Oscars In Memoriam: Kirk Douglas, Kobe Bryant to Be Honored at the 2020 Ceremony

One of the most anticipated moments of any Oscars ceremony doesn’t involve an award. It’s the “In Memoriam” segment — the annual tribute to Hollywood notables who’ve died in the past year. 

Every year, the Academy selects 40 to 45 people (from a list of hundreds) who will be honored at the ceremony. The process isn’t easy, and sometimes, there’s outrage when a person isn’t included. In 2019, Carol Channing didn’t make the cut, despite having been nominated for an Oscar. Nor did actors John Mahoney, Verne Troyer, and R. Lee Ermey. 

Inevitably, there will be some snubs at this year’s ceremony as well. But we do know that two recently deceased stars will definitely be included in the segment. 

Kobe Bryant and Kirk Douglas will be honored at the 2020 Academy Awards  

Kobe Bryan and Kirk Douglas composite image
(L-R) Kobe Bryant, Kirk Douglas | Frazer Harrison/Getty Images; Herbert Dorfman/Corbis via Getty Images

Sometimes, an Oscars “In Memoriam” snub happens when a person dies shortly before the ceremony. Unfortunate timing may be the reason that Singin’ In the Rain director Stanley Donen wasn’t seen in last year’s tribute, since his death was announced the day before the ceremony. 

But there will be no such oversight when it comes to two major celebrities who passed away in the weeks leading up to the 92nd Academy Awards. Both Kobe Bryant and Kirk Douglas will be included in the tribute.

Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, was best known as an NBA star, but he was also an Oscar winner. He took home a trophy in 2018 in the Best Animated Short Film category for Dear Basketball.

“I think what’s really appropriate is that Kobe was part of the film community, and as such, he will be embraced within the In Memoriam section,” producer Stephanie Allain said at a press conference, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas, who died Feb. 5 at age 103, will also be included in the slideshow, Variety reported.

Peter Fonda, John Singleton among other possible honorees 

John Singleton
John Singleton | Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

While Douglas and Bryant will definitely be among those recognized at the Feb. 9 ceremony, we don’t know who else will be included. But we might see two-time Oscar nominee and Easy Rider star Peter Fonda, who died in August 2019, and Boyz in the Hood director John Singleton, who died in April.

Other notable deaths in the past year include Beverly Hills, 90210 star Luke Perry; actress Sue Lyon (best known for playing the title role in Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita); Danny Aiello, who was nominated for an Oscar for Do the Right Thing; actor Robert Forster; actress Diahann Carroll; and influential French director Agnès Varda.   

But not every spot on the list goes to a name that audiences at home will recognize. In addition to prominent actors and directors, the Academy also recognizes art directors, publicists, makeup artists, production designers, publicists, and others who work in the film industry. The Academy has also been making an effort to diversify the honorees in recent years, a source told Vanity Fair in 2018.

“It’s all about status,” an insider who has worked on the tribute told the magazine. “It’s impossible to be fair. You try, every year, to add in a certain number of editors and art directors. It’s about a person’s prominence in their field, and you don’t want to just go with the movie stars or the big-time directors.”