, love, and unity. The Connect Movement. They have been fighting passionately for human connectivity. Human connectivity to bring us all closer together again with a simple gesture, palm to palm. Especially in this time when we are so divided, not just here, but all over the world, these are values I believe in and I'm fighting for with my camera, my voice, and my life. Let's use my cry of joy to raise our voices together. Camera, sound, and action!
Thank you to the Academy. Thank you to Mr. Jean-Luc Ormières for 'Sugar Cane Alley' and Jacques Guinchard, I love you all. I want to thank Mr. George Baker, who did this beautiful gown for me, because I wanted a warrior outfit, but he did something like a queen. I'm sure that Ava Duvernay will be happy. Thank you very much.
Michael J. Fox
Fox has been a beloved actor for decades, creating one of the most iconic characters in film history with Marty McFly in the Back to the Future trilogy. Beyond his acting, he has also been a tireless advocate for Parkinson’s Disease research, after having been diagnosed with the illness in 1991. Through his efforts with the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, Fox has helped raise, to date, over $1.5 billion to help find a cure for the disease.
Fox was introduced to the stage by three-time Oscar-nominee Woody Harrelson, who summed up Fox’s work in a touching speech. "He didn't choose to be a Parkinson's patient or disease advocate, but make no mistake, it is his greatest performance," Harrelson said. "Vulnerable? Yes. A victim? Never. An inspiration? Always. And the living breathing symbol and singular voice to help advance progress toward a cure."
Here are Fox’s full remarks:
Guys, you're making me shake. Stop it. Thank you. You going to be here whole time, Woody? Am I going to be throwing jokes to you and stuff? First of all, this is off script, but thank you so much for being here. I love you. We did some damage. We did some damage in the '80s. I heard an expression the other day — I'd never heard it before — somebody said, "Oh, they were '80s famous." And I thought, "Yeah, son of a bitch, that was a different deal."
Anyway, down to serious business. Thank you, Academy, for honoring me with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. It is a wholly unexpected honor, and I'm truly grateful. Special thanks to Bonnie Arnold, Davis Guggenheim, Bob Zemeckis, Bob Gale, the two Bobs, Steven Spielberg and Laura Dern. I actually know those people. Also, thanks to Bruce Springsteen for that song you heard at the end of Davis' piece. It's sort of a personal anthem. "No repeat baby. No retreat, baby. No repeat. No repeat, no retreat. Baby, no surrender." And there's a line in that, "He bursted it out of class, had to get away from those fools. We learned more from a three-minute record, baby, than they ever learned in school."
I don't know if that was completely true, but I did leave high school in the 11th grade, sold my guitar and moved to LA, right over there on the corner of the Fox lot in an alley behind Shirley Way. Moved in, starved for a while. I'm not bragging, God forbid anybody who tries to do the same thing. I told a history teacher of my plan and he said, "Fox, you're never going to be cute forever." I had no idea how to respond to that. So, I said, "Maybe just long enough, sir. Maybe just long enough." Turns out we were both right.
Years later, my son Sam insisted that the 30-something me earn my GED, and so I did. I got that covered. My career as a risk taker and an opportunist started to hit full stride. During my first days, then months, then years in the American film and television industry, I booked some jobs, ducked some landlords, dove in a few dumpsters, and eventually I found myself, unbelievably, on a TV series called 'Family Ties.'
My boss on 'Family Ties' was a larger-than-life, enormously gifted, bear of a man. And when I say bear, I don't just mean Teddy, I mean full on grizzly. Gary David Goldberg was my friend and my mentor, and I still miss him every day. He taught me how to be a dedicated professional actor, and a responsible human being. Introduced me to the concept of "To whom much is given, much is required." I think that's John F. Kennedy's wording, but I also recognize the concept as taught to me by my parents, Phyll and Bill Fox, who, by the way, would love this. In case you were wondering, Irish people kvell too.
My mom and dad were kind and generous people, and their very values were very clear and visible to their core. I really didn't think they had been given so much, so I didn't think I fully understood the lesson. They worked their asses off putting all their love and energy into raising me and my four siblings, Karen, Steve, Jackie, and Kelly. But, of course, they wouldn't see it as any hardship at all. When I left school and my home and my country, I wasn't leaving my mom and dad, I was just doing what felt right for me. They believed in my passion. My optimism, not so much. They were risk-averse. And now, a few short years later, I was on top of the world. I had a hit television show, two movies in the can, and it was all good in the neighborhood. This is when Gary started talking to me about a bigger neighborhood, about the obligation I had to help out where I could.
