NEW YORK – No actor’s films have made more money in box office history than Samuel L Jackson, but he had never won an Oscar until Friday, when he was awarded an honorary statuette by the Academy.
The 73-year-old known for collaborations with Spike Lee and Quentin Tarantino, and a regular feature in blockbusters from Marvel to Star Wars, had previously secured only one Oscar nomination for “Pulp Fiction.”
Jackson was presented with a statuette honoring career achievement at a star-studded Governors Awards gala in Hollywood, just two days before the main Academy Awards in which last year’s films and nominees will compete.
“152 movie titles, $27 billion in box office, more than any other actor in history,” said Denzel Washington, presenting Jackson with the award.
Jackson, seated alongside Tarantino in the Dolby Ballroom, took the stage to reminisce on his career, which also includes the original “Jurassic Park” and action sequel “Die Hard with a Vengeance.”
“It’s been a real pleasure making indelible impressions on audiences as ‘gang member number two,’ ‘hold-up man’ and ‘unforgettable black guy’ — just to name a few,” he joked.
Also awarded a golden statuette was Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann, a frequent collaborator with Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman in cinema classics such as “Persona” and “Scenes from a Marriage.”
Ullmann, 83, earned two competitive Oscar nominations for best actress in the 1970s, for “The Emigrants” and Bergman’s “Face to Face.”
“For those few who claim she would never have been called one of our greatest actors without Ingmar Bergman, I would answer Bergman would probably never have been called one of our greatest filmmakers without Liv Ullmann,” said John Lithgow, presenting her award.
“Liv is long overdue, and Sam as well,” Alfred Molina, a former Academy governor and actor known to wider audiences for “Spider Man 2,” told AFP.
“It’s a really huge acknowledgement of a lifetime of work.”
Elaine May, 89, who broke down barriers for women in comedy and directing, and earned Oscar screenplay nominations for “Heaven Can Wait” and “Primary Colors,” was the third honoree. Her prize was presented by Bill Murray.
The honorary Oscars are handed out every year to honor lifetime achievement, and were spun off into a separate event in 2009 to declutter the main show’s packed schedule.
Last year’s ceremony was cancelled due to the pandemic, and this year’s event was delayed by another Covid-19 surge.