Santa Barbara Film Fest: Robert Downey Jr. Set for Highest Honor, Maltin Modern Master Award

Robert Downey Jr., the veteran actor currently at the center of considerable best supporting actor Oscar buzz for his performance in Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, will receive the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s highest honor, the Maltin Modern Master Award, during the 39th edition of the fest in early 2024, the fest announced Tuesday.

Downey, 58, will be feted on Friday, Feb. 9, at Santa Barbara’s Arlington Theatre. The evening tribute will center on a career retrospective interview moderated by the award’s namesake, film critic and historian Leonard Maltin.

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The duo will discuss Downey’s expansive five-decade acting career, during which he has twice been Oscar-nominated (for 1992’s Chaplin and 2008’s Tropic Thunder) and anchored the most successful film franchise in history (the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first saga, spanning 2008’s Iron Man through 2019’s Avengers: Endgame).

“Robert Downey Jr. has staged one of the most spectacular second acts in show business history, and we in the audience are the beneficiaries,” Maltin said in a statement. “He commands the screen without any visible effort, which is perhaps the greatest feat of all.”

Adds Nolan, “It’s thrilling to see audiences responding not just to Robert Downey Jr.’s incredible charisma, but to a performance which, stripped of any movie star trappings, shows once again that he is one of the greatest actors.”

The award Downey will be receiving was created in 1995 to honor “an individual who has enriched our culture through accomplishments in the motion picture industry.” It was re-named the Maltin Modern Master Award in 2015. Past recipients include Nolan, Jamie Lee Curtis, Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, Cate Blanchett, George Clooney, Christopher Plummer, James Cameron, Clint Eastwood and Peter Jackson.

The 39th Santa Barbara International Film Festival will take place Feb. 7-17, 2024.

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