Robert Downey Jr. to Receive the Santa Barbara Film Festival’s Maltin Modern Master Award

Robert Downey Jr. will receive the Maltin Modern Master Award at the 39th annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival on Feb. 9.

The award is named after the film historian Leonard Maltin, who will lead an in-person discussion with Downey Jr. at the festival, where they will dig into the actor’s long career, including, of course, his turn in “Oppenheimer” as Lewis Strauss, the title character’s nemesis who tries to orchestrate his downfall.

“Oppenheimer” director Christopher Nolan said in a statement, “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.”

Downey Jr. began his screen career at age five in 1970, when he played a sick puppy in his father Robert Downey Sr.’s comedy “Pound.” He broke through in the 1980s, landing bigger roles in bigger movies and earned his first lead actor Oscar nomination in 1993 for “Chaplin.”

After his career faltered due to his drug addiction (which was heavily covered in the media), by around 2001, Downey Jr. was sober and getting his career back on track. He starred in several well-liked films (“Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” “Good Night and Good Luck,” “A Scanner Darkly”) before landing the lead role in “Iron Man,” which kicked off his status as a blockbuster actor (and, with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, redefined mainstream Hollywood movie-making). Downey Jr. earned his second Oscar nomination, for supporting actor, in 2008 for “Tropic Thunder.” He will next star in “The Sympathizer” for Max and a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo.”

“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.”

Created in 1995, the Modern Master Award honors “an individual who has enriched our culture through accomplishments in the motion picture industry,” according to a statement from the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. “It was re-named the Maltin Modern Master Award in 2015 in honor of long-time SBIFF moderator and renowned film critic Leonard Maltin. Past recipients include Academy Award winning actors Jamie Lee Curtis, Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, Cate Blanchett, George Clooney and Christopher Plummer, and acclaimed filmmakers including Christopher Nolan, James Cameron, Clint Eastwood and Peter Jackson.”

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

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