A-list star Angelina Jolie has kicked off the movie award season by accepting an honorary Oscar for her humanitarian work at the Governors Awards ceremony in Hollywood.
Veteran actress Angela Lansbury, comedian Steve Martin, and Italian costume designer Pietro Tosi also received awards at the annual ceremony, held by the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.
The 600-person guest list at the private gala dinner read like a Who’s Who of top Hollywood celebrities: Tom Hanks, Harrison Ford, Amy Adams, Emma Thompson, Mark Wahlberg, Jake Gyllenhaal, Diane Keaton, Matthew McConaughey, Kathryn Bigelow, Jennifer Garner and George Lucas were among those invited.
Jolie was tearful as she received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award – a statuette identical to a “classic” Oscar – from Lucas, the man behind the Star Wars films.
The 38-year-old actress, director and producer spoke of her mother Marcheline Bertrand, who died of cancer in 2007 at the age of 56.
“She did give me love and confidence and above all, she was very clear that nothing would mean anything if I didn’t have a life of use to others,” Jolie, who has been involved in humanitarian work for years, told the audience.
“It was only when I began to travel that I understood my responsibility to others.”
The actress, wearing a long black dress with a plunging neckline, was accompanied by her fiancé Brad Pitt – shaved and sporting a neat haircut for the occasion – and Maddox, one of the couple’s six children.
“When I met survivors of wars and famine, and rape, I learned what life is like for most people in this world and how fortunate I was to have food to eat, a roof above my head, a safe place to live and the joy of having my family safe and healthy,” Jolie said.
“I realised how sheltered I had been and I was determined never to be that way again.”
Since 2012, Jolie has travelled on more than 40 missions around the world as a special envoy for the United Nations Refugee Agency.
Jolie won an acting Oscar in 2000 for her supporting role in the movie Girl, Interrupted.
“How does she have time to do all this?” asked stage, TV and movie star Gena Rowlands, 83, as she praised Jolie.
“She acts in many pictures, she writes and directs, she has a large family. About 20 at last count. And she has to keep that smile on Brad’s face,” Rowlands joked.
Previous winners of the Hersholt award include talk show queen Oprah Winfrey (2011) and producer Jeffrey Katzenberg (2012).