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It's early to be talking about Oscar season, but Oprah Winfrey -- who barely missed out on an Academy Award back in 1985 -- will finally be getting the Oscar that's missing from her (surely crowded) mantel. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Tuesday that Oprah will be the 2011 recipient of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, while James Earl Jones and makeup artist Dick Smith will join her in receiving honorary Oscars.
Winfrey first flirted with Oscar glory when she was nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar for her memorable big-screen debut in Steven Spielberg's 1985 film The Color Purple. Winfrey chose, however, to dial back her acting credits so that she could focus on building her brand with her Chicago-area television talk show. Obviously, that little gamble worked out pretty well.
Though she continued to act here and there, Winfrey was so depressed by the critical and box-office failure of her 1998 cinematic adaptation of Toni Morrison's Beloved -- she says she ate "30 pounds of mac 'n' cheese" after Bride of Chucky outgrossed it in theaters -- that she hasn't appeared on the big screen since.
Though she's stayed active behind the scenes in the movie world -- most recently producing the Oscar darling Precious -- Winfrey's presence has always been missed on the acting scene, especially to those who remember her blistering performance as Sofia in Purple. So news that Winfrey eyeing an acting comeback on Broadway has caused a lot of excitement.
But the Oscar Winfrey will nab this year won't honor her acting chops, but rather her charity and humanitarian work, as well as her work through the Oprah Winfrey Foundation.
The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award has been in existence since 1957, and was created to honor specific individuals' contributions to humanitarian causes. Former illustrious recipients include Jerry Lewis, Paul Newman, Charlton Heston, Rosalind Russell and Quincy Jones. Winfrey, as always, will be in good company when she receives her little bald statuette at a Governors Awards banquet, to be held in Hollywood on November 12.