At the prestigious Governors Awards on January 9th, two Hollywood legends were celebrated for their outstanding contributions to film. Comic icon Mel Brooks, 97, and acclaimed actress Angela Bassett, 65, were presented with honorary Oscars by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Brooks and Bassett Share Emotional Speeches
In an emotional acceptance speech, Brooks thanked the Academy for the honor, joking “it’s way too late, but I’m still thrilled.” He reminisced fondly about starting his career during the Golden Age of comedy alongside legends like Sid Caesar, Carl Reiner, and Imogene Coca. Brooks broke barriers as one of the few Jewish creatives in early Hollywood.
Bassett, who made history as only the second Black actress to earn an honorary Oscar, thanked “the ancestors who have guided me throughout this journey.” She credited her success to the support of lifelong fans, saying “you have lifted me up when I was down.”
Red Carpet Glamour
The Governors Awards marked a glamorous return to the red carpet after two years of scaled-back pandemic ceremonies. Bassett dazzled in a glittering gold gown, while Brooks arrived arm-in-arm with his son Max Brooks.
Famous attendees included Tom Cruise, Viola Davis, Florence Pugh, Austin Butler, and more. Noticeably absent were Will Smith and Chris Rock, likely due to lingering tensions after Smith slapped Rock at last year’s Oscars over a joke about Smith’s wife.
Comedic Brilliance and Acting Prowess
Brooks is best known for genre-defining comedies like The Producers, Blazing Saddles, and Young Frankenstein. His signature wit and willingness to tackle taboos broke down barriers for future comedians.
Bassett has played iconic roles like Tina Turner and Betty Shabazz. 2022 saw her acclaimed performance as Queen Ramonda in the box office smash Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, shortly after the tragic loss of costar Chadwick Boseman.
|1 Oscar: Best Original Screenplay
3 Golden Globes
|3 Oscar nominations
|2 Oscar nominations
|What’s Love Got to Do With It
|1 Oscar nomination for Bassett
|Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
|1 Oscar nomination for Bassett
Table showing some of the most acclaimed films for Mel Brooks and Angela Bassett
Bassett was introduced by acclaimed actress Viola Davis, who praised her as a “trailblazer” who opened doors for future generations of Black performers. On the red carpet, Bassett was spotted sharing a congratulatory kiss with friend Regina King.
Also honored were editing legend Carol Littleton (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, The Big Chill) and executive Michelle Satter (Boyhood, The Rider) with the Thalberg Award. The prestigious career awards recognize those with a “lasting impact on the film industry.”
The honorary Oscars mark the first of this year’s awards season. On January 24th, the 2024 Oscar nominations will be revealed ahead of the March 12th telecast hosted by comedian Chris Rock. It remains to be seen whether Smith attends or if last year’s slapgate controversy will be revisited.
Brooks shows no signs of slowing down at 97, recently premiering a Broadway adaptation of Mr. Saturday Night based on his classic 1992 film. 2024 may also see releases for the sequels History of the World Part II and Blazing Samurai, both starring Brooks.
2023 was Bassett’s biggest year yet with two 2024 Oscar nominations. She has expressed interest in an acclaimed directorial debut after shadowing Ryan Coogler on Black Panther sets. This could open even more doors for the history-making performer.
At a time when discussion swirls about which legends are left to honor, the Governors Awards reminds us that Hollywood still boasts creative geniuses worthy of celebration. In the words of Bassett, “Let this be a symbol to someone that it’s never too late.” Judging by their continued relevance decades later, the work of trailblazers Brooks and Bassett will doubtless influence generations to come.
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