LOS ANGELES — Michael J. Fox was lauded for his work finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease, and Cher presented songwriter Diane Warren with a long-overdue Oscar at Saturday night’s Governors Awards.
Directors Peter Weir and Euzhan Palcy also received honorary Oscars at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards ceremony.
Awards contenders including Jennifer Lawrence, Florence Pugh, Angela Bassett, Eddie Redmayne, Michelle Williams, Cate Blanchett, Brendan Fraser, Tom Hanks, Glen Powell and Janelle Monáe attended the event, which marked the official start of the awards season applies in Hollywood.
Fox, 61, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991 at the age of 29, used Bruce Springsteen’s song “No Surrender” to describe his struggle to find a cure for the degenerative brain disease.
“It’s kind of a personal anthem of mine,” Fox said, quoting the words of the song from the podium: “No retreat, no surrender.”
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Presenting the award, longtime friend Woody Harrelson said Fox “turned a terrifying diagnosis into a bold mission” by establishing the Michael J. Fox Foundation to find a cure. The foundation has raised more than $1 billion for research.
“He never asked for the role of Parkinson’s advocate, but it’s his finest performance,” Harrelson said. “Michael J. Fox is the ultimate example of how to fight and how to live.”
After receiving a long standing ovation on his way to the podium, Fox quipped in front of the audience. “You will make me tremble.”
“That’s so cool,” he said, glancing at the Oscar statuette.
The ‘Bonds of Family’ and ‘Back to the Future’ star emotionally thanked Tracy Pollan, his 34-year-old wife, for her support from the moment she was diagnosed. Struggling for words, he said, “Tracy made it clear that she was with me for the duration.”
Despite all of the difficulties and health setbacks caused by Parkinson’s disease, Fox says the experience, advocacy and work towards a cure was ultimately rewarding.
“Parkinson’s disease is the gift that goes on,” Fox said. “But it really was a gift.”
After his speech, Fox Pollan called to the podium.
“I can’t believe I’ve stood here this long, it’s a miracle,” Fox said, eyeing the heavy trophy. “I can’t walk and wear this thing. But I’m asking Tracy to carry the weight one more time.”
Cher gives Diane Warren her first Oscar
Cher, 76, joked, “I’m the oldest person here,” after receiving applause for her performance on the awards podium. The legendary performer of the hit ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’ praised the songwriter and new honorary Oscar winner.
Warren, 66, had set an Oscar record for the most nominations (13) for a category (Best Original Song) without a win before claiming the honors award.
Cher called Warren the “most prolific writer of my generation, of any generation.”
“I’m so excited to bring this to you,” Cher said, presenting Warren with the Oscar. “You’ve waited so (expletive) long for this.”
Warren tried to refrain from “ugly crying” by saying thank you from the podium.
“I’ve waited 43 years to say this, but I want to thank the Academy,” Warren said. “I can give a speech. I wrote a lot of acceptance speeches that I had to ball up in my bag.”
Jeff Bridges presented Weir, 78, with an honorary Oscar. Bridges, 72, thanked the late actor Robin Williams for pushing him to work with the Australian director for the first time on 1993’s ‘Fearless.’
“Robin, you were right, man,” Bridges said of Weir. “Everything you said was right.”
Weir praised Williams, his star in 1983’s Dead Poet Society, who died in 2014.
“Robin Williams, if only I could have him here for five minutes,” Weir said.
Weir said filmmaking is “like a journey. My crew knew it wasn’t about my ego or their egos, it was about the ego of the film.”
Palcy, 64, born in Martinique, French West Indies, was the first black woman filmmaker to direct a major Hollywood studio film, 1989’s A Dry White Season, which earned Marlon Brando his final Oscar nomination.
The pioneering director said she took a long hiatus from filmmaking because she was tired of trying to convince studios at the box office that “Blacks are bankable, females are bankable.” But the success of movies like The Woman King has shown Palcy that times have changed. She pointed to Viola Davis, who had presented her with the honorary Oscar, star of the box-office hit The Woman King.
“Come on guys, look at my sister standing with me. Black is bankable, woman is bankable. Black and woman is bankable,” Palcy said. “My stories are not black. My stories are not white. They are universal. They are poetry.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Michael J. Fox praised; Cher presents Diane Warren with her first Oscar