Hollywood producer Janet Yang was feted on Tuesday evening at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures with a pillar named in her honor.
Yang, who worked alongside Steven Spielberg on “Empire of the Sun,” and produced Netflix’s “Over the Moon” and “The Joy Luck Club,” became the first Asian American woman to have a pillar at the museum. She called it “a symbol of how communities can come together.”
Some of the most prominent Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Hollywood came out to celebrate the historic moment, including legendary actor James Hong, journalist Lisa Ling, singer Katherine Ho, Gold House CEO and co-founder Bing Chen, actor Daniel Dae Kim and California State Treasurer Fiona Ma.
Also present at the celebration, which included a dinner and presentation, were producer Lisa Henson, “The People vs. Larry Flynt” scribe Larry Karaszewski, incoming Academy Museum Director and CEO Bill Kramer, and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President David Rubin.
Kramer praised Yang for being a driving force in the museum’s inclusion advisory committee. He said, “That had been put together to help ensure that we told inclusive, diverse, accessible stories of cinema, and she was a key driver in expanding that committee and worked with us hand in hand for many grueling months to help build the museum that you see today.”
Rubin spoke on behalf of Dawn Hudson, who was unable to attend the event after testing positive for COVID. Rubin highlighted Yang’s impact on the industry, where, aside from telling diverse stories, she helped develop careers, distributed Chinese films in the U.S. and made the US-Asia Entertainment Summit a must-attend event. He said, “Janet wears all these accomplishments so lightly. She’s best known at the Academy as a consensus builder, a champion of her community and a broad, diverse membership.”
Rubin mentioned how Yang had brought the Asian community together after Chris Rock’s inappropriate comment at the 2016 Oscars about Asian American children. Rubin said, “Janet used that event as an opportunity to educate her colleagues and build an Asian coalition within the Academy. She now co-chairs an Asian affinity group so that our Asian and Asian American members will always have a voice at the Academy.”
Chen called Yang “a bridge across generations where she reminds us that time is really just a number where she successfully bridges multiple generations and communities.” Together, they have worked tirelessly at Gold House to pave a path for the AAPI culture and community by partnering with studios, and ensuring the opening weekend success of films like “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Parasite.” Chen said, “We have completely reshaped, rebuilt and re-bridged Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Madison Avenue, and next Wall Street and the rest of the Eastern world.” He shared one of the most valuable lessons he had learned from Yang. “She said, ‘We can’t just speak about what we are going to do. If the work is good enough, the work will speak for itself.’”
Wrapping the presentations, Yang took to the podium to share her Hollywood journey and inspirations. She said, “I agreed to this because I thought, well, number one, it’s an opportunity for non-Asians in the room, or outside, to experience what it’s like being a minority. Welcome to our community, we are wild. It was also an opportunity to celebrate so many people.” Yang, who formed Ixtlan with Academy Award-winning writer-director Oliver Stone, said, “This pillar is just an excuse. It’s a symbol of how communities can come together. How great minds in collaboration can produce great work.”
She ended her speech by dedicating the pillar to Hudson and Rubin.
Moments before the unveiling, newly announced Governors Award recipient Diane Warren took a moment to dash through the Academy store to purchase all things Oscar-related, from water bottles to keychains to a t-shirt, saying she had never been happier.