Highlights from the 2019 Santa Barbara International Film Festival

Several of Sunday night’s Oscar nominees were also honored at the 34th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival this month.

Sam Elliott (A Star is Born), Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), Glenn Close (The Wife), Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) and Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody).

Here are some of the highlights from the festival panels:

Richard E. Grant on working with Melissa McCarthy:

Grant said it took “3.5 nanoseconds” for him to know that working with Melissa McCarthy would be great. “We met on a Friday, two years ago in New York in January, and we had two hours together to talk through the scenes in the movie,” he recalled. “I asked her if she was a method actress and she said no; and she said, are you a method actor, and I said no. So we started talking about wigs, and teeth, and costumes, and where our characters lived, and grew up, and what their sex lives were, and then we’re off and running.” He joked: “We started shooting on a Monday and she’s have my twins in August.”

Sam Elliott on realizing the scope of his role in the final version of A Star Is Born:

Elliott didn’t realize how substantial his role was in the film until he saw the film at the Toronto International Film Festival. Prior to the screening in Toronto, he had seen a second assembly where, in his own words, “the relationship between Stefani and Bradley was fully blown, the music was fully developed, but the supporting cast really had gotten hit hard in the edit.” Upon seeing the film in Toronto, Elliott recalled: “That was one of the things that got me. Oh, I really am in this movie.”

Malek on playing Freddie Mercury:

“I said yes right away to playing Freddie and moments later I thought, ‘what have you done?’”
Even before there was a major studio attached to the project, Malek began preparing, “As soon as I felt like I might be playing him, I wasn’t going to be caught off guard and I sat down with some choreographers in London and realized I needed to be able to invent things on the spot.” He goes on to talk about his work with a young movement coach, Polly Bennett, who was “passionate and spoke to me in a way that I knew we were gonna get along.”
He recounts the feeling of having the surviving members of Queen on set including Brian May. “Without them, we wouldn’t have the story and they could have harped on anything that didn’t seem genuine. Right from the start Brian May came in there and he wanted us to succeed. He was extending all the love and admiration and acceptance, most of all. He would say ‘I can’t believe you guys are telling our story.’ I looked so forward to the days when he was there because it made me want to give my best Freddie.”

Glenn Close on being honored by the festival:

Close was very moved when she accepted the award. “I am very, very blessed to be able to do the thing that I love most in the world,” she told the audience afterwards. “I’m standing up here representing all the people that have been my collaborators all these years. I would not be here without them. I am deeply, deeply grateful to you, who have gone to see my work and are here today. It means a tremendous amount to me. And I am so touched to have this award with Leonard’s name on it — a man who has given so much to our industry, who is one of the greats.”

Melissa McCarthy on finding inspiration in mundane places:

“I like the person that you see walking through the grocery store and you’re like ‘well today is purple huh.’ You’re on your own beat. Those are the characters I fall in love with.”

And, finally, McCarthy on Gilmore Girls:

Reminiscing on how Sookie was originally to be played by Alex Borstein who was contractually obligated to MadTV at the time, McCarthy is still in awe that her first job lasted for seven years. “I really loved doing that show. It was such a great group of people. I felt really lucky to be a part of something like that.”

Photo: SBIFF/Getty Image


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