Hollywood luminaries receive SBIFF's highest accolades


Virtuoso Awards

Viola Davis
Even with three Steven Soderbergh films to her name ("Out of Sight," "Traffic" and "Solaris"), theater veteran Viola Davis never quite managed the crossover from Broadway to Hollywood -- until co-starring in John Patrick Shanley's "Doubt." Now the Juilliard graduate is prepping to co-star with Russell Crowe in a summer blockbuster. Up next: The Universal thriller "State of Play," starring Crowe and Helen Mirren.

Sally Hawkins
It should come as no surprise that London's latest sensation -- Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts graduate Sally Hawkins -- loves comedy. Just a couple of years ago, she co-starred in the sitcom "Little Britain." And she just won a Golden Globe award as best comedy actress for Mike Leigh's "Happy-Go-Lucky." Up next: The Sundance-competing drama "An Education" alongside fellow Globe nominee Emma Thompson, and the lead in "The Roaring Girl," a biopic of Irish firebrand Bernadette Devlin.

Rosemarie DeWitt
Rosemarie DeWitt should punch some of those guys who've overlooked her work in "Rachel Getting Married" this awards season -- which shouldn't be too hard, given that she's fighter Jimmy "Cinderella Man" Braddock's granddaughter. Not that she'll be overlooked much longer: She's co-starring in one of the most talked-about series on TV, Diablo Cody's "United States of Tara." Up next: "Margaret," a Fox Searchlight project toplined by Anna Paquin, Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo and Matthew Broderick.

Richard Jenkins
When director Tom McCarthy first approached Richard Jenkins about starring in "The Visitor," the actor advised him to find someone else -- if he wanted to get his movie off the ground. Now Jenkins (one of two famous actors to bear that name; the other changed it to Richard Burton)
is the star of one of the season's few bona fide indie hits. Up next: The romance "Waiting for Forever," with Jaime King, Rachel Bilson and Blythe Danner; and the dramedy "Norman."

Melissa Leo
A lot of insiders felt Melissa Leo was cheated when her work on the indie release "21 Grams" was bypassed during awards season five years ago. But now she's making up for it with another indie picture, the ultra-low-budget crime drama "Frozen River." Appropriately, she was offered the role by director Courtney Hunt at a "Grams" screening. Up next: She has six films premiering in 2009, the highest-profile of which is the Miramax comedy "Everybody's Fine," starring Robert De Niro, Kate Beckinsale, Drew Barrymore and Sam Rockwell.

Michael Shannon
The Steppenwolf Theatre veteran, whose most prominent role until a few years ago was in 2003's "Kangaroo Jack," shifted his career into overdrive in 2007 with his work in "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" and then "Revolutionary Road" last year. In "Road," he stands out as John Givings, the mentally ill son of screen couple Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio's realtor. Up next: Sundance premiere "The Missing Person," playing a private eye tailing a man thought to have been killed in the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

American Riviera Award

Mickey Rourke
When Mickey Rourke shows up in Santa Barbara, chances are he won't be alone: Rourke has been doing the awards circuit with one of his many dogs, in this case an aging chihuahua that managed to pee on the carpet at a recent Beverly Wilshire Hotel event. Not that anyone minds -- they're just thrilled to see Rourke in peak form with "The Wrestler." Up next: The thriller "13"; the actioner "The Expendables," with Sylvester Stallone; and in 2010, "Iron Man 2," in which he will play the villain Whiplash.

Cinema Vanguard Award

Kristin Scott Thomas
Insiders shouldn't be surprised to hear Scott Thomas speaking fluent French in "I've Loved You So Long" -- the actress has lived for years in France with her three children and considers herself more French than English. Up next: The Disney romantic comedy "Confessions of a Shopaholic."

Lucky Brand Modern Master Award

Clint Eastwood
Warner Bros. managed some sly marketing with "Gran Torino," subtly implying that the specialty-style release was actually a return to Dirty Harry. They must have done something right: With a $29 million weekend, the 78-year-old Eastwood had his biggest opening ever. Up next: He's in preproduction on the Nelson Mandela biopic "The Human Factor," starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, which he will produce and direct for Warner Bros.

Montecito Award

Kate Winslet
Winslet is drawing acclaim for a role she almost didn't play: Nicole Kidman was meant to star in "The Reader" (one of two new Winslet releases, along with "Revolutionary Road"), but pregnancy forced her to withdraw from the movie about a former concentration camp guard and the young man who falls for her. Up next: Nothing new.

Outstanding Performance of the Year

Penelope Cruz
Cruz became an item with Javier Bardem during the shooting of Woody Allen's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," and now both are doing the awards circuit. That's a surprise to the Spanish star, who kept telling Woody during the shoot that she was afraid she was over-the-top. Up next: The Pedro Almodovar thriller "Broken Embraces"; the Disney animated adventure "G-Force"; and the all-star cast musical "Nine," directed by Oscar winner Rob Marshall and starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman and Marion Cotillard.