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Stuntman, documentarian among early Oscar winners
GEORGE STEVENS, JR., was 11 years old when he attended his first Academy Awards, and he wasn't too happy about it.
"I gave up a very important twilight double-header that the Hollywood Stars baseball team was playing because my mother told me that I was going to accept some award" if his father, director George Stevens, won for 1943's "The More the Merrier." ''Casablanca" won instead.
The younger Stevens' second trip to the Oscars was better: He was with his dad, who won for directing 1951's "A Place in the Sun."
"Driving home, the Oscar was on the seat between us, and I was young and quite excited," Stevens, 80, recalled. "(My father) looked over and smiled and said, 'We'll have a better idea of what kind of film this is in about 25 years.' And that affected my life. What he was talking about was the test of time."
Stevens went on to dedicate his career to honoring and preserving just such timeless projects, helping establish the American Film Institute in 1967 and the Kennedy Center Honors 10 years later. He continues to produce the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony, a job he now shares with his son, Michael. But Stevens remains so dedicated to the task that he's flying to Los Angeles for a few hours to accept his Oscar, then immediately jetting back to Washington, D.C. to put on the Honors program the next day.
"I'm thrilled that the board of governors chose me, in part because I have so many shared values with the board of governors and the academy in terms of films of quality and film preservation and training opportunities for new filmmakers," Stevens said. "That makes it especially pleasing."
Stevens, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his own 1963 documentary short, also continues to make movies. He and his son are working on a documentary about Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Herblock.
JEFFREY KATZENBERG says he doesn't really deserve the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, the academy's recognition of philanthropic contributions.
"The only thing I did was ask everybody else, and they're the ones who did it," the 61-year-old DreamWorks Animation chief said in an interview, humbly downplaying the more than $200 million he's helped raise as chairman of the Motion Picture and Television Fund and the millions more of his own money he's given to support arts, education and health care.
"I feel as though this is their award," he said, "and I feel like I'm accepting it on behalf of my own community here because they are the ones that have responded and allowed me to succeed in supporting all these great charities."
Katzenberg first learned about being charitable from his parents, whom he described as "generous givers." As a young professional, he followed the examples set by Lew and Edie Wasserman, who introduced him to the Motion Picture and Television Fund, and lifelong philanthropist Kirk Douglas, whom Katzenberg characterized as "a great inspiration."
"He's one of the most generous people I know, and I asked him why he did it," Katzenberg recalled. "He said, 'You haven't learned how to live until you learn how to give.' And when those words come from Spartacus, you listen."
Katzenberg was nominated for an Oscar as a producer of 2002's "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron," but says his proudest moments have stemmed from giving.
"The most moving and most tragic and, in a way, most rewarding for me personally was after 9-11, we had this amazing telethon where all of the talent of movie and television and music industries came together and did this unprecedented two-hour live concert," he said.
AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen is on Twitter: www.twitter.com/APSandy .