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Quendrith Johnson


Quendrith Johnson is filmfestivals.com Los Angeles correspondant covering everything happening in film in Hollywood... Well, the most interesting things, anyway.
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Adam Driver: On Being Alive & Other MARRIAGE STORY Insights at SBIFF

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

When Adam Driver received the Outstanding Performers of the Year Award, presented by Belvedere Vodka, last night at the 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF), there was a little bit of actor family drama as preamble. MARRIAGE STORY co-star Scarlett Johansson was also set to appear, but was said to miss the event due to illness.

 

SANTA BARBARA, CA - Jan. 17: Adam Driver (Photo by Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for SBIFF)

The interplay between these two actors, who play divorcing couple Nicole and Charlie, continues offstage apparently.

SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 17: Adam Driver speaks onstage at the Outstanding Performers Of The Year Award Honoring Scarlett Johansson And Adam Driver Presented by Belvedere Vodka during the 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at Arlington Theatreon January 17, 2020 in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for SBIFF)

Going solo, you could hear the appreciation for his work in MARRIAGE STORY from the audience.  In other words, Driver walked into a standing ovation, and he wasted no time diving into his craft.

“Acting to me is many things. You know, it’s a craft. It’s a political act. Unfortunately, it’s a business, and it’s a service. I think that acting is a service industry. I’m there in service of the director, the actors and the crew, and the story overall, which is more important. I very much believe in that. I believe in the potential effect of great collaboration. I think movies and films and art can lead people out of the dark.”

Noah Baumbach’s MARRIAGE STORY is heavily tipped for multiple Oscar wins this Award Season, but it is also destined to become a classic cinema exploration of complex family relationships. Among the final scenes in this film, Driver delivers almost a ballad that encapsulates this gut-wrenching theme. The tune he sings is called “Being Alive” from the legend Stephen Sondheim.

SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 17: Adam Driver speaks onstage at the Outstanding Performers Of The Year Award Honoring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver Presented by Belvedere Vodka during the 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at Arlington Theatreon January 17, 2020 in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for SBIFF) 

(Photo by Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for SBIFF)

”We were supported by a very clear backbone of what we were doing,” Driver explained. “It was very carefully choreographed,” by director Noah Baumbach, also the screenwriter.

“It was on our first day of working together we clicked right away. His scripts are very to the letter, and feel very much like theatre to me, which I found immediately comforting. I like that [Noah] just sets different boundaries than other directors. The lines are the lines. Don’t change them. And how you interpret them is up for grabs.”

“We worked on it very similar to a play,” the STAR WARS actor said, “because it was so well-written, blocking came really fast… When we were shooting it, it didn’t feel very dissimilar to what it’s like when you shoot a love scene with everyone naked. Our boom operator is holding the mic, but he’s kind of looking away. There’s such focus given to what we’re doing, and there’s not a lot of conversation in between...there’s two people trying to be as naked as possible.”

 

 

SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling, known for his charismatic flair and yearly pinpoint Oscar picks at the film festival, handed out the award with this comment: “Adam Driver, in my humble opinion, your acting as Charlie is the best performance by a male in 2019 by far. You bare your soul in this film. You do not rely on makeup. You don’t rely on wardrobe, nor dramatic weight changes. Instead, you wear your emotions on your skin and dig deep.”

SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 17: SBIFF Director Roger Durling speaks onstage at the Outstanding Performers Of The Year Award Honoring Scarlett Johansson And Adam Driver Presented by Belvedere Vodka during the 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at Arlington Theatreon January 17, 2020 in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for SBIFF)

SBIFF Director Roger Durling (Photo by Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for SBIFF)

Next, the former Marine turned actor was invited by IndieWire’s Anne Thompson for an in-depth interview. Thompson asked him about his military career, as a foundation for acting. Driver is the founder of an arts non-profit, Arts in the Armed Forces https://aitaf.org/, that seeks audience with service members as a way of giving back to those in uniform. “It’s the best acting training,” this year’s SBIFF honoree shared. “The structure is exactly the same. I mean, the end result is much different, and in one you’re pretending the stakes are life and death, in the other they actually are.”

SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 17: Adam Driver (R) and Anne Thompson attend the Outstanding Performers Of The Year Award Honoring Scarlett Johansson And Adam Driver Presented by Belvedere Vodka during the 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at Arlington Theatreon January 17, 2020 in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for SBIFF)

Adam Driver (R) and IndieWire's Anne Thompson (Photo by Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for SBIFF)

SBIFF presents The Outstanding Performers of the Year Award to recognize those creative artists who have made a mark in film. Past recipients include 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, Kate Winslet and Charlize Theron.

 History of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts and educational organization. Over the past 34 years, SBIFF has become one of the leading film festivals in the United States – attracting 95,000 attendees and offering 11 days of 200+ films, tributes and panels, fulfilling their mission to engage, enrich, and inspire people through the power of film. We celebrate the art of cinema and provide impactful educational experiences for our local, national and global communities. SBIFF continues its commitment to education and the community throughout many free educational programs and events. In June 2016, SBIFF entered a new era with the acquisition of the historic and beloved Riviera Theatre. After a capital campaign and renovation, the theatre is now SBIFF’s new state-of-the-art, year-round home, showing new international and independent films every day. In May 2019, SBIFF opened its own Education Center in downtown Santa Barbara on State Street to serve as a home for its many educational programs and a place for creativity and learning.

The 35th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival runs from January 15-25, 2020. For more information, and to purchase tickets, festival passes and packages, please visit www.sbiff.org

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