Leonard Maltin talks about the Santa Barbara International Film Festival – The Hollywood Reporter

Film critic and historian Leonard Maltin and the Santa Barbara International Film Festival – whose 37th edition will take place in person from March 2-12 – are practically synonymous. Maltin has hosted the festival’s tributes to A-listers for decades, prompting SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling to rename the festival’s Modern Master Award after Maltin in 2015. This year’s Maltin Modern Master Award winners year, with whom Maltin will sit on March 10, are Be the Ricardos stars Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem. The duo, like many of this year’s Santa Barbara winners – including Penélope Cruz, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kristen Stewart, Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Ariana DeBose, Troy Kotsur and Lin-Manuel Miranda – are Oscar nominees. Indeed, SBIFF, located less than two hours north of Los Angeles in an area dense with Academy members and always held in the heart of awards season, has become an important stop on the road to the Oscars.

When and how did you start getting involved in the festival?

Phyllis de Picciotto, the festival’s founder, still ran it [between 1985 and 1998]. I remember doing an evening at the Arlington Theater with Kim Novak in 1991. In 1992 they screened Erich von Stroheim the wedding march at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and then did a Q&A with Fay Wray. Then they asked me the year Anthony Hopkins got the Modern Master award [2000]and I’ve been a regular ever since.

What makes SBIFF different from other festivals?

What impresses me the most is that they have a real group of “cinephiles” in town, and not just members of the Academy. My family and I showed up for a documentary screening one weekend morning and the theater was sold out. It shows a willingness to try new and different movies. Having attended many other urban festivals across the country, I know how unusual this is.

Roger Durling is also a force of nature.

Roger is passionate about what he does, and it’s obvious to anyone who spends five minutes with him. He has also been exceptionally generous to my family and me over the years, including naming the Modern Master Award after me. Roger is also an excellent predictor when it comes to the Oscars. We always see each other in Telluride over Labor Day weekend, and by the end of that festival, he already has an idea of ​​who the suitors are – and he’s usually right.

What makes Santa Barbara, the city, special?

The sheer beauty of the city cannot be overstated – they call it the “American Riviera” for a reason.

What are your favorite places to go and things to do during the festival?

The festival’s flagship venue, the Arlington Theater on State Street, is historic and majestic, with the aura of a grand movie palace. And it’s hard to have a bad meal in Santa Barbara. We love the Palace Grill, which offers great New Orleans Cajun cuisine, and another wonderful restaurant next to the Arlington called Opal. And the city also has two very good museums, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and the Santa Barbara Historical Museum.

Can you tell us about this year’s Maltin Modern Master Award party?

I first interviewed Nicole 30 years ago, but this will be my first chance to have a real conversation with Javier. I can not wait.

Interview edited for length and clarity.


Will Smith and Aunjanue Ellis
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images; Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

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