Palm Springs Film Fest Gala: Annette Bening, Tom Hanks, Natalie Portman Honored

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Natalie Portman at the Palm Springs Film Festival gala

The star-studded evening kicked off the fest and showcased the work of Hollywood luminaries at the forefront of this year's awards season.

If the night skies above Los Angeles seemed dim Monday night, it was because Hollywood’s stars traveled 100 miles east to celebrate their achievements at the 28th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala.

Oscar contenders from Natalie Portman and Ryan Gosling to Tom Hanks and Andrew Garfield descended on the desert for the event held at the Palm Springs Convention Center. Portman, who received the Desert Palm Achievement Award for her performance in Jackie, spoke about what it meant to her to portray the iconic and fashionable first lady.

“When my grandmother moved to Palestine from Romania in the late 1930s, she and her roommate shared one dress and they had to take turns who could go out for the day," said the actress. "The other one would stay home in bed in their underwear while one friend got to be out working wearing their one dress, so I think it would tickle her to know that I got to play the best-dressed woman in the world.”

Hacksaw Ridge star Garfield strayed from his prepared remarks to personally thank Hanks for inspiring him to become an actor.

“There’s a man in the room who is directly responsible for making me want to be an actor. He doesn’t know it, but Mr. Tom Hanks, I can’t express in words what your life’s work has meant to me, but more specifically what your work in Big and Joe Versus the Volcano meant to me. You are directly responsible for me being here and to stand alongside you is a humbling honor,” he said before presenting the Chairman's Award to Amy Adams for her performance in Arrival.

Hanks, who was given the much-lauded Icon Award, received the credit with good humor and responded, “I was thrilled and stunned to hear the fabulous actor Andrew Garfield finally, finally see to it that the Palm Springs International Film Festival gave some love to Joe Versus the Volcano.”

Casey Affleck was recognized for his performance in Manchester by the Sea, and he spoke about how his relationship with his own children helped him prepare for his role. “I connected with this role as a father," said the actor. "I couldn’t have played the part without the experience that my boys have given me. It’s a movie about showing up for the people that we love, and that’s a nice reminder for all of us as we start the new year.”

Gosling, Damian Chazelle and composer Justin Hurwitz received the Vanguard Award for La La Land. Gosling spoke about another iconic musical star who helped inspire their vision for the film: the late Debbie Reynolds. “I wish I could have said this in person, but I would like to thank Debbie Reynolds for her wonderful career. She was an inspiration to us every day. We watched Singin' in the Rain every day for inspiration, and she was truly an unparalleled talent,” he said of the late actress who died just days before the gala.

Other honorees included film legend Annette Bening, who received the Career Achievement Award as her husband Warren Beatty beamed up at her from the audience; the cast of Hidden Figures, who were presented the Ensemble Performance Award by the film's producer Pharrell Williams; and Ruth Negga, who was recognized with the Rising Star Award for her leading role in Loving.

Following the festive event kicking off the 10-day festival, the crowd of A-listers headed to the Parker Palm Springs for an afterparty.

The screening portion of the PSIFF runs from Thursday through Jan. 15.