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Quendrith Johnson

Quendrith Johnson is Los Angeles correspondant covering everything happening in film in Hollywood... Well, the most interesting things, anyway.
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Laura Dern Follows Big SAG Win with Glittery Cinema Vanguard at SBIFF

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

SANTA BARBARA,CA (1/22/2020): It was the kind of Dream Weekend most actors will never experience; after SAG Awards on Friday night, by Tuesday, Laura Dern was picking up a glitzy tribute prize in Santa Barbara for life achievement. 

LauraDernSAG2020And there’s something so very ‘Laura Dern’ in the way Laura Dern parses her acceptance speech sentences, as distinctive as her onscreen persona. This master-stroke in delivering lines was in play last night when she received the Cinema Vanguard Award on Day 7 of the 35th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) presented by UGG. This accolade follows Award Season momentum and Dern’s SAG win for Best Supporting Actress, also for Noah Baumbach’s Oscar-nominated film MARRIAGE STORY, but this one includes her long run of excellent work in the industry.

Reflecting back, the child actor turned Hollywood veteran said, “I’m having so much damn fun, it’s amazing. And it wasn’t so fun as a teenager. I think I was caught up in the angst of it all. And trying to chase this idea of being an artist instead of realizing the privilege of doing what you love and the privilege of telling stories, and working with amazing storytellers.To not feel that it was overstated or arrogant to talk about the potential of the healing through art."

"For us that make art, for those that witness art - we have a very broken home and we’re all trying to figure it out. To have fierce and radical storytellers in film and television and documentaries is the work. We’re so blessed. So to have anything to do with that just radical good fortune.”

Pete Hammond, Deadline’s Awards Editor and Chief Film Critic, played host and interviewer while Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos presented Dern with the gong.

Sarandos spoke from the heart in his presentation, saying, “I had the privilege of being close to Marriage Story from the very beginning. I, like Laura, cried from the very beginning, I knew that this role was written for her, and that she brought that character to life like nobody else in the world could.”

Daughter of Legends Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd (CHINATOWN), the one-time Miss Golden Globe shared that working on Baumbach’s film “was an incredible gift just to witness the movie. I read the script and cried for 20 minutes. I’ve seen the movie five times - I cry every time. I often forget my involvement in it because I find it so deeply personal.” As with the changes in her remarkable career, this year working with Baumbach and his spouse Greta Gerwig in LITTLE WOMEN, Dern’s TV turn in “Big Little Lies” from HBO also received raves. This is one actress who helped update the HFPA honorary role of Miss Golden Globe to Golden Globe Ambassador as of 2017.


Part of the heart of Hollywood Royalty, Laura Dern has always forged her own way in a tough business. She recalled braving TV with her “Ellen Show” appearance; “It spoke to a moment. We have this opportunity to talk about what matters, and I think Citizen Ruth gave birth to that longing in me, why I fell in love with movies, and had that opportunity… and be a part of something profoundly historic. We all had a life-changing experience being a part of that episode in terms of backlash and how radically different we hoped the world looked then.”

In closing, the STAR WARS cameo cast member said, “I’ll never forget walking on the set and [the director] saying ‘action,’ and looking up to say my lines - all of which I expected - but then R2D2 and C-3PO are standing in front of me and it’s crazy. I never need to take a hallucinogenic, I did a Star Wars film.”

“I’ve watched artists just fight-fight-fight to get their stories told and made, and [Ted’s Netflix development team is] just waiting with open arms to make sure artists get the stories told.”

A double Academy Award® nominee, Emmy and Golden Globe winner, Laura Dern is currently starring in two of the most-acclaimed films of the year: Netflix’s MARRIAGE STORY as a real-life Laura Wasser doppelgänger, and in Sony’s retool of LITTLE WOMEN. In her career, she’s also won four Golden Globe Awards with seven nominations, as well as earned a Primetime Emmy Award plus seven Primetime Emmy Award nominations.  It’s impossible to forget “Renata” the hard-charger embodied by Dern in the second season of HBO’s "Big Little Lies," which aired on HBO last summer.

She follows her MARRIAGE STORY fellow cast members Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson (who was not in attendance due to illness) at SBIFF, presented by festival star Roger Durling.

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)

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)

About SBIFF’s Cinema Vanguard Award

The Cinema Vanguard Award recognizes actors who have forged their own path, taking artistic risks and making a significant and unique contribution to film. Previous honorees include Michael B. Jordan, William DeFoe, Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Rooney Mara, Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Amy Adams, Jean Dujardin, Bernice Bejo, Nicole Kidman, Peter Sarsgaard, Christoph Waltz, Vera Farmiga, Kristin Scott Thomas, Stanley Tucci and Ryan Gosling.

Your Santa Barbara International Film Festival #SBIFF

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 SBIFF event runs from January 15-25, 2020. For more information, and to purchase tickets, festival passes and packages, hop over to

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