EXCLUSIVE: Continuing the acclaim they have been receiving since King Richard debuted at the Telluride Film Festival over Labor Day weekend, Will Smith and Aunjanue Ellis have been named recipients of the 37th annual Santa Barbara Film Festival’s Outstanding Performers of the Year Award. This is the first of several honors to be announced by the festival, which has become a must-stop on the awards circuit with their winners often going on to take the Oscar.
No specific date has yet been announced for the Smith and Ellis evening, but it will take place between March 2-12, 2022, which are SBIFF’s official dates. An onstage conversation about their individual cinematic careers will lead up to the presentation.
“We’re so excited to be able to salute the incomparable Will Smith and the revelatory Aunjanue Ellis with this award. The ‘doubles match’ of their intricate relationship onscreen as Richard and Oracene in King Richard is electrifying and a joy to behold,” SBIFF’s executive director Roger Durling said.
KIng Richard, which Warner Bros will release November 19 in theaters and on HBO Max, is based on the true story that follows the journey of Richard Williams, an undeterred father instrumental in raising two of the most gifted athletes of all time, Venus and Serena Williams, and their triumphs in the world of tennis.
Smith, a two-time Oscar nominee, stars as Richard. Ellis, a recent Emmy nominee for Lovecraft Country, plays Oracene, the girls’ mother. Driven by a clear vision of their future and using unconventional methods, Richard has a plan that will take Venus (played by Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (played by Demi Singleton) from the streets of Compton, CA to the global stage as icons.
SBIFF’s Outstanding Performers of the Year Award recognizes select individuals who have distinguished themselves with exceptional performances in film this past year. Past recipients include Sacha Baron Cohen, Adam Driver, Rami Malek, Margot Robbie and Allison Janney, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, Brie Larson and Saoirse Ronan, Steve Carell, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Lawrence, Viola Davis, James Franco, Colin Firth, Penelope Cruz, Angelina Jolie, Helen Mirren, Heath Ledger, and Kate Winslet and Charlize Theron.
Official events including screenings, filmmaker Q&As, industry panels and celebrity tributes, will be held throughout Santa Barbara for the festival, including at the historic Arlington Theatre. This year’s complete lineup will be announced in February.