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EXCLUSIVE: Santa Barbara Names Viola Davis Outstanding Performer of the Year

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood November 30, 2011 at 2:11PM

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival will present actress Viola Davis with the Outstanding Performer of the Year Award on Friday, January 27, 2012, at the height of awards season. Oscar-watchers are pitting frontrunner Davis against her veteran "The Doubt" co-star Meryl Streep in this year's Best Actress contest.
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Viola Davis in The Help
Viola Davis in The Help

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival will present actress Viola Davis with the Outstanding Performer of the Year Award on Friday, January 27, 2012, at the height of awards season. Oscar-watchers are pitting frontrunner Davis against her veteran "The Doubt" co-star Meryl Streep in this year's Best Actress contest.

Davis will be honored with a Tribute celebrating her performance as African American housemaid Aibileen Clark in Tate Taylor’s adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's bestselling portrait of portrait of 1960s Mississippi, "The Help" at the 27th edition of the festival, which runs January 26 - February 5, 2012.  "It's hard to imagine another performance this year that pierces your heart the way Viola does as Aibileen," said SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling.

In 2008’s" Doubt," Davis earned her first Oscar nomination (supporting actress) as she held her own as a troubled mother against Streep's powerhouse Mother Superior. Davis has popped in several performances for Steven Soderbergh including "Traffic" and "Solaris," as well as Todd Haynes' "Far From Heaven," Oliver Stone's "World Trade Center" and Denzel Washington's "Antwone Fisher," for which Davis accepted an Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Trained at Julliard, Davis has never abandoned the stage, where she won a featured actress in a play Tony and a Drama Desk Award for her role in "King Hedley II" (2001) and won a leading actress in a play Tony for her role opposite Washington in the 2010 revival of August Wilson's "Fences."

Often unrecognizable in her roles, Davis played a grandmother in 2005’s "Get Rich or Die Trying" and a community activist in "The Architect" (2006). Nobody can knock Davis off the screen: neither Julia Roberts in "Eat Pray Love" nor Tyler Perry in "Madea Goes to Jail." She's constantly in demand, from "State of Play," "Law Abiding Citizen," "Nights in Rodanthe" and "It’s Kind of a Funny Story" to the upcoming "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," starring Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, and "Won’t Back Down," opposite Maggie Gyllenhaal and Holly Hunter (March 2012).

Davis joins an impressive list of previous Santa Barbara Fest Outstanding Performer Award winners, including: James Franco (2011), Colin Firth (2010), Penelope Cruz (2009), Angelina Jolie (2008), Helen Mirren (2007), Heath Ledger (2006), Kate Winslet (2005) and Charlize Theron (2004).

Sponsored by Chumash Casino Resort, Davis's tribute takes place at Santa Barbara's Arlington Theatre on Friday, January 27, 2012, and will be moderated by me.  Tickets are here; festival passes and packages are here.


 

This article is related to: Awards, Awards, Oscars


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.