The Santa Barbara International Film Festival will present actress Viola Davis with the Outstanding Performer of the Year Award on Friday, January 27, 2012, at the height of awards season. Oscar-watchers are pitting frontrunner Davis against her veteran “The Doubt” co-star Meryl Streep in this year’s Best Actress contest.
Davis will be honored with a Tribute celebrating her performance as African American housemaid Aibileen Clark in Tate Taylor’s adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s bestselling portrait of portrait of 1960s Mississippi, “The Help” at the 27th edition of the festival, which runs January 26 – February 5, 2012. “It’s hard to imagine another performance this year that pierces your heart the way Viola does as Aibileen,” said SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling.
In 2008’s” Doubt,” Davis earned her first Oscar nomination (supporting actress) as she held her own as a troubled mother against Streep’s powerhouse Mother Superior. Davis has popped in several performances for Steven Soderbergh including “Traffic” and “Solaris,” as well as Todd Haynes’ “Far From Heaven,” Oliver Stone’s “World Trade Center” and Denzel Washington’s “Antwone Fisher,” for which Davis accepted an Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Trained at Julliard, Davis has never abandoned the stage, where she won a featured actress in a play Tony and a Drama Desk Award for her role in “King Hedley II” (2001) and won a leading actress in a play Tony for her role opposite Washington in the 2010 revival of August Wilson’s “Fences.”
Often unrecognizable in her roles, Davis played a grandmother in 2005’s “Get Rich or Die Trying” and a community activist in “The Architect” (2006). Nobody can knock Davis off the screen: neither Julia Roberts in “Eat Pray Love” nor Tyler Perry in “Madea Goes to Jail.” She’s constantly in demand, from “State of Play,” “Law Abiding Citizen,” “Nights in Rodanthe” and “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” to the upcoming “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” starring Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, and “Won’t Back Down,” opposite Maggie Gyllenhaal and Holly Hunter (March 2012).
Davis joins an impressive list of previous Santa Barbara Fest Outstanding Performer Award winners, including: James Franco (2011), Colin Firth (2010), Penelope Cruz (2009), Angelina Jolie (2008), Helen Mirren (2007), Heath Ledger (2006), Kate Winslet (2005) and Charlize Theron (2004).
Sponsored by Chumash Casino Resort, Davis’s tribute takes place at Santa Barbara’s Arlington Theatre on Friday, January 27, 2012, and will be moderated by me. Tickets are here; festival passes and packages are here.