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Brad Pitt Gets Santa Barbara International Film Festival Maltin Modern Master Award

Release Date: January 22,2020

Actor Brad Pitt in front of the marquee at the Arlington Theater.
Actor Brad Pitt in front of the marquee at the Arlington Theater. (Fritz Olenberger photo)

By Brooke Holland, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @NoozhawkNews | January 22, 2020 | 11:32 p.m.

Actor Brad Pitt accepted the Maltin Modern Master Award at the 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at the Arlington Theatre downtown on Wednesday night.

The 56-year-old Pitt has longstanding contributions to the film industry, including his recent silver screen credits in Quentin Tarantino’s latest film “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood” and his portrayal of an astronaut on a top-secret mission to find his father in “Ad Astra.”

“You guys don’t know this, but I hang out here a lot,” Pitt said to the sold-out crowd of more than 2,000 people. “I have been in Goleta since 1999. This is home.”

The standing-room-only group went wild.

During his acceptance speech, Pitt said he felt grateful and fortunate to work with “all of the amazing people that have taught me so much,” and he thanked film lovers.

"It's things like this and nights like these that tell me that I'm old—I've been around a while and I've been doing this for a bit," he said, later adding, “It’s also nights like this where I get to look back and feel blessed.”

Established in 1995, the Modern Master Award is SBIFF’s highest accolade. 

Previous recipients include Glenn Close, Denzel Washington, Michael Keaton, Bruce Dern, Ben Affleck, Christopher Plummer, Christopher Nolan, James Cameron, Clint Eastwood, Cate Blanchett, Will Smith, George Clooney and Peter Jackson.

The award acknowledges a person who has enriched the culture through accomplishments in the motion picture industry. It was re-named the Maltin Modern Master Award in 2015 in honor of Leonard Maltin, a longtime SBIFF moderator and renowned film critic.

Actor Brad Pitt receives the Maltin Modern Master Award.Click to view larger
Actor Brad Pitt receives the Maltin Modern Master Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival Wednesday night. (Mike Eliason / Noozhawk photo)

Maltin interviewed Pitt at the event.

“He makes what he does look easy,” Maltin said, later adding, “He takes acting seriously."

This year’s award season leading to SBIFF and the Oscars has been busy for Pitt.

For his performance in “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood,” he won the award for best supporting actor at the 26th Screen Actors Guild Awards and he picked up his second Golden Globe of his career at the 77th Golden Globe Awards.

Pitt scored a 2020 Oscar nomination in the best supporting actor category for “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood.”

Fans greet actor Brad Pitt in front of Santa Barbara’s Arlington Theatre.Click to view larger
Fans greet actor Brad Pitt in front of Santa Barbara’s Arlington Theatre. (Mike Eliason / Noozhawk photo)

In the film, Pitt plays a fictional stuntman, Cliff Booth, and loyal friend of fading television series star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio).

Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood” portrays Los Angeles in 1969, and life is changing in the film industry during the final years of Hollywood's golden age. Actor Dalton (DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double (Pitt) make their way around an industry they hardly recognize. The film takes place in Manson-era Hollywood.

The ninth film from writer-director Tarantino features a star-studded cast, including actress Margot Robbie, plus a twist ending and multiple storylines.

“He’s a joy to be around,” Pitt said of Tarantino. “The film world would be boring without him. I think we need him.”

In James Gray’s “Ad Astra,” a mysterious life-threatening event strikes Earth and astronaut Roy McBride (Pitt) goes on a dangerous mission across an unforgiving solar system to uncover the truth about his missing father (Tommy Lee Jones) and his doomed expedition that threatens the world decades later.

The recognizable movie star arrived at the Arlington Theatre by 7:15 p.m.

Brad Pitt answers questions at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival Wednesday night.Click to view larger
Brad Pitt answers questions at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival Wednesday night. (Fritz Olenberger photo)

A black-colored SUV rolled up in front of the venue, and Pitt was greeted by a jubilant, cheering crowd of fans.

He walked out and greeted the fangirls and fanboys—all holding posters and prints of Pitt.

People gathered near the entrance and lined barricades on State Street. 

The Hollywood heartthrob signed autographs and took selfies with some of the fans, and they called out to him by name.

“Brad, I flew from Japan,” shouted a man standing near the Engel & Völkers office.

After a few minutes, the blue-eyed, sandy blond-haired actor walked the red carpet and posed for photographs.

The night kicked off with film clips showcasing Pitt’s work and he participated in a question-and-answer session that lasted more than an hour. 

Pitt is one of the finest and most recognizable actors of his generation.

“The one thing that has always struck me, and I have admired about Brad Pitt is ‘yes’ he’s super good looking and he’s a great actor,” Film Festival Executive Director Roger Durling said. “But, he also is a producer.”

Pitt was born in Shawnee, Okla., and raised in Springfield, Mo. The superstar and film producer studied journalism at the University of Missouri.

The idea of investigative journalism appealed to Pitt and he loved the film “All the President's Men.”

Weeks before his graduation, with only one paper to write, Pitt gave in to his love of films and left his degree to pursue films. The movie buff went to Los Angeles in the late-1980s.

“I always had a love for film, and it just wasn’t an option in Southern Missouri,” Pitt said, later adding, “I grew up on 1970s films… It left a mark on a lot of us.”

His acting career began in 1987, and he held jobs as a background actor, better known as extras, to support himself.

“There wasn’t an avenue for film in Southern Missouri,” Pitt said. “It just occurred to me that I could go to it.” 

A young Pitt first gained star power as a cowboy hitchhiker in 1991’s “Thelma & Louise.” He had a small, but memorable role in the film.

“They took a chance on me,” Pitt said. 

His first significant roles in big-budget productions were in Robert Redford's 1992 film “A River Runs Through It” and 1994’s “Legends of the Fall” and the horror film “Interview with the Vampire” in 1994, plus “Seven” in 1995.

He appeared on movie screens in 1993’s "True Romance” and the 1999 movie “Fight Club.”

Other notable credits include 2001’s “Ocean's Eleven,” as well as “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” in 2005, 2007’s “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” and 2008’s “Burn After Reading.”

“It was fun playing a goofball,” he said of the gym employee character in “Burn After Reading.”

Moviegoers saw Pitt in 2011’s “Moneyball” and 2013’s “World War Z,” and Tarantino’s World War II film “Inglourious Basterds.”

Pitt winked at the crowd while talking about  2004’s “Troy." When asked about filming on sets built at multiple locations, he said he worked, “In a skirt—leather.”

The audience erupted with laughter at the remark.

He starred in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” which earned 13 Academy Award nominations in 2009.

Pitt has been making paramount contributions to cinema behind the camera as a film producer. 

In 2002, he co-founded the production company Plan B Entertainment.

The successful film-producer has several award-winning films like “12 Years a Slave,” a big winner at the Academy Awards in 2014.

The gathering finished with an award presentation by David Fincher to commend Pitt’s great film achievements. 

Fincher worked with Pitt in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Fight Club," and "Seven."

“He form fits his characters to the overall narrative, and he shows up for more than the big beats,” Fincher said. 

Wednesday’s prestigious award was presented by the Manitou Fund

Presenting sponsor of the 2020 film festival is UGG.

The annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival continues through Saturday. Click here for more information.

— Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk@NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.