×

‘Moonlight,’ ‘Hidden Figures’ Actors Receive Santa Barbara Festival Virtuoso Awards

Conversations about an actor’s life were mixed with observations about Muslims and the Supreme Court as the Santa Barbara International Film Festival saluted eight actors for their breakthrough work in 2016 films.

The first recipient of the fest’s Virtuoso Awards on Saturday was Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight” and “Hidden Figures”). He was asked about his SAG Awards speech about being a Muslim, and about his reaction to having his religion “dragged through the mud” for the past months. “The Muslims I know are peace-loving people,” he said quietly, adding that the actions of a few extremists have been reported so much that many people are getting a distorted view of the religion.

Janelle Monae, who also appears in both those films, said she was deeply moved when she first read Barry Jenkins’ script for the latter, because it depicted characters who are usually marginalized and discriminated against.

A third “Moonlight” actor, Naomie Harris, spoke about filming her role in three days, even though the script spans 15 years and they had to film out of sequence. She was scheduled to do the work over three weeks, but “For some reason, I had visa issues,” she said wryly.

Ruth Negga, Ethiopian-born and raised in Ireland, said she was unaware of the Supreme Court before she started work on “Loving,” but hopes the film raises worldwide awareness of the court and its justices. She said the true-life story of Richard and Mildred Loving wasn’t a black-white issue or an American issue: “It’s the world’s story,” because Supreme Court decisions often have global implications.

Dev Patel was a crowd favorite, inspiring whoops on the red carpet, during his entrance onstage, and for some of his answers. He spoke about having to fight for the role in “Lion,” after being typecast as “that goofy kid” in the “Exotic Marigold Hotel” movies, adding, “I was fighting against my own resume.”

Aaron Taylor-Johnson (“Nocturnal Animals”), Simon Helberg (“Florence Foster Jenkins”), and Stephen McKinley Henderson (“Fences”) also spoke of their work, expressing admiration for Tom Ford, Meryl Streep, and August Wilson/Denzel Washington, respectively.

Dave Karger of “Today” and TCM conducted one-on-one interviews with the eight actors, who then assembled at the end for a group discussion. Asked to recommend a 2016 movie, several of them cited documentaries “I Am Not Your Negro,” “Life, Animated,” “13th,” and “O.J.: Made in America.” Patel and Taylor-Johnson also recommended “Captain Fantastic.”

Asked about their goals, Ali said he hopes someday to play Marvin Gaye, Jack Johnson, and to appear in an August Wilson play. Monae said she wants a “Star Wars” legacy, to see science-fiction movies with black and brown people, and women both behind the camera and in front of it.

The evening, at the 1930-built movie palace the Arlington Theatre, concluded with each of the eight being presented a trophy by Christopher Lloyd, who’s a Santa Barbara resident.

More Film

  • Michael B. Jordan Jordan Vogt-Roberts

    Film News Roundup: Michael B. Jordan, Jordan Vogt-Roberts Team for Monster Movie

    In today’s film news roundup, Michael B. Jordan is producing a creature feature, billiards champ Cisero Murphy is getting a movie, the sixth Terminator movie gets a title, and Graham King receives an honor. PROJECT UNVEILED New Regency and Michael B. Jordan’s Outlier Society are partnering on an untitled monster movie from “Kong: Skull Island” [...]

  • Nicolas Cage

    Nicolas Cage to Star in Martial Arts Actioner 'Jiu Jitsu'

    Nicolas Cage will star in the martial arts actioner “Jiu Jitsu,” based on the comic book of the same name. The cast will also include Alain Moussi, who stars in the “Kickboxer” franchise. Dimitri Logothetis is producing with Martin Barab and directing from a script he wrote with Jim McGrath. Highland Film Group is handling [...]

  • Chinese success of Thai film "Bad

    Chinese, Thai Shingles Pact for Co-Production Fund at FilMart

    A deal to establish a 100 million yuan ($14.9 million) co-production fund between China and Thailand was struck at FilMart on Tuesday to help launch TV and film projects that will appeal to Chinese and Southeast Asian audience. The deal that was struck by China’s Poly Film Investment Co., TW Capital from Thailand and Thai [...]

  • Kevin Tsujihara

    Kevin Tsujihara's Ouster Kicks Off a Week of Major Disruption in the Media Business

    The sudden ouster of Warner Bros. Entertainment chief Kevin Tsujihara kicked off what is likely to go down as one of the most extraordinary weeks in Hollywood history, spelling enormous turmoil and transition across the media landscape. In addition to the news about Tsujihara, which comes amid a wider shake-up of leadership at AT&T’s WarnerMedia, [...]

  • Buddha in Africa

    More than Half of Films at Hot Docs Film Festival Are Directed By Women

    More than half of the films playing at Hot Docs, North America’s largest documentary festival, are directed by women, the Canadian event said Tuesday. The festival’s 26th edition, which runs April 25-May 5, will screen 234 films, with 54% of the directors being women. In the competitive International Spectrum program, notable films receiving their world [...]

  • Korean Distributors Fight for Box Office

    Korean Distributors Fight for Box Office Market Share

    Korean distributors are having to fight ever harder for their share of Korea’s theatrical market share. Threats on the horizon include a slide in the performance of local movies, consolidation, the arrival of new players and the challenge from streaming services. South Korea’s theatrical box office is now bigger than that of France or Germany despite [...]

  • Korean Distributors Learn to Downsize in

    Korean Distributors Learn to Downsize in Saturated Market

    In 2018, the Korean film business stumbled, as local films made with blockbuster budgets and targeting the usual high seasons of Chuseok and Christmas last year failed to deliver blockbuster earnings.  So Korean distributors have embraced some tactics to enhance their bottom lines.  Genre films “Monstrum,” “Fengshui,” “The Negotiation,” “Take Point,” “Swing Kids” and “Drug King” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content