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Palm Springs Toasts Oscar Hopefuls on Night Full of Stars

Honorees at the Palm Springs Film Festival gala were campaigning and practicing their awards speeches Saturday night.

Chairman of the Board recipient Matt Damon suggested his “The Martian” director Ridley Scott, for instance, was overdue even though he had helmed an Oscar best picture winner in “Gladiator.”

“There are only a handful of master directors on the planet and Ridley is one of them.”

As the last honoree of the night, Damon may have felt pressure to wrap up, especially with some empty tables before him.

“There’s a bunch of people I want to thank, but I won’t do it here, I’ll do it privately,” he said.

Earlier Cate Blanchett, who accepted the actress Desert Palm Achievement Award from Saoirse Ronan, said Todd Haynes and the “Carol” team had “set the bar so high I don’t know where to go as an actress.”

She took time to praise Ronan, recipient of the Intl. Star Award, for her career choices. “You have made a film for the ages,” she said of the “Brooklyn” team.

Ronan said she prepped for her speech by Googling Meryl Streep and looking up Sandra Bullock’s speeches. “I am not Meryl Streep, FYI, so I am not winging it,” Ronan said.

The other Intl. Star Award honoree, Michael Fassbender, and his presenter Kate Winslet had the aud in stitches. Fassbender said Winslet told him “not to f–k this up” as he got up to the mic.

While praising his fellow cast members Fassbender said, “The box office for ‘Steve Jobs’ may not be great, but thank god for ‘Jurassic Park.'”

Kate Winslet and Michael Fassbender
Matt Baron/BEI/Shutterstock

Cast members from “The Big Short” accepted the ensemble prize from their director, Adam McKay. Christian Bale said, “Nobody thought Adam McKay could direct ‘The Big Short.’ In a small way I hope ‘The Big Short’ helps the people who were s..t on by the banks.”

His co-star Steve Carell pointed out that Ryan Gosling was absent. “We all hate him and are glad he’s not here,” Carell joked.

Amber Heard and Johnny Depp arrive at Saturday’s gala
Rob Latour/REX/Shutterstock

Johnny Depp, who accepted the actor Desert Palm Achievement Award, brought out a sheet of paper and told the attendees to be prepared.

“I’m going to thank all these people, my speech is going to take 45 minutes.”

Also bringing levity to the proceedings was Bryan Cranston, winner of the Spotlight Award, who said he was afraid it was a lifetime achievement award, meaning he was getting old. Getting serious, he said, “We embrace differences of opinion and that’s what makes us a great nation.”

Other honorees included Alicia Vikander, Brie Larson, Rooney Mara and Tom McCarthy.

The gala also paid tribute to the late producer Jerry Weintraub, who was a benefactor of the film festival.

The gala attendees went through unprecedented security and fest head Harold Matzner said there SWAT team members around the Convention Center where the gala was held.

Meanwhile artistic director Helen du Toit is taking over for exec director Darryl Macdonald, who has been on medical leave since Dec. 28.

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