Spike Lee, Gena Rowlands and Debbie Reynolds are the season's first Oscar winners.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Thursday that the filmmaker and two actresses will receive honorary Academy Awards Nov. 14 at its annual Governors Awards ceremony in Hollywood.
Academy members discuss potential honorees throughout the year, said academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, and the board of governors chooses the recipients.
"It's one of the most exciting meetings of the year because it's filled with a lot of passion," she said in an interview Thursday. "They are responding to the fact that the academy is recognizing talent in front of and behind the camera that has been so instrumental in this business."
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Lee and Rowlands will receive honorary Oscars for their career achievements. Reynolds will accept the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
Isaacs called each of the recipients to inform them of their awards. She said Lee responded by saying, "Get outta here!"
The independent filmmaker and teacher at New York University has two Oscar nominations: Original screenplay for 1989's "Do the Right Thing" and documentary feature for 1997's "4 Little Girls."
Rowlands also has two Oscar nods: Lead actress in 1974's "A Woman Under the Influence" and 1980's "Gloria."
Reynolds, a best actress Oscar nominee for 1964's "The Unsinkable Molly Brown," is being recognized for more than 50 years of work promoting awareness and treatment of mental health issues.
Isaacs called the actress "a true American star."
"What is also special about her is with all of her fame through stage and television and certainly as a film actress, how much of her time she has put forth to better other people's lives," Isaacs said. "We thought it was so important to recognize that she has been at the forefront of the mental health issue for such a long time."
The awards will be presented at a private, untelevised dinner ceremony at Hollywood & Highland.