Update: Day 5 Highlights from the Santa Barbara Film Festival

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Glenn Close receives Modern Maltin Masters Award, Melissa McCarthy receives Montecito Award, and the women of Hollywood speak out

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (February 4, 2019) – The 34th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) kicked off the fifth day of the festival with the Womens’ Panel moderated by Madelyn Hammond, followed by honoring Oscar Nominee Glenn Close for The Wife with the Maltin Modern Master Award and Melissa McCarthy with the Montecito Award for Can You Ever Forgive Me? The women came out in full force on Sunday.

34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival - Maltin Modern Master Award Honoring Glenn Close
Glenn Close speaks onstage at the Maltin Modern Master Award Honoring Glenn Close during the 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at Arlington Theatre on February 2, 2019 in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for SBIFF)

Hammond, producer of Deadline’s Contenders events, moderated the phenomenal Women’s Panel which consisted of nine Oscar nominated females including Louise Bagnall, writer-director of the animated short Late Afternoon; Hannah Beachler, production designer for Black Panther; Nina Hartstone, sound editor on Bohemian Rhapsody; Ai-Ling Lee, a double nominee for Sound Editing and Sound Mixing on First Man; Domee Shi, director of Pixar’s animated short Bao; Marina de Tavira, Best Supporting Actress for Roma; Lynette Howell Taylor, Producer of Best Picture nominee A Star Is Born; Betsy West, director of the Feature Documentary RBG; and Rayka Zehtabchi, recent USC graduate and among Oscar’s youngest nominees as Director for the documentary short Period. End of Sentence.

34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival - Women's Panel
Pictured left to right; Madelyn Hammond, Louise Bagnall, Hannah Beachler, Nina Hartstone, Lynette Howell, Ai-Ling Lee, Domee Shi, Marina de Tavira, Betsy West amd Rayka Zehtabchi speak onstage at the Women’s Panel during the 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at Lobero Theatre on February 3, 2019 in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for SBIFF)


From a 500 page bible Hannah Beachler built to create the Wakanda civilization, a high school project turned short documentary by Rayka Zehtabchi and resounding applause for Betsy West when discussing RBG, the women of hollywood brought laughs and serious insight to an awestruck crowd.  Gender disparity and female discrimination was a hot topic in which all the women noted the need for expanding the landscape of females in the industry and Lynette Howell-Taylor and West continuing to discuss the importance of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative.


34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival - Maltin Modern Master Award Honoring Glenn Close
Leonard Maltin, left, and Glenn Close speak onstage at the Maltin Modern Master Award Honoring Glenn Close during the 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at Arlington Theatre on February 2, 2019 in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for SBIFF)

After yesterday’s postponement due to weather conditions, SBIFF was finally able to welcome The Wife actress Glenn Close for a special tribute and award presentation. Film critic Leonard Maltin led a career retrospective discussion with Close and at its conclusion she was presented with the Maltin Modern Master Award.

Highlights from the conversation with Close include:

