Willem Dafoe, the veteran character who has won rave reviews this year for his work as a motel operator in Sean Baker's critics' darling The Florida Project, will receive the Cinema Vanguard Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, it was announced Thursday. The honor will be presented at Santa Barbara's historic Arlington Theatre, following a career-retrospective conversation, on Feb. 1 as part of the fest's 33rd edition, which is set to run Jan. 31-Feb. 10.
The Cinema Vanguard Award recognizes filmmakers "who have forged their own path, taking artists risks and making a significant and unique contribution to film."
"Willem Dafoe has brought countless unforgettable characters to the big screen," SBIFF executive director Roger Durling said in a statement. "His role in The Florida Project perfectly embodies his talent and imagination. It is an honor to celebrate his work with the Cinema Vanguard Award."
Previous Vanguard Award honorees include Manchester by the Sea's Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams (2017), Carol's Rooney Mara (2016), The Theory of Everything's Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones (2015), The Wolf of Wall Street's Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio (2014), The Master's Amy Adams (2013), The Artist's Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo (2012), Rabbit Hole's Nicole Kidman (2011) and Inglourious Basterds' Christoph Waltz and Up in the Air's Vera Farmiga (2010) — all of whom also received Oscar noms for that same work. (Affleck, Redmayne, Dujardin and Waltz won.)
The fest is also set to honor Judi Dench, a best actress contender for Victoria & Abdul (and Dafoe's co-star in another 2017 film, Murder on the Orient Express), with its Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film at a pre-fest ceremony on Nov. 30. Other honors for the festival itself will be announced in the coming days.