Gary introduced me to other philanthropic mentors, all stunning examples of doing good as a major part of doing right and doing well — Bob Zemeckis, Bob Gale, Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Brandon Tartikoff, Peter Benedek, and Bob Philpott. These were strong men. And also strong women helped me along the way, like Nanci Ryder, Leslie Sloane. Nanci Ryder, God, I miss her. Judith Weiner, Nancy Gates, and Dr. Susan Bressman.
And just when you think things couldn't get any better, they got better. Just before they got worse. I met Tracy, better. Sam was born, better. Eventually we had three fantastic daughters, Aquinnah, Schuyler, and Esmé. Better, better, better. Somewhere in there, around 29, I was diagnosed with Parkinson's. I was told I only had 10 years left of work. That was shitty. The hardest part of my diagnosis was grappling with the certainty of the diagnosis and the uncertainty of the situation. I only knew that it would get worse. The diagnosis was definite. The progress was indefinite and uncertain. Tracy made it clear that she was with me for the duration. I just got in so much s--t. But my young son, Sam, didn't know. He didn't have a choice.
Then I entered into seven years of denial, trying to make sense of it all. The kid who left Canada convinced that he would make anything happen just by working hard and by believing, now had a tall order in front of him. I told very few people and they kept my secret. Then there were all kinds of doctors who helped me understand physical processes that were at work or not at work in my brain, as the case may be. Finally, I felt like I needed to tell everybody. I understood it would have a huge impact on my career. By this time, I was doing 'Spin City' and I didn't know if an audience could laugh if they knew I was struggling. I had to figure out how best deliver the news, so I told Barbara Walters and People Magazine. Remember, this was at the dawn of the internet and, in those days, if you wanted to get news out you told People magazine and Barbara Walters. Oh, for simpler times.
What happened next was remarkable. The outpouring of support from the public at large and the beautiful reaction from all of my peers in the entertainment business, all of you, and the people that I worked with, was transformative. Then I reached out to the Parkinson's community itself, patients, families, doctors, leading scientists in the field, and it struck me that everything I'd been given, success, my life with Tracy, my family, had prepared me for this profound opportunity and responsibility. It was a gift. As my friend George Stephanopoulos pointed out in the film, I refer to Parkinson's as the gift that keeps on taking, showing up for a handful. But it truly has been a gift.
Once I became engaged in learning about the disease, every interaction, every new piece of information I gathered, every researcher or NIH official I talked to, all confirmed that the science was ahead of the money. The answers could be unlocked with the right investments. It was also clear that an aging, underserved patient base could use some help in getting their message out. Patients let me know that if I could push, they would put their weight behind me, sometimes shaky, and they'd push alongside me, and we would push together. This was the impetus for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. I didn't want to call it that. I wanted to call it P.D. Cure. And I told Tracy, and she said, "Pedicure?"
There was nothing heroic behind what I did. It was the gathered forces of many people. As I considered downsizing my professional career to shift my energy towards finding better treatments and resources for the Parkinson's community, I sought help from many smart people. Close to home like Tracy, and special friends like Curtis and Carolyn Schenker, who surrendered their Rolodexes to me. Remember Rolodexes? They were '80s famous.
To help raise money for our initial grants, my producing partner, Nelle Fortenberry, one of our first board members, jumped in — a meticulous organizer with a battle plan — jumped in and created one. Most notably Debbie Brooks, my co-founder at the Fox Foundation, who took my motto, "purity of motive," and became the catalyst and the engine that has driven us to our success. We assembled a board of achievers from around the world and, over the next 20 years, outlined the path to a cure that we are working hard to realize. Even as we sit here today with $1.5 billion in research, so far.
I am so grateful to all these people and thousands more who will make a world without Parkinson's a reality. I'm not sure I communicated all that well, but it's humbling in the deepest way to stand here and accept your kindness and your approbation, when truly the effort is being driven by others, so deserving of this attention. I'm grateful to them and to you because my optimism is fueled by my gratitude. And with gratitude, optimism is sustainable. I can't believe I've been standing here for this long. It's a miracle. Now, I definitely can't walk and carry this thing, so I ask Tracy to, once again, carry the weight.
Warren has been a hitmaker for decades, writing songs for everyone from Celine Dion to Aerosmith, and has been nominated for the Best Original Song Oscar 13 times. Her body of work was celebrated with her Honorary Oscar, presented to her by Cher, who sang the Warren-penned "If I Could Turn Back Time."
