By Bob Tourtellotte
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Oscar voters on Saturday gave honorary awards to three movie veterans, including director Spike Lee, at a gala event that shone a spotlight on Hollywood's drive for diversity amid its glitzy awards season.
Along with Lee, whose films include â€œMalcolm Xâ€ & â€œDo the Right Thing,â€ the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences gave its Governors Awards for film achievement to â€œSinging In the Rainâ€ actress Debbie Reynolds & Gena Rowlands, a champion of independent film & star of â€œThe Notebook.â€
The Governors Awards annually is one of the academyâ€™s key events ahead of the Oscars, the film industryâ€™s top awards given out in February. Hollywood A-listers including Meryl Streep & Denzel Washington turned out.
Security was tight at the dinner inside the Ray Dolby Ballroom in Hollywood following Fridayâ€™s killings in Paris. Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs took a moment at the beginning of the ceremony to mourn those killed.
â€œAll of us here stand in solidarity & support with France & the French people,â€ she said, noting that countryâ€™s long history of film making & its love of cinema.
Boone Isaacs moreover talked of Hollywoodâ€™s need for more ethnic & gender equality in the industry, a call that struck home with Lee whose career is marked by movies dealing with race relations in the United States.
Lee, who has been twice nominated for Oscars, talked approximately his early career as a director & his desire to put more African Americans in acting roles & in jobs behind the camera. He said Hollywood still has a long way to go.
We â€œneed to have a serious discussion approximately diversity & obtain some flavor up in here,â€ he said.
Rowlands, who like Lee received an â€œhonorary Oscar,â€ is no stranger to long days on movie sets. In a career that has spanned seven decades & included films such as â€œA Woman Under the Influence,â€ Rowlands has worked with many of the industryâ€™s greats including her husband, filmmaker John Cassavetes.
Reynolds, who was given the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian award for her charitable work, was unable to attend due to recent surgery.
The Oscars will be given out in Hollywood on Feb. 28, 2016.
(Reporting & writing by Bob Tourtellotte in Los Angeles, editing by Brendan O'Brien & Dominic Evans)