Capping off a year of tremendous generosity and fundraising, film producer Jeffrey Katzenberg has received this year's prestigious Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The honorary "Oscar," which in the past has been given to celebrities like Paul Newman, Oprah Winfrey, and Elizabeth Taylor, recognizes those in the film industry deeply committed to changing the world through philanthropy.
“You might say that all of us who work in the film industry live in two worlds,” Katzenberg said as he accepted the award. “There is the imaginary world that we project on the screen and then there is the real world that we live in every day. This award is a recognition of the extraordinary generosity of our industry towards improving the real world that we all share.”
For celebrities, the 61-year-old is often at the other end of a phone call urging donations to any number of causes.
"It's not just the phone call," Tom Hanks remarked in honoring Katzenberg,"it's an invitation to breakfast, to a lunch that lasts exactly 47 minutes. It's a visit to the office, a tour of the facility and a letter reminding you of the tours and the breakfast."
Will Smith added that the Dreamworks co-founder is pretty good at asking for "way too much money."
"Hey, look buddy, no pressure," he joked Katzenberg would say to him. "George is in for 750, Spielberg is in for a billion, but you do what you’re comfortable with."
One example of Katzenberg's generosity came in October when he and his Dreamworks partners Steven Spielberg and David Geffen each donated $30 million towards the Motion Picture & Television Fund's $350 million endowment campaign. The cash will provide financial assistance and basic needs for the entertainment community, as well as developing outreach programs and services for seniors.
Additional charities that the producer sits on include the California Institute of the Arts, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Geffen Playhouse, Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, USC School of Cinematic Arts and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
Of course ask Katzenberg, and he'll tell you he's just the guy who picks up the phone and makes calls.
"It's you who did it," he said while accepting his award. "You who gave of your time, your talent, your money, your hearts. Because that's what you do. That is what Hollywood does."