Santa Barbara Film Fest: Bruce Dern Replaces Emma Thompson as Modern Master Honoree

Bruce Dern will receive the Modern Master Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, it was announced Tuesday. He will be honored Feb. 8 at Santa Barbara's historic Arlington Theatre as part of the festival's 29th edition, which runs Jan. 30 through Feb. 9.

The honoree had previously been announced as Saving Mr. Banks' lead actress, Emma Thompson, but Thompson was surprisingly not nominated for an Oscar on Jan. 16 -- Dern, Nebraska's lead actor, was nominated -- and is now obligated to be in London for rehearsals of the New York Philharmonic's staging of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd.

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Dern, 77, will add the SBIFF award to a shelf full of accolades that he has picked up over the course of this awards season for his work in Alexander Payne's black-and-white dramedy as a declining old man who receives a letter telling him he has won $1 million and insists on traveling across several states to try to collect it. Others include Critics' Choice, Golden Globe and SAG award nominations and the Palm Springs International Film Festival's career achievement award.

Prior to Nebraska, Dern was best known for his work in Coming Home (1978), for which he received a best supporting actor Oscar nomination; other supporting roles in films, including The King of Marvin Gardens (1972) and The Great Gatsby (1974); and playing lunatics in The Cowboys (1972) -- as the only person ever to kill John Wayne in a movie -- and Black Sunday (1977).

SBIFF's Modern Master Award is the festival's highest honor. Established in 1995, it was created to celebrate "an individual who has enriched our culture through his/her multifaceted accomplishments in the motion picture industry." Previous recipients include Ben Affleck, Christopher Nolan, Michael Douglas, Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Diane Keaton, Sean Penn, Jeff Bridges, Peter Jackson, George Clooney, Will Smith, Cate Blanchett, Clint Eastwood, Christopher Plummer and James Cameron.

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"We're deeply humbled and grateful to Bruce Dern for accepting this award," said Roger Durling, SBIFF's executive director, in a statement. He's not only a Modern Master – he's a hero. Year after year, performance after performance, Bruce Dern has enthralled audiences and with Nebraska he has given us a character for the ages in Woody Grant. It’s his time and we’re delighted to honor him."

The fest previously announced that it will honor Robert Redford (All Is Lost) with its American Riviera Award; Oprah Winfrey (Lee Daniels' The Butler) with its Montecito Award; Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) with its Outstanding Performer of the Year Award; Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street) with its Cinema Vanguard Award; David O. Russell (American Hustle) with its Outstanding Director Award; and Daniel Bruhl (Rush), Adele Exarchopoulos (Blue Is the Warmest Color), Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis), Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station), Brie Larson (Short Term 12), Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) and June Squibb (Nebraska) with its Virtuosos Award. It has already honored Forest Whitaker (Lee Daniels' The Butler) with its Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film at a pre-festival ceremony.

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg