The veteran actor was the toast of Hollywood’s third annual Governors Awards, although he appeared via satellite link from London, where he is starring in Driving Miss Daisy in the West End’s Wyndham Theatre.
The ceremony began as soul star Mary J. Blige sang Can You Feel the Love Tonight from The Lion King, which featured Jones providing the voice of Mufasa.
Alec Baldwin then stepped onstage to pay tribute to Jones, telling the crowd, “I wanted James Earl Jones’ career – that’s what every actor wants”, while Glenn Close acknowledged his influence on her work.
She said, “I just want to say thank you for what he has given me and all those who have been touched by his supreme artistry.”
The star-studded audience, which included Tilda Swinton and Evan Rachel Wood, then watched Jones on the big screen in London as Sir Ben Kingsley handed him the Honorary Award.
Accepting his prize, Jones said, “If an actor’s nightmare is being on stage naked and not knowing your lines, what the heck do you call this? I have my clothes on, I know my words, and then out from the wings steps Sir Ben Kingsley and he hands me an Oscar! Frankly, what the heck else to call it but an actor’s wet dream… I am deeply honoured, mighty grateful and just plain gobsmacked.”
TV mogul Oprah Winfrey was also honoured at the event with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.