The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is fixing some glaring blind spots. This afternoon, the board of governors announced their decision to give Samuel L. Jackson, Elaine May, and Liv Ullmann each an honorary Oscar — marking the first time ever that any of them have received an Academy Award. Additionally, Danny Glover will be presented with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
“We are thrilled to present this year’s Governors Awards to four honorees who have had a profound impact on both film and society,” said Academy president David Rubin in a statement. “Sam Jackson is a cultural icon whose dynamic work has resonated across genres and generations and audiences worldwide, while Elaine May’s bold, uncompromising approach to filmmaking, as a writer, director and actress, reverberates as loudly as ever with movie lovers. Liv Ullmann’s bravery and emotional transparency has gifted audiences with deeply affecting screen portrayals, and Danny Glover’s decades-long advocacy for justice and human rights reflects his dedication to recognizing our shared humanity on and off the screen.”
All four actors will be presented with their awards at the 12th Governors Awards ceremony on January 15th, 2022. There’s no debating that each of them deserve the accolades, especially when reviewing the description of each award. As The Hollywood Reporter notes, the honorary Oscar 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, also an Oscar statuette, is given “to an individual in the motion picture arts and sciences whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry.”
It feels like this award has been a long time coming for Jackson. The beloved actor with a sailor’s mouth has given so many iconic performances that it’s hard to keep count these days. From his early roles in Spike Lee films like Do the Right Thing and School Daze to his bold characters in Quentin Tarantino movies including Django Unchained, Jackie Brown, and The Hateful Eight, Jackson has been winning fans over no matter what type of genre flick he’s in. Hell, he’s even canon in both Star Wars and Marvel universes! Yet the only time he’s ever been nominated for an Academy Award was back in 1995 when his legendary role in Pulp Fiction earned him a Best Supporting Actor nod.
Similarly, May and Ullmann have both been nominated for Academy Awards in the past but never won despite heralded careers onscreen. Surprisingly, it’s Glover who has not only never won an Oscar, but has never been nominated to begin with. That comes as a shock given his wide range of notable roles in The Color Purple, The Royal Tenenbaums, Dreamgirls, Angels in the Outfield, and the entire Lethal Weapon series. He’s winning the Hersholt Oscar in particular because of his fight for access to health care, his activism work for better education in America, and his current role as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. Glover will be the fifth recipient of color, following Quincy Jones, Oprah Winfrey, Harry Belafonte, and Tyler Perry.