A Native American actor will receive an Oscar for the first time, organizers said Monday, as the Academy published a list of honorary prizes following years of controversy over the awards’ diversity.
Wes Studi, who is best known for his roles in “Dances with Wolves” and “The Last of the Mohicans” — is one of three industry veterans who will receive honorary prizes at the glitzy Governors Awards ceremony on October 27, along with filmmakers David Lynch and Lina Wertmuller.
Actress Geena Davis, already an Academy Award winner, will receive a special prize for her humanitarian work.
Studi, 71, has appeared in more than 30 films and is “known for portraying strong Native American characters with poignancy and authenticity,” the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said in a statement.
It also praised Studi’s activism and involvement in Native American politics.
“I am deeply honored and humbled. I finally get to say ‘I’d like to thank the Academy…’,” tweeted Studi, who is of Cherokee descent.
The award comes almost half a century after Marlon Brando memorably declined his best actor Oscar for “The Godfather” in protest at the movie industry’s treatment of Native Americans.
Canadian indigenous musician Buffy Sainte-Marie shared a best original song Oscar in 1982.
Academy president John Bailey said the recipients of this year’s honorary Oscars were chosen for their “lifetime of artistic accomplishment” and had “brought outstanding contributions to our industry, and beyond.”
Lynch, regarded as one of the greatest American filmmakers of his generation, is the enigmatic director of cult classics such as “Blue Velvet” and “Mulholland Drive,” as well as television’s “Twin Peaks.”
He has been nominated four times for competitive Oscars but never won.
The third honorary prize will go to Wertmuller, who in 1977 became the first woman ever nominated for best director for “Seven Beauties.”
The Governors Awards ceremony was created as a separate event in 2009 to allow more time for the honorees to accept their prizes and to declutter the main show’s packed schedule.
Davis, who won an Oscar for “The Accidental Tourist,” will receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her work promoting gender equality in media.
The “Thelma & Louise” star founded an institute to tackle gender bias and stereotypes in film.
Previous winners of that award include Angelina Jolie, Oprah Winfrey and Elizabeth Taylor.