US filmmaker Tyler Perry will receive an honorary statuette at this year’s Oscars for his humanitarian work, including efforts to get the entertainment industry safely back to work during the coronavirus pandemic, the Academy announced Thursday.
The Black entertainment mogul has set up a self-contained, 330-acre (133-hectare) production “campus” at a Civil War-era Confederate military base in Atlanta, Georgia, where hundreds have been employed while Covid-19 shuts down productions in Los Angeles and elsewhere.
Perry has championed greater diversity in Hollywood, produced dozens of films and TV shows starring mainly African American actors, and last year paid funeral costs for victims of police violence including George Floyd.
“Tyler’s cultural influence extends far beyond his work as a filmmaker,” said David Rubin, the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
“He has quietly and steadily focused on humanitarian and social justice causes from the beginning of his career, caring for people who are most often ignored.”
The 51-year-old Perry — a producer, actor, writer and director — first achieved mainstream US success with his outspoken grandmother character Madea in the 2005 movie “Diary of a Mad Black Woman.”
A string of Madea films followed, all with Perry in drag in the role of the title character.
He has also appeared in movies including “Star Trek” (2009), “Gone Girl” (2014) and “Vice” (2018).
His films, TV shows and plays have since made him a household name in the US, especially among African Americans, and he became a billionaire last year, according to Forbes — but he remains relatively little-known abroad.
Perry was separately honoured at television’s Emmys, which were held virtually in September.
The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award has been handed out by the Academy most years since 1957, and last went to “Thelma & Louise” star Geena Davis for her work promoting gender equality in media.
Other previous winners include Angelina Jolie, Oprah Winfrey and Elizabeth Taylor.
In recent years, the prize has been awarded at the Academy’s separate Governors Awards ceremony, held in Los Angeles before the Oscars, but that event has been cancelled this year due to the pandemic.
Perry will receive his award at the 93rd Oscars, due to take place April 25, which will also see a second Jean Hersholt award handed to the Motion Picture and Television Fund.
The MPTF, co-founded by silent era megastar Mary Pickford a century ago, offers financial relief and other services to struggling entertainment industry workers.
The Academy changed its rules for one year only to allow an institution to receive the honour, for the first time.
“The organization’s contribution during the pandemic has made a significant impact on the entertainment community, providing social services support to nearly 9,000 industry members in 2020,” the Academy said.