Warren accidentally came up early to accept her award, and Cher was able to share her "fondest memory" of Warren with the songwriter standing right beside her, which was "when she followed me into an Al-Anon meeting to play me a song." Warren confirmed it, and they joked about their friendship over the years before Warren took the mic solo and expressed her joy and gratitude.
Here are Warren's full remarks:
Mom, I finally found a man. Like, I know you wanted him to be a nice Jewish boy, but it's really hard to tell. I'm just not sure. But whatever, he's still a guy. I'm taking him home, and we're going to have a very good life together. I've been waiting a long f--king time for him. Thank you so much. I've waited 34 years to say this: I'd like to thank the Academy.
Oh sh*t. This is amazing. I finally get to say a speech because I've had a lot of speeches that got crumpled up in my pocket, snd so, I get to say one now. Sometimes, people say, "How does it feel to lose 13 times?" "Wait," I say. "What do you mean? I've won 13 times?' I have. Because out of the hundreds of songs and movies every year, hundreds of movies, hundreds of songs, 13 times my songs were picked to be one of only five songs chosen. And chosen not by just anybody, but the greatest people n the movie business on the planet. That's a pretty big f--king win, right? That being said, it feels good to win, actually having one of these things.
I love writing songs and I love writing songs for movies. I remember one of the first times feeling the power of a song in a movie. It was when I was little and seeing 'Born Free' with my mom and dad. Did anybody see that movie when they were little? Do you remember when Elsa comes back to show her baby lions to the couple who saved her? And that beautiful song by John Barry and Don Black, 'Born Free,' is playing. It wrecked me. It also showed me the power of a beautiful song in a movie.
I remember watching the Oscars every year with my mom and dad, and they're up there watching now. I was going to try not to cry, but sorry, you guys. This is emotional for me, and ugly crying on a big screen is not pretty. But my dad is saying to my mom, "See, I told you so. The kid has talent. And now look, Flora, she's getting an Oscar." [Holding her Oscar and looking up.] See, Mom? See, Dad? My mom is saying, because she always used to say, when I'd play her a song, "That's really a beautiful song, Diane. Now go to Ralphs and see if they'll give you some groceries for it." She really did. She's now saying, "I'm very happy you can get groceries with your songs now. And that you've got a man, even if he's, well, even if he's kind of short." But I know she was proud. She was just trying to protect me because really, when you think about it, what were the chances a kid from Van Nuys who knew no one in the music or movie business would ever succeed? My mom used to say, "Just tell them you're Jewish." She really did.
Anyways, I just love that I get to do this, that I get to write songs, that I get to write a song for a movie that can make someone cry, give someone hope, make someone feel something, make a memorable moment something they might remember their whole life. This is what I was born to do. This is what I just love to do. I can't believe I'm standing here right now, and that this is really happening. Thank you everyone who has helped me along my journey, some of you are here tonight. I wouldn't be here without you. And I'd like to say one more thing, one more time, the words I thought I would never get to say, but always dreamed I would: I'd like to thank the Academy.
Weir has directed 30 films, including beloved classics like Dead Poets Society, The Truman Show, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Witness, and more, earning six Oscar nominations throughout his career.
Oscar-winner Jeff Bridges, who starred in Weir's 1993 film Fearless, presented the director with his Honorary Oscar with effusive praise, saying, "I love you, and I admire you so much." His words were echoed in a video package of other stars who have worked with Weir, including Ethan Hawke, Harrison Ford, and Mel Gibson, before Weir himself took the stage and delivered a touching and humorous speech.
Here are Weir's full remarks:
Thank you very much, Jeff, for that quite touching introduction and the very moving little biopic. It's the most curious experience to sit there. Let me turn the tables pretty much straight away, after such a wonderful thanks, for me to thank my cast and crew. It's always those two words. I really think it should be just the crew, because whether you're in front of the camera or behind, we're all in the same team.
Recently, I've been drawn back to reading about explorers and people taking great journeys, and I'm always interested in the Shackleton story there where there were ships crushed in the ice of the Antarctic and the crew's stranded, and Shackleton goes off in a little boat to bring back a rescue ship. Making these films, I like analogies a lot, and I do think it is like a journey, and that you are putting a crew together, and you know they're going to be under stress at certain times. Not just physical but emotional stresses, as Jeff described, that strange moment where he just lost it. Which every major actor I have had, including Harrison, lost it at some point. Because I think the atmosphere can get so strong with emotion, and so much is demanded of the central character, that they're liable to sort of just say, "I've had enough."
So, I'm very understanding. I even wait for it. But it's only momentary, it's only a passing thing. But back to sort of putting your crew together. One, you want talent. You want people who know the job. You also want people who can handle a tough and tight corner, a difficult situation. That will come up. You want to be able to trust them. So, in a funny kind of way, I don't cast people in the grips department, but the department heads know, way back to Australia, that I'm very interested in the people they're putting together in their department. Back in the early days with smaller crews, I got so sensitive to it that I could say to Russell Boyd, my cameraman, I'd say about one of his gaffer or something, "What's the matter with Banza today?" I could feel he wasn't with us and he was being grumpy. And he said, "He's got a family problem." I said, "Can you have a little chat with him? Let's get him back with us," because I think a group of people doing something does create a kind of energy. It goes around, and so, I loved that.
And my crew always knew that it was not about my ego or their ego. It was about the film's ego. The film has an ego, and we're there to serve it the best we can. Some of my good friends and good crew and cast are here tonight. So lovely to shake your hands again, and to thank you. It makes me think of those important people I've worked with who are no longer with us. I think of Duncan Henderson, he was my unit production manager. We worked together firstly on 'Dead Poets' and he went through to 'Master and Commander,' and 'The Way Back,' and many other films. But that particularly complex film with its ships and its battles, Duncan carried the weight of that picture across his broad back.
And then, I think of Norman Lloyd, who played the headmaster in 'Dead Poets Society,' passed away recently. 106, I believe. I stayed in touch with him after the picture and got to know him [and] sit at his feet, literally, because he was like a walking film history. He'd worked with Orson Welles, and his great friendship with Hitch, as an actor firstly, then 'Hitchcock's Hour' as co-producer. Lunch on Sundays with Jean Renoir. He knew everybody. And he wasn't a bore, a very unusual thing about someone who could tell a story. He doesn't say, "Have I told you this before?" And he'd ask me questions. "What are you doing?" So, it was a friendship. He even sent me a script that he thought I might be interested in, something he'd had. It used to be said it was passed around at the Algonquin Club. He was 100 and said, "Oh, I think we could do this together, Peter."
And Robin Williams. Dear Robin. If I could just have him back here just for five minutes, that he could be here. I would say to him, "Robin, I've got something. Could you do something on being an intimacy supervisor or coordinator?" It was amazing to watch him when there wasn't a crowd around, just two or three people, when he would be seized by this inspiration and become this sort of extraordinary character. One night in the school hall where we filmed 'Dead Poets,' very tired, waiting for the boys to come in, we promised, Robin and I, we would give them a little chat and thank them. But Sunday nights, as you all know working in the business, when you're on a shoot, it's pretty precious; you're getting ready for the next day. Anyway, we're behind the curtain, literally, and I'd look out every now and again, no one's there.
I said to Robin, "Do you really think you can do this?" He said, "Oh yeah, yeah." There was a piano, and on top of the piano was a bible. I said, "Why don't you just read something from the Bible? You know, I mean, save your energy." And he said, "A missing chapter. A missing chapter of the Bible. And they did roll off in the dirt and cover themselves with dust," and off he went on a complete King James version of the Bible. It was remarkable.
Briefly, my own story falls into two parts. A filmmaker in Australia for the first half, bunch of films, and secondly, here in the United States. I was fortunate to be around when our moribund film industry came to life again in the late 1960s, early '70s. We knew nothing, but we were determined. What we did know was about our love for movies. We had no older generation that you could sit at the feet of and ask them what it's like and what do you do?
But we did have film festivals and we saw the best of world cinema. And so much was happening here. We'd get your new John Cassavetes films, and coming from Europe and from Asia. There were still giants roaming the earth at that time, like Kurosawa. Monsters. So, they were inspiring. And then, you had a 16mm camera, you had a piece of paper, a pen, you could write your script, and get out there and shoot it. Youngeractors were quite good. The older people were very difficult to work with because they were theater trained. So, on my first feature, I had a couple of these older gentlemen, and they might have a line like, "Why don't you come in and sit down?" It's the line. So I said, "Let's rehearse it."
[Imitating an overly theatrical performance.] "Why don't you come in and sit down?" And I'd say, "Okay, fine. Why don't we drop the line? And why don't you just point at the chair?" To which dear old Eddie Howell said, "There goes another line." So, in a strange way, those earlier films were silent for the very reason I was cutting out dialogue. Also, we couldn't really write very well. I mean, we were flying there with very little experience. But what a way to learn. There was no film schools. There was no one to tell you you were wrong. There was no one to tell you, "What a dumb idea." It was, "Just go. Let's do it." So, I was there with a bunch of what became friends. Some names you would know became very, very well-known throughout the world. And that was my life through the '70s, up to the early '80s. Baz Luhrmann was coming along. He's here tonight.
