The night was as beautiful as the day had been hot on Thursday, October 13, at the Coral Casino, where Santa Barbara and Hollywood gathered to pay tribute to Michael Douglas, a UCSB alum who has gone on to become one of the most successful actors of his generation. Generations was the evening’s theme, with the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s Kirk Douglas Award being given by the man it was named for to his own son.
After the cocktail reception and red-carpet arrivals on the terrace were over, the two stars went into the Coral Casino’s La Pacifica ballroom where the presentation took place. Family and close friends like Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman, Annette Bening, Bo Derek, Dennis Miller, Christopher Lloyd, and Ben Stiller surrounded the father and his wife, Ann, and the son and his wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, as they basked in the limelight of the gala dinner. Elegantly clad film festival patrons table-hopped and the celebrities obliged many of them with personal photo ops and kind words for the festival, which opens for the 27th time on Thursday, January 26.
Kirk Douglas stole the show as usual with his now familiar mixture of wry, satirical, and heartwarming remarks. He’s especially good at capturing the rough and manly humor of such friends as Burt Lancaster. Danny DeVito provoked much laughter with his recollections of friendship with Michael Douglas during the culturally permissive 1960s, a time when it seemed like the girl-to-boy ratio in Isla Vista was 3 to 1. Annette Bening gave the man his props as a producer and a serious mover-and-shaker behind the scenes, crediting him with being the force that got the ball rolling on many of his most successful projects. Film festival director Roger Durling had an emotional tone to his voice as he introduced the evening’s program, clearly in awe of the profound situation that, by creating this award and engineering the modern version of the SBIFF, he had helped to bring about.
Talk in the room and on the red carpet circled around a few topics. Everyone was buzzing about how good Michael and Catherine both looked, and about Michael’s upcoming role as Liberace. Kirk Douglas even joked that there would be screen kisses between Michael and his Liberace: Behind the Candelabra costar Matt Damon. He said that when he asked Damon how he was getting through those moments, Damon answered, “By pretending he’s Catherine Zeta-Jones.”
On the business side of the ledger, Doug Stone, the incoming president of the board of the SBIFF, gave a sharp, funny speech that would seem to bode well for the success of his film market initiative, which begins at the festival this year in a collaboration with Stone’s L.A.-based film production and sales company, Traction Media.