by Sandy Cohen
AP Entertainment Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP)—The first Academy Award of the season went to James Earl Jones Saturday night, capping a tumultuous week that saw the abrupt departure and rapid replacement of the Oscar show producer and host.
The actor received an honorary Oscar for his long film career. Sir Ben Kingsley presented Jones with the award in London’s Wyndham Theater, where he is starring in “Driving Miss Daisy” with Vanessa Redgrave.
Jones called the experience “an actor’s wet dream.”
“I’m deeply honored, mighty grateful and just plain gobsmacked,” the 80-year-old actor said.
Dick Smith and Oprah Winfrey were on hand at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ third annual Governors Awards in Los Angeles to receive their statuettes.
Smith also for a long film career and Winfrey for the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
Presentation of the honorary Oscars at a black-tie dinner at the Kodak Theatre complex, where the Academy Awards will be held Feb. 26, follows this week’s replacement of Oscar show producer Brett Ratner and host Eddie Murphy with Hollywood veterans Brian Grazer and Billy Crystal.
Winfrey’s Hersholt award honors her philanthropic and humanitarian contributions, including her own namesake foundations and Academy for Girls in South Africa. The 57-year-old media mogul was nominated for a supporting actress Oscar for 1985’s “The Color Purple.”
Jones, 80, has worked in more than 50 films, including the voice of Darth Vader, and was nominated for an Academy Award in 1971 for “The Great White Hope.” His other credits include “Field of Dreams,” “Patriot Games” and “The Hunt for Red October.”
Smith was NBC’s first makeup man when he started his career in 1945. He won an Oscar in 1984 for his work on “Amadeus” and was nominated again in 1989 for “Dad.” Known as the “godfather of makeup,” he also worked on “The Godfather,” “The Exorcist” and “Taxi Driver.” Smith also helped train many of today’s top movie makeup artists.
The film academy launched its Governors Awards three years ago to pay tribute to winners of honorary Oscars—prizes previously presented during the Academy Awards telecast. Governors from its 15 branches chose Saturday’s winners.
Highlights from the untelevised event will be available online at Oscars.org and included in the Academy Awards telecast in February.