SAN SEBASTIAN — At a ceremony held on Saturday evening inside San Sebastian’s iconic Kursaal theater, American actor, director, producer and you-name-it Danny DeVito received the Donostia Award, given in recognition of his decades-long contributions to film, TV and the stage.
Other recipients of the award this year are British actress Judy Dench and Japanese writer, director and producer Hirokazu Kore-eda.
For DeVito, it was his first trip to the Spanish coastal city, one he said he was thrilled to make.
“This is such an honor. You guys are really famous all over the world and it’s a real honor to receive (the Donostia award),” he said to kick off his press conference ahead of the award ceremony, scoring points with the scores of local journalists who packed the press hall.
His first anecdote on the day recalled a time in the early ‘90s when he read the script for an upcoming film that had been suggested to him as something he might like to produce. Although he was impressed, in the end it was too late to board the film, but he asked the young filmmaker anyway. That was when he first met Quentin Tarantino who had just finished making “Reservoir Dogs.” The two hit it off and DeVito made Tarantino promise to let him get involved with the director’s next film, script unseen.
“I said I don’t even wanna know the story,” he recalled. “I told him ‘Just go write the script and give it to me when you are done.’”
The result of that meeting came a year later when DeVito’s company Jersey Films signed on to produce “Pulp Fiction.”
Of course DeVito was asked the most common question put to any celebrity at any event in the world outside of their own homeland, what do you think of our country? To which DeVit0 answered with a charming anecdote about his family.
His first experience in Spain came when he was only 22. His older sister asked him to accompany her son to the Galician city of Santiago de Compostela, as DeVito’s nephew was a classical guitar fan and wanted to buy a Spanish guitar and attend a master class given by Spanish guitar virtuoso Andrés Segovia.
“We flew to Spain and went to Santiago de Compostela to the big hotel because she said, and I did anything she told me – she’s 16 years older than I am and she was like my mother – she said go, so we went!”
Once there, DeVito and his nephew picked up the guitar and waited for the weekend’s master class. By Friday, when the hotel was still suspiciously vacant, DeVito asked the concierge why there weren’t more people at the hotel with such an important event hosted by a local legend.
“He looked at his book and he said, ‘Oh yeah, that was last year.” DeVito recalled before applying the lesson he learned then to his latest film, Warner Brothers Pictures’ “Smallfoot.”
“In that instance I believed my sister, I always did, and we had a good experience. But you know a lot of times you listen to people in authority or older or supposedly wiser, and you wind up going down the garden path. That’s one of the themes in our movie.”
While “Smallfoot” was clearly the most urgent of his works discussed at the event, DeVito also talked about the upcoming live-action remake of “Dumbo,” directed by his good friend and frequent-collaborator Tim Burton, and expressed a desire to do more work on stage. In 2012 DeVito received overwhelmingly positive reviews for the London stage revival of Neil Simon’s comedy “The Sunshine Boys,” and just last year made his Broadway debut in Arthur Miller’s “The Price,” which earned the actor a Tony nomination.
Earlier this month “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” kicked off its 13th season in which DeVito returned as the outrageous Frank Reynolds. He has recently leant his voice to Disney’s “The One and Only Ivan,” and has nostalgia-hungry millennials thrilled for his upcoming reunion with Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Triplets,” the decades-later sequel to 1988’s “Twins,” with Eddie Murphy lined up to play the two’s even less-likely third sibling.