  • Maltin described Close as “one of the greatest actresses on the planet” and also said “I don’t think there is any facet of show business that she hasn’t attempted and succeeded at.”
  • Close was greeted with an enthusiastic and lengthy standing ovation when she came onstage at the beginning of the program.
  • About 12-13 minutes into the interview, Close’s dog Pip ran on-stage to join her. When Pip showed up, Maltin remarked, “You’re about to be upstaged.” The audience was very amused and there were a lot of “ooohs,” “awws,” and applause. CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE CLIP.
  • Close on The Wife:
    • The film almost didn’t get made – it took the producers 14 years to get the money together and Close was attached for 5 years.
    • Novel was written by Meg Wolitzer and Jane Anderson adapted it into a screenplay.
    • When she received the script she thought it was interesting and unlike other things that she’s done before so she said that they could put her name on the project and see how that could help.
    • She met with Bjorn Runge (accomplished Swedish director who had not yet made an English language film) and “there was something about him that I really really liked.”
    • They had to wait to wait another year because Bjorn got sick and they decided to wait for him rather than attach a new director.
    • “I think of him as a total collaborator in my performance because he trusted the close-up, he knew where to put the camera, and he knew how to light our faces. My performance ‘The Wife,’ a lot of it is just in close-up, and without his wonderful instinct about that I don’t think it would have had the impact that it has.”
    • She had never worked with Jonathan Pryce before this film.
    • The film was made in the late fall of 2016, before the #MetToo movement, premiered at TIFF, Sony bought it and then decided to hold a year before releasing it.
  • Close on “Fatal Attraction”:
    • She did more research for this role than any other character she has ever played.
    • She read the script in one sitting and she auditioned for the part.
    • When she got the part she took the script to two psychiatrists because she wanted to know if the behavior of the character was possible and what would cause it.
    • She has a foundation that combats the stigma around mental illness and when she mentioned it during the conversation, the audience responded with applause.
    • “I ended up with great compassion and empathy for that character.”
    • The background that was created for the character was that she was incested by her father over many years and Close studied what that meant in order to prepare for the role.
    • People were so upset by the original ending (where Close’s character kills herself and Michael Douglas’ character goes to jail because his fingerprints are on the knife) that the studio decided to re-shoot it, much to Close’s dismay.
    • She fought against the re-shoot for two weeks and recounted how she expressed her frustration to director Adrian Lyne, producer Stanley Jaffe, and co-star Douglas — “What if they did it to your character? What if they did it to you? What would you say? What would you say?” Douglas, she recalls, responded by saying “Babe, I’m a whore.” This anecdote garnered a hearty laugh.
    • She also called William Hurt for advice because she felt like she was betraying the character by making “her into somebody that would kill somebody.” He told her that she put up the fight but if the studio isn’t budging then “you owe it to the company and to the director and to your fellow actors to go ahead with it.”
    • Looking back Close said she realizes the studio was right because, “After such a disturbing film, the audience needed catharsis.”
    • “It’s a very American ending.”
  • Close on costumes:
    • “I consider the costume designer of anything I’m doing a full collaborator – as important as the director.”
    • “It really helps me to put together the character together in my mind.”
    • She has kept her costumes since “The World According to Garp,” and the living collection / archive is housed in a facility at Indiana University for students. The collection also includes some of her red carpet looks.
  • Close on “Reversal of Fortune”:
    • It was one of the best script she ever read.
    • “Everything for me begins with what I read on the page.”
    • “It was so clever and so original to have someone in a coma narrate a film.”
    • As she prepared for the part, Close was unable to speak with anyone who actually knew Sunny Von Bülow.
    • “I think the script, as brilliant as it is, was written very much from a man’s point-of-view and you don’t really get under the skin of Sunny. It’s more reacting to her behavior. I always wondered if I was able to talk to people that knew her, how that would change my performance.”
    • Close also recounted a hilarious anecdote about how after the film opened, she walked into the Ivory Restaurant in London one day and heard a voice say, “I was Jeremy Irons’ understudy.” And it turned out that the voice belonged to Klaus Von Bülow. Upon hearing this story, Maltin remarked, “That’s a tough one to top.”
  • Close on what she wants from a director:
    • She said she wants a director to provide her with “the assurance and atmosphere…to try things that might be different.”
    • “It’s kind of fascinating that a lot of directors don’t really get what actors do and feel that the only way to direct them is to manipulate them.” She doesn’t like directors like that and doesn’t think that great directors do that.
    • “Albert Nobbs” director Rodrigo Garcia admitted to Close that he was afraid of rehearsal because he had never had them before. “He said a lot of directors are afraid of rehearsal because they think they’ll see the actor do exactly what he wants and then they’ll never be able to do it again.”
  • Close on Cruella de Vil:
    • She loved fairy tales and the Disney witches.
    • She said that Cruella is a “classic witch.”
    • “I was thrilled because I thought, that puts me in a great tradition.”
    • “I worked very hard — it was a John Hughes script — and I felt very strongly that she wasn’t mean enough. That they were trying to water her down.”
    • In the original cartoon, Cruella was mean so Close got permission to pull lines from the cartoon when she constructed the character for the live action version.
  • Close on “Damages”:
    • In asking her about “Damages,” Maltin noted that the show came before A-list movie actors would do television as regularly as they do now.
    • Before “Damages” she had done a season on the FX show “The Shield” and it was great.
    • Close insisted that she has always believed in television because her second onscreen credit was a television movie called “Something About Amelia.” The film dealt with the issue of incest and she filmed it right after “The World According to Garp.” When her agent told her that the TV movie would ruin her film career, Close remarked, “Well the English do it, why can’t we?”
  • Close on “Albert Nobbs”:
    • She spent 20 years with the role – first performed it off-Broadway at the Manhattan Theatre Club.
    • She learned mime for the role.
    • “The character just stayed with me.”
    • It took 14 years to bring the film together.
    • Because so much time passed between originating the role on the stage and the start of production on the film, Close had to make sure that she was still right to take on the role because she said, “At this point I was afraid that my face would get in the way.” She thought to herself, “How can I play this character if all they can see is Glenn Close?”
    • She went to special effects makeup artist Matthew Mungle for a solution.
    • “The fact that so much time had gone, I think made the ultimate Albert so much deeper and richer and heartbreaking.”
    • Close thinks that not enough people saw the film because it was released at the wrong time of year.
  • Close on producing:
    • “Sarah, Plain and Tall” was the first thing that she produced.
    • “A lot of it is to create roles for myself. It sounds selfish, but if you’re not getting them then go and create them.”
    • “You should never sit around and wait for the phone to ring. You should be out there with your iPhone, with whatever it is, creating stuff that is your voice.

SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling asked Close to accept the award in honor of his father, who was a huge fan and took Roger to see her performances on the stage in New York ever since the 1970s.

Close was very moved when she accepted the award. “I am very, very blessed to be able to do the thing that I love most in the world,” she told the audience afterwards. “I’m standing up here representing all the people that have been my collaborators all these years. I would not be here without them. I am deeply, deeply grateful to you, who have gone to see my work and are here today. It means a tremendous amount to me. And I am so touched to have this award with Leonard’s name on it — a man who has given so much to our industry, who is one of the greats.”

For a few brief moments during her speech, Pip once again managed to steal the spotlight when he decided to roll around on the ground in front of the podium (much to everyone’s amusement).

34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival - Montecito Award honoring Melissa McCarthy
Melissa McCarthy, left, and Anne Thompson speak onstage at the Montecito Award honoring Melissa McCarthy during the 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at Arlington Theatre on February 3, 2019 in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for SBIFF)

Later that evening, a sold out and lively crowd greeted Can You Ever Forgive Me?’s Melissa McCarthy as she entered the stage to receive the Montecito Award. McCarthy sat in conversation with IndieWire Editor at Large, Anne Thompson, to discuss her beginnings on stage, what she learned from her time at Groundlings, and her future behind the camera.

Some highlights from the evening included:

  • When discussing her early days on comedy stages McCarthy discussed how she “never walked into a room where a guy didn’t tell me, ‘Take your shirt off!’ and they are just yelling. They would keep yelling until you have to embarrass them but then you spend four of your five minutes eviscerating them.”
  • Before hitting it big, McCarthy recounts how she worked as a nanny and a waitress in both New York and Los Angeles.
  • On her early work:
    • “What happened to my voice” McCarthy exclaimed after a series of clips played on the screen from Go, Charlie’s Angels, and The Nines. “My voice was so high. It’s like I’ve been smokin Paul Malls all these years.”
    • McCarthy credited friend Jennifer Cooling for making a call to a casting agent to get her seen for her first gig for which she ended up getting the part, and an agent following.
  • On Gilmore Girls:
    • Reminiscing on how “Sookie” was originally to be played by Alex Borstein who was contractually obligated to MadTV at the time, McCarthy is still in awe that her first job lasted for seven years.
    • “I really loved doing that show. It was such a great group of people. I felt really lucky to be a part of something like that.”
  • On Bridesmaids and working with Kristen Wiig:
    • When reading for the part with Kristen for Judd Apatow and Paul Feig, “Kristen and I were improvising so much in the room and Paul and Judd were in awe. At some point I started talking about dolphin play.” The crowd erupted in laughter.
    • “Everyday of that movie was heaven.”
    • Thompson and McCarthy dove deep into one of the most memorable scenes from that film
      • I don’t think we knew what we were doing while it was happening. It was like oatmeal with like some ketchup in it and somebody was like, ‘does this vomit look ok?’ And I have this picture of Paul like pouring it on me and I was like ‘we are being professional.’”
      • “None of us wanted it to be the gross out scene but we all started talking about how embarrassing it would be while you are trying to maintain your dignity and everyone’s body is disintegrating in front of you. It became about us bonding in the weirdest possible way.”
  • On The Hangover:
    • When speaking on her scene in the pawn shop with Bradley Cooper, “I thought I wonder if anyone has ever just shunned him off like this. I thought, this is probably good for him.”
    • Working with Zack Galifianakis: “That’s kind of like Zack. It just kinda happened. It wasn’t written as being that cruel to the woman that was playing my mother. Once the gloves are off and everyone is ready to go for it, if you go too far your director will protect you and not use it but every now and then you go hard and it works.”
  • On producing and directing:
    • “I like the building of a project from the beginning up as much as I like being in front of the camera.”
    • “You have to really fight for good material. I kept saying why is every part such a bummer. Can I just have a point of view? Can I be more than bland? I don’t know how to play pleasant.”
    • “I like the person that you see walking through the grocery store and you’re like ‘well today is purple huh.’ You’re on your own beat. Those are the characters I fall in love with.”
    • “I am ready to direct. I did some Mike and Molly’s and I did a short for the Oscars and I loved it. I would like to not be in it. I just want to be there and concentrate on the people in it.”
34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival - Montecito Award honoring Melissa McCarthy
Melissa McCarthy, left, and Richard E. Grant speak onstage at the Montecito Award honoring Melissa McCarthy during the 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at Arlington Theatre on February 3, 2019 in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for SBIFF)

McCarthy’s Can You Ever Forgive Me? co-star Richard E. Grant presented the award and began his presentation with a google translation of the meaning of McCarthy, loving. “I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t have loving words to say about her.” McCarthy accepted her award giving thanks to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival for “shining a light on these types of movies.”

sbiff poster

(Source: Press release from sbiff.org)

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