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Santa Barbara International Film Festival Honors Warren Beatty With Kirk Douglas Award

Gala benefits SBIFF's array of free community outreach and education programs

Warren Beatty and his wife Annette Bening walk the red carpet at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival 11th Annual Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Cinema. Click to view larger
Warren Beatty and his wife Annette Bening walk the red carpet at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival 11th Annual Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Cinema.  (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

[Click here for a related Noozhawk photo gallery.]

The spirit of giving was center stage on Thursday at the 11th Annual Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film gala, as hundreds of film enthusiasts headed to the luxurious Bacara Resort and Spa to pay tribute to the evening’s honoree, Warren Beatty.

“Warren Beatty is an icon with an incredible career that spans six decades as an actor, director, screenwriter, and producer,” said Santa Barbara International Film Festival executive director Roger Durling. He’s been nominated and won countless awards, including 14 Academy Awards nominations.

Guests gathered at the sold-out affair donned in glamorous gowns and tuxedoes for the lively red carpet cocktail reception that kicked off the festivities on the decorative patio, just steps away from the ballroom. Champagne and spirits flowed in abundance while attendees mingled in the courtyard underneath the stars.

The excitement swirled in the air as the nights VIPs arrived and walked down the red carpet, including Don Cheadle, an actor in Hotel Rwanda, Crash and House of Lies, along with actress and model Lily Collins, daughter of legendary singer and songwriter Phil Collins, who recently starred with Beatty in his film, Rules Don’t Apply.

“Growing up I was a huge admirer of Warren’s work and a huge fan of old movies,” Collins shared with Noozhawk. “He was always someone that I admired and looked up to but I didn’t know what he’d be like to work with —  he’s so cooperative and inspiring.”

When Collins was asked what it was like to work alongside a Hollywood legend she shared, “I felt intimated at first but right away he made me feel like the most important person in the room, and that your opinion matters. He genuinely wants to hear your opinion to collaborate with him, and I thought that was really amazing because I am a really young person in this industry. He really cares. And just as much as he inspires our generation, he is also inspired by our generation as well, and I thought that that was really a beautiful thing.”

Bouts of cheers erupted from the crowd of onlookers as all eyes turned to Hollywood icon and honoree, Beatty, who gracefully strolled down the red carpet posing for pictures, flashing his world-famous and debonair smile. Beatty was joined by his wife, actress, Annette Bening.

“Warren Beatty is known for his integrity and demonstrated longevity in movies —  greater than any actor of his generation,” exclaimed Durling.

Beatty is a symbol of Hollywood royalty, and at 79 years old is showing no signs of slowing down. In his latest movie, Beatty is credited with writing, directing and stars in the film that has been in development for many years.

Actor and award presenter Don Cheadle, with wife Bridgid Coulter, on the red carpet. Click to view larger
Actor and award presenter Don Cheadle, with wife Bridgid Coulter, on the red carpet.  (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

“There’s this misapprehension that it’s a biopic, but although Howard is an important character in the film, it’s not,” Beatty told Noozhawk. “I wanted to do a story about that young man and woman that also deals with money and misogyny in late 1950s Hollywood.”

Following the cocktail reception, guests adjourned to the ballroom for a scrumptious three-course meal served during the tribute presentation that featured a special film with various montages that highlighting Beatty's critically-acclaimed body of work that spanning over a half century.

Clips from his impressive lineup of films included Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Shampoo (1975), Heaven Can Wait (1978), Reds (1981), Dick Tracy (1990), Bugsy (1991), and Bulworth (1998).

Touching memories and anecdotes of the star were provided by co-stars, family and friends, highlighting the Golden Globes and Academy Award winner, who looked on with a twinkle in his eye.

Cheadle, who co-starred with Beatty in Bulworth, was the presenter of the Award of Excellence to the honoree, and shared with Noozhawk his admiration for the star.

“Warren is an incredibly talented individual, and he’s dedicated to his craft. He never gives up or backs away from a challenge and I admire him tremendously for that,” Cheadle said. “It’s an honor to be here and present him the award and share this special evening with him.”

Since 2006, the Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film has honored an array of A-listers for their contributions in film industry. Beatty joins the impressive list of past honorees including, Jane Fonda, Jessica Lange, Forest Whitaker, Robert DeNiro, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Quentin Tarantino, Ed Harris and John Travolta.

This year’s historic event coincides with Douglas’ 100th birthday, and the original award recipient.

Actress Lily Collins co-starred with Warren Beatty in his latest film, Rules Don’t Apply. Click to view larger
Actress Lily Collins co-starred with Warren Beatty in his latest film, Rules Don’t Apply. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

SBIFF is a nonprofit and educational organization dedicated to showcasing the best in independent and international cinema, and favored as one of the leading film festivals in the United States, attracting over 90,000 attendees annually.

Proceeds from the gala will benefit SBIFF’s array of free education programs and community outreach programs, such as Mike’s Field Trip to the Movies, 10-10-10, AppleBox and the Film Camp.

“SBIFF’s education programs serve 20,000 children, families and seniors each year —  many from vulnerable and underserved populations,” Durling said.  

The ever popular 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, starting with Denzel Washington on Feb. 2 receiving the Maltin Modern Master Award, and Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling on Feb. 3, being honored with the Outstanding Performers of the Year Award.

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.

Lynda Weinman, SBIFF board president, with husband Bruce Heavin and Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider at the gala. Click to view larger
Lynda Weinman, SBIFF board president, with husband Bruce Heavin and Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider at the gala. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

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