Spirit Awards: Nicolas Cage Presents Robert Altman Award to 'Marriage Story' Cast

"The space between films felt less like down time with his troupe, his use of language," Noah Baumbach said about the award's namesake.

Marriage Story was honored Saturday with the Robert Altman Award at the 2020 Film Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica.

Writer-director Noah Baumbach, casting directors Douglas Aibel and Francine Maisler and the ensemble cast of Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern, Azhy Robertson, Julie Hagerty, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta and Merritt Wever accepted the prize from Nicolas Cage. Behind-the-scenes clips of the film's cast and crew played before they came onstage. 

Baumbach started his speech by saying he was lucky enough to know Bob and Catherine Altman and how he thought about the award's namesake a lot when making Marriage Story.

"His love for actors, how he invited them into his process, how he found family through film and collaboration. The space between films felt less like down time but a continuing conversation with his troupe, his use of language, his music," said the filmmaker. "To me, the movies that were celebrated today don't need a special label. They are the movies. All of my movies have been independent movies, and some of them have been backed by studios."

Baumbach shared the honor with his casting directors, thanking them for their sensitivity to his scripts and for introducing him to some of the most exciting and talented actors around. The writer-helmer also thanked his production designers, producing partner David Heyman and his actors, naming each of the stars one by one. "I wish we'd cast Nicolas Cage," Baumbach joked about this year's presenter of the Altman Award. 

"It's the honest and unfiltered voices of so many of the nominees here today that makes me excited for the future of movies," he added. "We need to continue to build a system that supports these filmmakers financially, so they can continue to grow. These are the people who are going to change how we see and experience movies."

Baumbach then stepped aside and gave Maisler the floor to say two lines that she had asked for. 

"Doug Aibel and I would like to thank Noah for his inspiring brilliance," the casting director said. She also thanked her two sons, one who asked her to and the other who asked her not to thank him but to promote his Twitch account. 

Cage introduced the film, stating that Marriage Story is a required viewing for anyone considering a divorce.

"I stand here in admiration of writer and director Noah Baumbach, and the wonderful performances by Adam, Scarlett, Laura, Ray and the rest of the incredible cast," Cage said. "The Robert Altman Award is about honoring ensemble work that captures the truth. This cast comes together in an extraordinary way to tell the truth about how families sometimes fall apart, yet somehow find a way to move forward. This is a heartfelt tale of human imperfection told perfectly."  

The acclaimed film — which tells a love story through a divorce tale as two parents split up and both try to gain custody of their son while living on opposite coasts — was also up for best feature and best screenplay at the 2020 Independent Spirit Awards, the latter of which it won. 

Marriage Story joins the ranks of movies like Spotlight, Moonlight, Mudbound and Suspiria that have won the Robert Altman Award in the past.

Aubrey Plaza returned to host the 35th annual Independent Spirit Awards.