SBIFF: A star quartet: Despite cancellations, SBIFF’s Virtuosos celebrates 2013’s breakout roles

Tuesday night’s Virtuosos awards at the Arlington Theatre celebrated seven of the breakout roles in this past year of films.

Fans of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s Virtuosos evening, which honors several actors for one particular role instead of one actor for a career, have noticed the increasing number of honorees. In 2011 there were five actors, in 2013 six, and now seven.

But as attendees to the event on Tuesday soon found out, when the evening got underway with moderator Dave Karger from Fandango.com, three of the seven had canceled: Oscar Isaac for “Inside Llewyn Davis,” Daniel Brühl for “Rush,” and Adéle Exarchopoulos for “Blue Is The Warmest Color.”

A statement released by Carol Marshall Public Relations said the three “all got new film jobs since securing them for our Virtuosos Awards. Great opportunities for them, but sad for us that they were not able to be with us to celebrate their achievements this year.”

A blow for the SBIFF, yes, but did it matter to the audience inside? Judging from the ratio of disappointed sounds to the squealing at the mention of Jared Leto’s name, maybe not.

The actor, who has been nominated for an Oscar for his role in “Dallas Buyers Club,” was in attendance, signing autographs outside and chatting with fans before the show, then rushing past the press to get into the Arlington.

Also in attendance, the actor Michael B. Jordan, who stars in “Fruitvale Station”; June Squibb, who is up for an Oscar for her supporting role in Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska”; and Brie Larson for her starring role in “Short Term 12.”

Ms. Larson, who gave a quirky interview on stage, was easygoing on the red carpet. The actress who says she’s looking for “the meaty stuff” to play, has had a good year acting in independent films like “Don Juan” and “The Spectacular Now,” as well as her role as a teacher for at-risk youth in “Short Term 12.”

“It’s nice to be recognized,” Ms. Larson agreed.

“‘Short Term’ was very indie,” she recalled. “A very small budget. Just chips (to eat). You couldn’t go over 12 hours.

“It’s not necessarily my favorite way (to act), but with something like ‘Short Term 12,’ you know it’s pared down, there’s no money for us, so you do it because you care about it. And you love it. … It’s also good to be compensated for your work if that’s also possible!”

June Squibb, at 84, is one of the most experienced stars here, with a resume that goes back to Broadway and working alongside Ethel Merman in the original production of “Gypsy,” playing one of the other strippers.

That led to Bruce Dern telling people on the set of “Nebraska” that she had once been a pole dancer, she laughed.

“I really want to enjoy all this,” she said, indicating the crowds and, by extension, award season. “Since it’s all rather new to me, I want to be here, and I really want to see all of this through.”

Michael B. Jordan had recently been to Santa Barbara for SBIFF’s Forest Whitaker tribute, and he’s known for being a tireless promoter of “Fruitvale Station.”

When he sat down for his interview, he first made sure to find his mother in the audience and offer her a wave.

“It was cool to show all sides of the character,” said Mr. Jordan of his lead role as the real-life Oscar Grant, the young man gunned down by BART police in San Francisco in 2009, a killing that inspired outrage in the community.

“To be able to show the range, show all those different layers of a person. You don’t get that chance that often. It was a challenge to step up to.”

Mr. Jordan said they filmed at the actual station where Mr. Grant was killed and that the bullet holes are still there.

It made the filming even more emotional, Mr. Jordan said, and he noted that to this day, commuters don’t stand on that spot out of respect and awareness.

The night had a brief moment of controversy when Mr. Leto was heckled about playing a transgender woman in “Dallas Buyers Club.”

However, the star handled it professionally and later dedicated his award to Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died this past weekend.

There was also a brief moment of scene-stealing. During Mr. Karger’s introduction to the evening, Winston, the Arlington’s house dog, made a break for it and wandered onto the stage.

The SBIFF continues today with more films and tonight’s sold out award ceremony for Oprah Winfrey.

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