Variety’s Steven Gaydos called Variety’s Indie Impact brunch on Sunday “the world’s most elaborate hangover cure.” Most of all, it was a chance to bask in the sun in the secluded garden of the Parker Palm Springs hotel after the chilly Palm Springs Film Festival gala the previous night.
Bradley Cooper presented his “Silver Linings Playbook” helmer David O. Russell with Variety’s Indie Impact award, saying Russell shot the film in 33 days. He “took the independent model and made it part of his artistry,” Cooper said.
Russell described how he counsels filmmakers to find the meat of the story, “You gotta dig deep. You gotta put the hurt on people.” He said his own silver lining was finally being able to make the film for his 18-year-old son, who suffers from mood disorders. In these days of changing business models, “it’s a privilege to be able to make a film that finds an audience,” said the helmer.
Also brunching were “Les Mis” duo Tom Hooper and Eddie Redmayne, along with John Hawkes and the fest’s Darryl Macdonald and Helen du Toit.
The event also feted Variety’s 10 Directors to Watch, with Gaydos introducing eight of the honorees: Haifaa Al-Mansour (“Wadjda”), Wayne Blair (“The Sapphires”), Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (“21 and Over”), David Ondricek (“In the Shadow”), Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg (“Kon-Tiki”) and Rebecca Thomas (“Electrick Children”).
On Saturday, the festival gala kicked the awards season into full swing, with a hefty selection of talent repping this year’s kudos contenders. The crowd particularly liked Diane Lane’s slightly risque summation of Richard Gere’s career, as the star accepted the Chairman’s award for his philanthropic work.
Helen Hunt told her “The Sessions” co-star Hawkes, who presented her with the Spotlight award, “I feel so lucky to have gotten to dance with you, albeit naked and in bed.” Tom Holland, teenage co-star of “The Impossible,” impressed with his smooth presentation to Watts, who has found her own silver lining in getting older. It “gives me a chance to play women who have really lived,” she said. Ang Lee presented the Frederick Loewe music award to “Life of Pi” composer Mychael Danna, who describedhow teaching in India helped him decide to stay in the film business.
Helen Mirren, accepting the International Star award, implored the audience to “Watch films with subtitles — it’s not that hard!”
Sally Field received a standing ovation for the lifetime achievement award, fondly reminiscing about her absurd moments in the business, like flying into John Wayne’s arms at the Golden Globes, and her sublime moments, like romancing Paul Newman.
Wrapping up the show, former CIA agent Tony Mendez gave the ensemble award to Ben Affleck (whose character in “Argo” is based on Mendez) and to Alan Arkin and Bryan Cranston. Touching on the theme of violence in entertainment that is currently on everyone’s mind, Arkin remarked how impressive it is that the “Argo” operation was successful with no violence to anyone involved.