Timothee Chalamet, Daniel Kaluuya in Spotlight at Santa Barbara Virtuosos Awards

Six breakthrough actors talked about their films, careers and awards Saturday at the Santa Barbara Intl. Film Festival’s Virtuosos Awards, but the show’s real highlights were Daniel Kaluuya offering his imitation of Will Smith, and Timothee Chalamet re-creating a voicemail message he got from Matthew McConaughey.

The festival saluted the two actors for their work in “Get Out” and “Call Me by Your Name,” respectively, plus Mary J. Blige (“Mudbound”), Hong Chau (“Downsizing”), John Boyega (“Detroit”) and Kumail Nanjiani (“The Big Sick”).

Each actor was brought out for a one-on-one conversation, with Blige talking about how amazing it was to see the many women behind the cameras on “Mudbound,” including Oscar-nominated d.p. Rachel Morrison. Boyega called “Detroit” the biggest movie he’s done, despite the “Star Wars” films, because “Detroit” represents “longevity” for his career. (And no, he doesn’t know the name of “Star Wars” No. 9 yet.)

Chalamet confirmed that he went to high school with Ansel Elgort, who always got cast in the school plays like “Hairspray” and “Guys and Dolls,” unlike Chalamet. Asked about his reaction to reading the peach scene in the script of “Call Me,” Chalamet said he thought, “Yes! This is what I’ve been waiting for!” But seriously, he said simply that the scene was in the book, “So it had to be done.” Asked about filming the final scene, in one long take, he said director Luca Guadagnino gets the credit: “His communication with actors was crystal clear.”

Chau talked about aggressively pursuing her role in the Alexander Payne-directed film, and the opportunity to watch Payne in the editing room: “If you thought the movie was weird, it could have been much weirder!”

Kaluuya said director Jordan Peele was hesitant to cast a Brit in a story about the African-American experience, but they spoke via Skype. “I talked to him about my life, my experience, and I said ‘I get it.’ It’s about the black experience, really.” Kaluuya also said that “Get Out” only had 23 days of lensing. Filming of the first hypnosis scene with Catherine Keener was intense, but with every scene, “I’m not trying to be good, I’m trying to be honest.”

Nanjiani said he was especially excited at the Oscar nomination for his wife and writing partner, Emily V. Gordon, who has been under a great new treatment for her Stills’ Disease during the past year and “It’s changed both of our lives.”

The seventh scheduled honoree, Gal Gadot, bowed out due to the flu.

Fest exec director Roger Durling opened the evening, which was held at the 2000-seat filled-to-capacity Arlington Theater.

Toward the end, moderator Dave Karger asked each of them if they had any favorite impressions. Blige offered Billy Bob Thornton in “Sling Blade” and Boyega did Pinocchio in “Shrek.” But the biggest reaction went to Kaluuya doing a brief but hilarious imitation of Will Smith laughing on a talkshow. Chalamet did a spot-on McConaughey talking about an unanswered email. When “Call Me” producer Peter Spears handed Chalamet his phone onstage, the actor said he couldn’t access the voicemail to prove the accuracy of his impression. Nanjiani shouted, “Lock the doors, we’re not leaving until we hear this voicemail!”

More Film

  • 'Patrick Melrose' TV show premiere

    Benedict Cumberbatch, Claire Foy to Star in 'Louis Wain'

    Benedict Cumberbatch (“Avengers: Endgame”) and Claire Foy (“The Crown”) are set to star in “Louis Wain,” a biopic of the prolific English artist who rose to prominence at the end of the 19th century. “Louis Wain” will start shooting on Aug. 10 with BAFTA-nominated Will Sharpe (“Flowers”) directing the film, which was written by Sharpe [...]

  • Production Resumes on 'Fast & Furious

    'Fast & Furious 9' Production Resumes, Investigation Into Stuntman Injury Under Way

    Production resumed Tuesday on “Fast & Furious 9,” a day after an accident at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden, near London, left a stuntman in hospital. The U.K. agency responsible for workplace safety confirmed that it is now investigating the accident. The stuntman, Joe Watts, was working on a second unit when he sustained head injuries [...]

  • mother

    Director Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese: Africa Is ‘In the Process of Becoming’

    DURBAN–From the arresting opening sequence, in which the reflection of a woman carrying a giant wooden cross shimmers across the surface of a lake, Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese’s “Mother, I Am Suffocating. This is My Last Film About You” embarks on a poetic journey across an unnamed African landscape. Described by the filmmaker as a “lament,” [...]

  • Promise at Dawn Calcoa

    Colcoa French Film Festival Moves to the Fall With Revamped Format

    Colcoa, the Los Angeles-based French film festival, will be hosting its 23rd edition in September, right before the start of the awards season. Created by the Franco-American Cultural Fund, Colcoa will also be showcasing a more contained lineup focused on film and TV at the Directors Guild of America’s newly-renovated venue. The festival was previously [...]

  • Bruce Springsteen FYSEE Opening Night with

    Bruce Springsteen-Codirected 'Western Stars' Film Will Premiere in Toronto

    “Western Stars,” the film that Bruce Springsteen has made to accompany his recent album of the same name, will have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, it was announced Tuesday. The feature is being listed as a co-directing project between Springsteen and his longtime filmic collaborator, Thom Zimny, who just picked up [...]

  • Sylvester Stallone and Braden Aftergood Balboa

    Sylvester Stallone's Production Company Wants to Be the Blumhouse of Action Films

    “I don’t believe Sylvester Stallone carries around a wallet,” says Braden Aftergood, the executive in charge of scripted development at the movie star’s content company Balboa Prods. It’s not that Sly, as he’s known to friends and fans alike, is trying to duck out on a dinner bill. He never seems to have his license [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content