- Associated Press - Friday, February 17, 2012

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Samuel L. Jackson described George Lucas as “the man, the myth, the vanguard” as he presented the filmmaker with the Vanguard Award at the NAACP Image Awards.

Lucas was honored for his body of work, including “Red Tails,” which tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, several of whom were in the audience Friday at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

Lucas said he made the film to be inspirational, patriotic and to “show that everybody has contributed to building this country into what it is today.”

In presenting the award, Jackson said he has always loved “Star Wars” and would have done anything to appear in an installment of the space story. He offered to be a Storm Trooper “and just run across the screen. Nobody even has to know I’m in it.”

A tribute to Whitney Houston was planned for later in the two-hour ceremony.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

Octavia Spencer is continuing her sweep of supporting actress accolades, adding an Image Award to her collection of trophies.

The star of “The Help” was an early winner Friday at the 43rd annual ceremony, where Lenny Kravitz opened the show with a pair of songs.

Other early winners included Mike Epps, who won outstanding supporting actor for “Jumping the Broom,” and Tracee Ellis Ross and Malcolm-Jamal Warner, who were named outstanding actress and actor in a comedy series for “Reed Between the Lines.”

Actors Anthony Mackie and Sanaa Lathan are hosting the star-studded show at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

Several special tributes were planned for the two-hour ceremony.

Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte preceded their presentation of the President’s Award to the Black Stuntmen’s Association with a comic exchange about what they were doing on stage.

“We are not stuntmen,” said Poitier, 85.

“Just the fact that we’re standing here, we could be stuntmen,” Belafonte, 84, quipped.

A special honor for George Lucas and a tribute to Whitney Houston were planned for later in the ceremony.

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