Angelina Jolie kicks off award season with honorary Oscar

A-list star Angelina Jolie kicked off the movie award season late Saturday as she accepted an honorary Oscar for her humanitarian work at the Governors Awards ceremony in Hollywood.

Veteran actress Angela Lansbury, comedian Steve Martin, and Italian costume designer Pietro Tosi also received awards at the annual ceremony held by the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

The 600-person guest list at the private gala dinner read like a Who's Who of top Hollywood celebrities: Tom Hanks, Harrison Ford, Amy Adams, Emma Thompson, Mark Wahlberg, Jake Gyllenhaal, Diane Keaton, Matthew McConaughey, Claudia Cardinale, Kathryn Bigelow, Jennifer Garner and George Lucas were among those invited.

Jolie was tearful as she received the award and spoke of her mother, Marcheline Bertrand, who died of cancer in 2007 at the age of 56.

"She did give me love and confidence, and above all, she was very clear that nothing would mean anything if I didn't have a life of use to others," she said.

"It was only when I began to travel that I understood my responsibility to others," Jolie, who has been involved in humanitarian work for years, told the audience.

The actress, wearing a long black dress with a plunging neckline, was accompanied by her fiance Brad Pitt -- shaved and sporting a neat haircut for the occasion -- and Maddox, one of the couple's six children.

"When I met survivors of wars and famine, and rape, I learned what life is like for most people in this world and how fortunate I was to have food to eat, a roof above my head, a safe place to live and the joy of having my family safe and healthy," Jolie said.

"I realized how sheltered I had been and I was determined never to be that way again."

Since 2012 Jolie has travelled on more than 40 missions around the world as a special envoy for the United Nations Refugee Agency.

The 38-year-old actress, who is also a director and producer, received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award -- a statuette identical to a "classic" Oscar -- from Lucas, the man behind the "Star Wars" films.

Jolie won an acting Oscar in 2000 for her supporting role in the movie "Girl, Interrupted."

"How does she have time to do all this?" asked stage, TV and movie star Geena Rowlands, 83, as she praised Jolie.

"She acts in many pictures, she writes and directs, she has a large family. About 20 at last count. And she has to keep that smile on Brad's face," Rowlands said.

Previous winners of the Hersholt award include talk show queen Oprah Winfrey in 2011, and producer Jeffrey Katzenberg in 2012.

Comedian Martin, 68, focused on the light side after Hanks praised him for winning a lifetime achievement award.

"I can't possibly express how excited I am tonight because the botox is fresh," he quipped as he received his statuette.

Lansbury, 88, the British-born actress known for her role as amateur detective and mystery writer Jessica Fletcher in the TV series "Murder, She Wrote," made light of her failure to win an Oscar for acting despite nominations in 1945, 1946 and 1963.

She thanked the Academy for letting her "be here in the company of my beloved family and friends instead of sitting shivering with hope in the Chinese Theatre," where the annual Oscar ceremony is held.