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Why Hayao Miyazaki didn't accept his Oscar for “The Boy and the Heron” in person

Why Hayao Miyazaki didn't accept his Oscar for “The Boy and the Heron” in person

The acclaimed filmmaker has not been present the two times he's won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

At the 96th Oscars on Sunday night, The Boy and the Heron became the second film directed by Hayao Miyazaki to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature — and for the second time, Miyazaki wasn't there to accept the award in person.

When Spirited Away won at the 75th Oscars in 2003, Miyazaki wasn't present because, as he explained a few years later, he was protesting the invasion of Iraq that the United States had commenced that same year. "I didn't want to visit a country that was bombing Iraq," he told the Los Angeles Times in 2009.

<p>Michael Tran/FilmMagic</p> Hayao Miyazaki in 2009

Michael Tran/FilmMagic

Hayao Miyazaki in 2009

This year, some people speculated that Miyazaki's absence from the Oscars might have been for similar political reasons — say, as another protest against the ongoing bombing of Gaza — but EW can confirm that it had more to do with the filmmaker's advanced age. Miyazaki is 83, around the same age that Anthony Hopkins was when he declined to attend the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony that awarded him his second Best Actor statue, for The Father. Miyazaki did attend the sixth annual Governors Awards and accepted his Academy Honorary Award in person in 2014.

The Boy and the Heron is Miyazaki's 12th feature film, and the first to be described as "semi-autobiographical." (Most of his movies are fairy tales, or in the case of The Wind Rises, a biopic of someone else.) In an interview with EW last year, Miyazaki's longtime producer Toshio Suzuki (who also didn't make Sunday's ceremony), explained what that meant.

Although it's easy to assume that the wise old Granduncle character is Miyazaki's self-insert in The Boy and the Heron, given his aforementioned age, Suzuki said that character reflects the director's admiration for his late mentor and Studio Ghibli co-founder, Isao Takahata. The young protagonist, Mahito Maki, is based on the young Miyazaki, while the Parakeet King is his older self. The other characters are homages to important people in the filmmaker's life.

<p>Studio Ghibli </p> 'The Boy and the Heron'

Studio Ghibli

'The Boy and the Heron'

"Because this is semi-autobiographical, the protagonist is himself and there are all these other characters that appear in the film who are based on people he has worked with over the years," Suzuki told EW. "He wanted to pay tribute to them and express his gratitude for their support throughout his career."

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