Palm Springs Fest Fetes Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen will receive the director of the year award at the 25th annual Palm Springs Intl. Film Festival. The helmer is being honored for “12 Years a Slave” at the Jan. 4 gala, where the previously announced Sandra Bullock, Bruce Dern and Matthew McConaughey will also be honored.

The fest, which boasts 135,000 attendees, has become a key stop on the awards circuit. For years it was a local affair and then became synonymous with Oscar’s foreign-language films, screening the vast majority of pics submitted by the countries.

However, with an earlier Oscar balloting, the timing of the fest became very important to strategists and the gala is crowded with potential contenders. This year, the Academy sends out ballots Dec. 27 and nominations are unveiled Jan. 16.  The Festival runs Jan. 3-13.

“Director Steve McQueen captivates his audiences by challenging them with often unorthodox and unrelenting subject matter and technique,” said festival chairman Harold Matzner.

Fest honorees in recent years include Ben Affleck, Javier Bardem, Cate Blanchett, Bradley Cooper, George Clooney, Daniel Day-Lewis, Leonardo DiCaprio, Helen Mirren, Sean Penn, Brad Pitt, Natalie Portman and Charlize Theron. Past director honorees include Stephen Daldry, Ang Lee, Anthony Minghella, Alexander Payne, Sean Penn, Jason Reitman, David O. Russell and Robert Zemeckis.

The gala, once again hosted by Mary Hart, will be held at the Palm Springs Convention Center.

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