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Year: 2011 (84th) Academy Awards
Category: Honorary Award
Winner: To James Earl Jones for his legacy of consistent excellence and uncommon versatility. (not present; accepted via video)
Presenter: Mary J. Blige, Alec Baldwin, Glenn Close, Vanessa Redgrave (in London), Ben Kingsley (in London)
Date & Venue: November 12, 2011; The Governors Awards (Grand Ballroom, Hollywood & Highland Center)
JAMES EARL JONES:
[Laughs] Thank you. I know you have been very kind to stay with us, you're a great audience this afternoon. I just wanna ask you a question: If an actor's nightmare is being on stage buck naked and not knowing his lines... what the heck do you call this?
[Laughs] I mean, look at this! I've been on this stage, with a great audience - and thank you. I had my clothes on, I knew my words, and then out from the wings steps Sir Ben Kingsley, and he hands me an Oscar! Frankly... frankly, what the heck else would you call that but an actor's wet dream? [Laughs]
And aside from that, how do I feel? Well, I'm more than flabbergasted. There's a word I've learned here in Britain. They'd say, "I'm gobsmacked!" [Laughs] And that's the only word that I can think of that's appropriate for this improbable moment in my life. Improbable because, well, let's start with my introduction to motion pictures. Four years old, sitting on a bench in the dark in Mississippi. Two storekeepers have taken a bedsheet and stretched it between their stores. One sells popcorn, the other sells soda pop. Is that familiar? And when those images start emitting sound on that bedsheet, and the shootouts and the fisticuffs start, I simply can't handle it. And I dive under the bench in terror, begging, screaming, "Make 'em stop! Somebody make 'em stop doing that."
Well, I can't make 'em stop so eventually I joined them. And for half a century now, being a journeyman actor in my own fashion, I still spend more time on [taps the stage with his foot] boards like these than in front of cameras like those [pointing to the back of the room]. I sometimes feel like that lone wolf lurking around the, outside the glow of the cinema campfire, lurching in to snatch a morsel of movie now and then. Now sometimes those morsels I'm quite proud of. But you cannot be a cinema actor and conduct your career like I've done, and not end up in some of the worst movies ever committed to celluloid. But I want to tell you something [laughs], I want to tell you something. I so cherish them that I refuse to name them. You'll just have to Google, my friends, because tonight belongs to Oscar.
I want to thank the Academy, the Board of Governors. I want to thank Mr. Sid Ganis for flying my little golden friend over the ocean. And thank you, Sir Ben Kingsley, for presenting it to me. Ladies and gentlemen, I stand before you deeply honored, mighty grateful, and just plain gobsmacked. Thank you.
[Ed. note: Mr. Jones accepted via video recorded earlier that day before a live audience after his performance in the stage play "Driving Miss Daisy" at Wyndham's Theatre in London.]
© Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences[Note: All winners are present except where noted; NOT all winners may have spoken.]