I felt restless. I felt like I needed new inspiration, new energy, new landscapes, different ideas. I was ready for change. I was ready for Hollywood, however it came. I'd read all the books. I knew I had to be very careful. If things went wrong, then that possibility would be canceled out. I wouldn't do a second time, I wouldn't have a second go. I'd go back and work in Australia. So, my agent, John Patek, who was my agent for all of these Hollywood pictures. John's here tonight and I want to thank him. He guided me. He guided me. Said he understood that I'd been, in a way, running wild and free in Australia with the independent films. And he knew that he had to get the right people, people that would match up with me, and would understand how I worked, and I could work with them. And he introduced me to Jeff Katzenberg.
And Jeff, what a great meeting. Jeff offered me 'Witness' and I went up and saw Harrison. We chatted away and it was wonderful. He met me at the airport, which was quite a surprise. I was thinking I'd get a cab or something. He was up in the mountains. There he was. He rode a pick-up truck. I said, "Oh, that's very decent of you." He was a world-famous guy. So we went to the supermarket to get some supplies. Going down the island, there was his face on the drawing on the box of the cornflakes or something, it was Han Solo. Anyway, we had a couple of great days. I came back to Jeff Katzenberg, and we shook hands on it.
And if that picture had gone slightly differently, for example, about working with Jeff, the end sort of penultimate scene was that Harrison was leaving the farm. Either she had to go with him or he had to stay. They had to part. And I'd hinted at Alexander Godunov, who was this Amishman, would be her love interest. There were two pages of dialogue, not the same kind of situation as I had in Australia, but I cut it. Cut the two pages out, just pulled them out of the script. And I said, "It's got to just be done with looks, because if the audience doesn't understand the thing by now, then they never will. You can't stay. She can't go." And dear Ed Feldman, the producer, said, 'Peter, you signed off on this script. You can't do this in this country in the studio with Paramount. You have to film it.'
And I said, "No, I can't. It's not right. It doesn't work." He called Jeff Katzenberg. Jeff, to his credit, came into see me. We went to dinner. And he said, "Peter, you don't want to shoot. Why don't you shoot it, and then, don't use it if you don't like it?" And I said, "Well, what kind of director is that? We go this way. This is what will work." And he reminded me that when we first met, I told him the story. I quite like to do that sometimes. I like the verbal side of it, so I'll tell the story like an after-dinner speaker. Not a pitch, but eight, nine minutes, and with all the visuals, as many as I know. So, 'Witness,' I'd told him, I said, "We open with a sort of field of wheat blowing and bowing and figures coming up through it with black hats and strange, fancy... Is it fancy dress? Is it a period film? Down the road they go." Et cetera.
He said, "Remember you told me the story like that. Why don't you describe the missing two pages to me now? How will it feel?" And I said, "Okay, I'll back up a bit." And so, there in the restaurant, I backed up for a couple of scenes and I said, "He turns, he looks, he comes through the thing. This happens, that, she looks down, she's worried, she half smiles, he picks that up with that Harrison smile," and blah, blah, blah. And he said, "Sounds good. Yeah, go ahead." And when we did 'Dead Poets Society,' he said, before we started anything, he said, "Come to dinner tonight and, before dinner, tell me the story." And so I went to his house and he got up with his glass of wine. "Wow. It's the first day of school."
So I got off to a good start and had a wonderful 20 years of making studio pictures. I love the history of it all, I talked about through Norman. I was delighted to be here. You've got a such a great industry. Such a short history. I was thinking, talking pictures aren't a hundred years old. I know we're going through tremendous changes. You've done so much. You've produced such wonderful films and such wonderful people, and you're so welcoming to foreigners like me. There was a little joke earlier about taking jobs. Well, that may be true or not, but... Well, I don't think it's true. There's too few of us.
Anyway, I would just finally like to say to the Board of Governors. It's a sound I like very much. It has a sort of medieval tang to it. You could have long robes with tassels and sort of funny hats. In England, you would. But you're all elected. You all represent one of the branches that make up this industry. And I love craft. I think that's what it's really all about. The art side of it, leave it out. Don't you love something that's well-made? Whether it's a chair or a table or a statue? So, to all of you, thanks for adding my name to this illustrious roll call of former honorees. Good night.
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