Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp, SBIFF 2016 | Barbara Singer Photo
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The Santa Barbara Film Festival (SBIFF) kicked off this week. The event included tributes to Johnny Depp, “Spotlight’s” Rachel McAdams and cast, Jeff Bridges and more.

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF), now in its 31st year on the California central coast, is helmed by executive director Roger Durling.

The kick-off featured the U.S. premiere of the animated family film “The Little Prince” at the historic Arlington Theatre.

Opening Night, Santa Barbara Film Festival
Opening Night, SBIFF 2016 | Barbara Singer Photo

Director Mark Osbourne has garnered accolades for his creative version of the classic novel, which features flashback sequences. The film screened at Cannes 2015 and has grossed $100 million worldwide.

Santa Barbara Film Festival Features U.S. Premiere of “The Little Prince”

Osbourne noted that “Santa Barbara is ground zero for the U.S. release.” His son, Riley Osbourne, was the voice of The Little Prince. The voice cast also includes Jeff Bridges, Mackenzie Foy and other top actors.

Jeff Bridges
Jeff Bridges and his wife Susan on the red carpet, SBIFF 2016 | Barbara Singer Photo

Jeff Bridges, affectionately know as The Dude, is a Santa Barbara local and was instrumental in getting this film made. He recorded his dialog as The Old Man at his home studio in Montecito.

Bridges, who arrived with his wife Susan, sported a long beard, similar to his character. Mayor Helene Schneider welcomed the sold-out theatre crowd, acknowledging Bridges and Roger Durling.

Following the screening, first-nighters made their way to the ever-popular opening night Gala at Paseo Nuevo.

Jeff Bridges, Mackenzie Foy
Mark Osbourne, Mackenzie Foy and Jeff Bridges, SBIFF 2016 | Barbara Singer Photo

The versatile Johnny Depp is this year’s recipient of the Maltin Modern Master Award. It’s the highest honor at SBIFF. Depp delivered a knock-out performance as mobster Whitey Bulger in “Black Mass.”

Johnny Depp Honored at Santa Barbara Film Festival

Fans were excited to see Depp, who arrived late with his wife, Amber Heard. He is well-known for avoiding interviews and not watching his own film clips of nearly 40 films. He seemed a bit nervous.

But leave it to film critic-writer Leonard Maltin to glide right into the evening and encourage Depp to feel comfortable. The beloved actor recanted stories, jokes and insights into his personality.

Johnny Depp, Santa Barbara Film Festival
Johnny Depp, SBIFF 2016 | Barbara Singer Photo

He talked about his instant connection with Tim Burton, a frequent collaborator on such films as “Edward Scissorhands,” “Ed Wood” and “The Brave.” Depp directed “The Brave,” which starred Marlon Brando, but it was never released in the U.S.

It was a full house and a special evening at The Arlington.

Johnny Depp, Santa Barbara Film Festival
Johnny Depp, SBIFF 2016 | Barbara Singer Photo

Rachel McAdams and “Spotlight” Cast Honored at Santa Barbara Film Festival

“Spotlight,” nominated for an Oscar, is the recipient of the American Riviera Award. This powerful film, centered on Boston’s Catholic churches in 2001, focused on clergymen who abused young boys and the church’s cover-up of the scandal.

Rachel McAdams, Santa Barbara Film Festival
Roger Durling, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, and Tom McCarthy, SBIFF 2016 | Barbara Singer Photo

The Boston Globe’s Spotlight team researched and revealed the scandal. Honorees included Michael Keaton and Oscar-nominated castmates Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo. Unable to attend, Ruffalo taped a speech.

Rachel McAdams, Santa Barbara Film Festival
Rachel McAdams, SBIFF 2016 | Barbara Singer Photo

Keaton received last year’s SBIFF’s Modern Master Award. Rachel McAdams was pleased that Sasha Pfeiffer, the investigative reporter she portrayed, was in the audience. Writer/director Tom McCarthy presented the awards to the actors.

Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, Santa Barbara Film Festival
Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams, SBIFF 2016 | Barbara Singer Photo

The 31st SBIFF featured 52 world premieres, 53 U.S. premieres and films from more than 60 countries. The diverse genres included noir, drama, comedy, SBIFF Screen Cuisine, free family films, international films, documentaries, shorts and more.

Opening Night, Santa Barbara Film Festival
Opening Night, SBIFF 2016 | Barbara Singer Photo

Many of the screenings were followed by Q&As with the filmmakers, who offered insight into the films and characters. Also, students made films during SBIFF in a 10-10-10 Competition.

The much awaited producers and writers panels took place on the weekend. The Centerpiece Film was director Terrence Malick’s “Knight of Cups.” The Broad Green Pictures film stars Christian Bale, Natalie Portman and Cate Blanchett.

Alicia Vikander
Paul Dano, Geza Rohrig, Elizabeth Banks, O’Shea Jackson, Jr. and Alicia Vikander, Santa Barbara Film Festival 2016 | Barbara Singer Photo

The Santa Barbara Film Festival also honored seven actors – “The Virtuosos” – for their breakout performances. Moderator Dave Karger from Fandango has done a great job every year reminding us of these actors. He gave the audience an insight into their personalities.

The Virtuosos for 2015 included:

  • Elizabeth Banks (Brian Wilson’s girlfriend in “Love & Mercy”)
  • Jacob Tremblay (the boy who was born and raised in the “Room”)
  • Paul Dano (the young Brian Wilson in “Love & Mercy”)
  • O’Shea Jackson Jr. (played his father, Ice Cube, in “Straight Outta Compton”)
  • Geza Rohrig (played Saul in the war film “Son of Saul,” nominated for an Oscar in Best Foreign Film category)
  • Joel Edgerton (supporting role in “Black Mass”)
  • Alicia Vikander (“The Danish Girl” and “Ex Machina”)

Jacob Tremblay amazed the audience with wit and wisdom beyond his nine years. He was poised and candid with his thoughts on “Room.”

Jacob Tremblay
Jacob Tremblay, “Room,” SBIFF 2016 | Barbara Singer Photo

Paul Dano felt intimidated to play Brian Wilson until he met the Beach Boys musician. Then he was protective of the character. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Banks loved her role as Melinda, who falls in love with Brian and saves him from the abusive Eugene Landy.

Elizabeth Banks
Elizabeth Banks, SBIFF 2016 | Barbara Singer Photo
Paul Dano
Paul Dano, SBIFF 2016 | Barbara Singer Photo

Joel Edgerton was not present, but in a video, credited his dialogue coach for a perfect Boston accent in “Black Mass.” And O’Shea Jackson Jr. was told by his dad, Ice Cube, that he would portray him. It took him two years to gain the confidence to take on the role.

O'Shea Jackson, Jr.
O’Shea Jackson, Jr., SBIFF 2016 | Barbara Singer Photo

For the latest information on the Santa Barbara Film Festival, click through to


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