Santa Barbara Film Fest: 'Butler' Star Forest Whitaker to Receive Kirk Douglas Award

The 52-year-old is a serious contender for this year's best actor Oscar, a prize he previously won seven years ago for his performance in "The Last King of Scotland."
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Forest Whitaker

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival announced on Friday that it will honor Forest Whitaker with its eighth annual Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film. The honor will be presented to the Oscar-winning actor on Dec. 15 at a black-tie gala dinner at the Bacara Resort & Spa in Santa Barbara.

"Forest Whitaker is an exceptional man and actor," says Douglas, who will turn 97 a week before the event. "His commitment to human causes, his passion for what is right, and his dedication to his craft are inspirational and at my age, inspiration is rare."

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The previous seven recipients of the honor were Douglas himself, Harrison Ford, Quentin Tarantino, John Travolta, Ed Harris, Douglas' son Michael Douglas and, last year, Robert De Niro.

Whitaker, 52, is a serious contender for a best actor Oscar nomination this year for his widely acclaimed portrayal of a White House butler in Lee Daniels' The Butler. He won the prize seven years ago for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland (2006), becoming just the fourth black man ever awarded that prize. His earlier credits include Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), The Color of Money (1986), Platoon (1986), Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), Bird (1988), The Crying Game (1992) and Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999).

This year, he also produced the film Fruitvale Station and will appear in Scott Cooper's drama Out of the Furnace (in which he stars opposite Christian Bale) and next year he will be seen in Kasi Lemmons' musical Black Nativity (in which he sings with Jennifer Hudson).

December will be a busy month for Whitaker: The Gotham Independent Film Awards will also be honoring him with a career tribute at their ceremony on Dec. 2.

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg