Wednesday, February 21 , 2018, 5:24 am | Fair 42º


Jessica Lange Accepts Kirk Douglas Award at Santa Barbara Film Festival Benefit

Movie star with a recurring role on hit American Horror Story TV show walks Bacara Resort & Spa red carpet with pals Demi Moore, Kathy Bates

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A festive crowd of elegantly dressed guests turned out to support the 2015 Santa Barbara International Film Festival on Sunday night at a benefit that also honored Jessica Lange with the ninth annual Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film.

More than 300 people clad in formal attire gathered at Bacara Resort & Spa for the award presentation, which was expected to raise $60,000 for the 30th year of the film festival, scheduled to run Jan. 27 through Feb. 7.

“This year’s special because Kirk always wanted to honor a woman,” SBIFF executive director Roger Durling said. “And it’s the first time in the history of the award that we’re honoring a woman, and no one better than Jessica Lange — two-time Academy Award-winner and someone who’s triumphed in theater, in film, as well as TV.”

Lange follows an impressive list of male recipients of the Kirk Douglas Award, including last year’s winner, Forest Whitaker, as well as Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Quentin Tarantino, Ed Harris, John Travolta and the award’s namesake, Kirk Douglas.

“It’s wonderful to be singled out by Mr. Douglas to receive this, so I’m thrilled,” Lange said.

Durling praised Lange for her passion and skill as it relates to Douglas.

“If there’s one word that I think unites her with Kirk it’s the fact that she’s been uncompromising, and that’s one of the things that Kirk said to me, is that I have been an uncompromising actor and Jessica has been, too,” he said.

A red-carpet entrance kicked off the event with Lange, who was joined by actress Demi Moore, who will co-star in an upcoming movie Wild Oats; Ryan Murphy, writer, producer and co-creator of Lange’s current TV show, American Horror Story; and actress Kathy Bates, who has worked with Lange at various times, including on American Horror Story.

Lange has a recurring role on American Horror Story, which hits the reset button each season for a new theme with the same central cast. This year’s “Freak Show” has Lange stretching her limits as the ringleader of a traveling circus show.

“I haven’t played a character like this before that has this kind of history and this drama to her — the many, many layers,” Lange said. “She’s a very complex character, and they write big scenes for me and I like big scenes.

“And there’s nothing kind of ordinary about her — not in the way she thinks, not in the way she acts, not in the way she looks. It’s dramatic, it’s a big dramatic part.”

Moore — of Ghost, A Few Good Men, St. Elmo’s Fire, G.I. Jane and Indecent Proposal fame — was enthusiastic about her opportunity to work with Lange on the 2015 comedy, Wild Oats, which is now in post-production.

“We just finished shooting that in July,” Lange said. “It’s a wonderful kind of bittersweet comedy. It was lovely to work with her and, of course, Shirley MacLaine. We had a great time.”

Well known for his work in television, Murphy has also been involved with Nip/Tuck and Glee, and, in addition to writing, has produced and gone behind the camera as director for episodes in each series.

Also attending the event was Bates, who has worked with Lange for the past two seasons on American Horror Story. Bates shared how she became involved in the series.

“I saw Jessica in the first season, and she was so wonderful, and I said the writing was so great, can you put in a word for me with Ryan Murphy?” Bates recalled.

“And so she did, and he pitched me a great part, and I will be eternally grateful to him for that because he’s created great parts for women. It’s been delightful to play with Jessica.”

Bates’ movie work includes Misery, Fried Green Tomatoes and the epic hit film, Titanic.

Sunday’s presentation began with Durling welcoming the crowd as he introduced this year’s Kirk Douglas Award winner, who was handpicked by Douglas for her film skills and charm.

“Jessica Lange possesses the three key elements in making it in this crazy business: talent, beauty and intelligence ... all of which have served her well and continue to do so,” Douglas said. “It is my honor to give her my award.”

A montage of clips showcased more than three decades of Lange’s work, with films such as King Kong with Montecito resident Jeff Bridges; Tootsie, for which she won a Best Supporting Actress Award opposite Dustin Hoffman; and Blue Sky, for which she won a Best Actress Award working with Tommy Lee Jones.

Lange’s work has included a vast array of big budget and independent films, including Cape Fear with De Niro and Nick Nolte in the Martin Scorsese adaptation; independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers with Bill Murray; and Tim Burton’s Big Fish, joined by Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney.

And in theaters in December, Lange stars in a crime thriller with Mark Wahlberg, The Gambler, about a college professor who runs into trouble with loan sharks from gambling debts.

In addition to Oscar awards, Lange has won Emmy Awards for her work in FX’s American Horror Story and American Horror Story: Coven series, as well as HBO’s Grey Gardens, which is about two charming eccentrics who were relatives of former first lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival spans 11 days with more than 200 films, symposiums and panels for producers, women, directors and writers.

An impressive set of eagerly anticipated tributes and awards will be hosted again at the Arlington Theatre with another year of inspiring and legendary names.

Announced in October, Montecito’s​ Michael Keaton will receive the Modern Master Award on Jan. 31 for his work in Beetlejuice, Batman and Jackie Brown, along with his role in a film that’s in theaters now, Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).

Also, for the first time in five years, The Attenborough Award for Excellence in Nature Filmmaking on Jan. 28 will honor the Cousteau family — Jean Michel with his son and daughter, Fabien and Céline — for their commitment to educating the public about the ocean.

SBIFF’s commitment to local cultural diversity includes a variety of programs benefiting local youth with a variety of free children’s education and community outreach programs, including Mike’s Field Trip to the Movies, AppleBox, 10-10-10 Student Screenwriting and Filmmaking Competitions, 3rd Weekend and SBIFF College Internships.

Check back with Noozhawk for more on the film festival and special coverage of the tributes and awards.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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