The red carpet was thick with paparazzi Friday night when mega stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling arrived at Santa Barbara’s Arlington Theatre.
In front of a sold-out and adoring crowd, the duo were presented the 2017 Outstanding Performers of the Year award by the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) for their remarkable performances in director Damien Chazelle’s La La Land.
During the two-hour-plus tribute, moderated by Executive Director Roger Durling, Stone looked long and lanky in a floor length, strapped black gown, and Gosling went for a conservative look in a dark pin-striped suit with white shirt and tie.
It marks the first time Stone has been honored by the festival, but it’s a return for Gosling, who was the inaugural recipient of the Cinema Vanguard Award in 2008.
The tribute was presented by Belvedere Vodka and UGG is a top festival sponsor, which was acknowledged on stage by SBIFF board president Lynda Weinman.
Gosling and Stone joined a celebrated group of previous Outstanding Performer Award recipients, including 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, Kate Winslet, and Charlize Theron.
Written and directed by Academy Award nominee Damien Chazelle, La La Land, is set in modern day Los Angeles, and relates the story of Mia (Stone), an aspiring actress, and Sebastian (Gosling), a dedicated jazz musician, who are struggling to make ends meet in a city known for crushing hopes and breaking hearts.
When nominations for the 89th Academy Awards were announced earlier this year, La La Land danced away with a bunch. The romantic musical picked up 14 Oscar nominations, tying the record held by All About Eve and Titanic.
Durling said, “La La is about artists who have the ability to move people emotionally. Ryan and Emma’s luminous performances in La La Land remind us of the transformative and magical role of cinema. We are so proud to celebrate them and this incredible film and its nod to the classic love stories and Hollywood musicals with a contemporary twist.”
A native of Canada, Gosling, 36, was a child actor in Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club. His first starring role in a film was a Jewish neo-Nazi in The Believer in 2001.
Gosling said, “I owe it to director Henry Bean. I mean no one saw a guy from the Mickey Mouse Club playing a Nazi. But he gave me a chance, and it got me in the room after that.”
Emma (born Emily) Stone, 28, started acting at an early age in Scottsdale, Arizona, and at 15 years old was appearing in musicals and other theatrical productions.
“I stopped doing musical when I was young, because I thought I couldn’t sing. But I started taking voice lessons, and I was so happy to take on La La Land. We had the luxury of rehearsing for three months prior to filming. We practiced dancing, and Ryan perfected playing jazz piano. He practiced three hours a day for three months.”
The Gosling-Stone duo appeared to have an easy-going relationship, having acted together in three films.
Stone said, “When we auditioned for the movie Crazy Stupid Love, I instantly felt like we were teammates. It was so easy for us to improvise together!”
There were lots of jokes and laughs on stage before the two received the coveted Outstanding Performers of the Year award to a standing ovation.
The Santa Barbara International Film Festival is a non-profit arts and educational organization dedicated to discovering and showcasing the best in independent and international cinema.
Over the past 32 years, SBIFF has become one of the leading film festivals in the United States – attracting 90,000 attendees and offering 11 days of 200 films, tributes and symposiums seeking to engage, enrich, and inspire through film.
SBIFF also provides free programs year round, such as the 10-10-10 Student Filmmaking and Screenwriting Competitions, Mike’s Field Trip to the Movies, National Film Studies Program, AppleBox Family Films, 3rd Weekend and educational seminars. In June 2016 SBIFF acquired the historic Riviera Theatre.
For more information visit www.sbiff.org or phone (805) 963-0023.