At the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Will Smith and Aunjanue Ellis were named Outstanding Performers of the Year for their work in King Richard.
- Smith and Ellis, both 53, are up for Oscars for their performances in film
- They portrayed the roles of Richard and Oracene ‘Brandy’ Williams in the movie
- Past honorees include Viola Davis, Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Lawrence
Will Smith and Aunjanue Ellis, stars of King Richard’s biographical drama, were honoured on Sunday at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, sharing the Outstanding Performer Of The Year award.
Smith, 53, was dressed in a black suit with purple trim and a maroon turtleneck with black shoes for the performance at The Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara, California.
Ellis, 53, looked stunning in a patterned green gown with braided hair, dangling earrings, and green sandal heels.
In the film, Smith and Ellis played Richard and Oracene ‘Brandy’ Williams, the parents of tennis phenoms Venus and Serena Williams, who helped their daughters become world-class athletes.
‘We’re so excited to be able to salute the incomparable Will Smith and the revelatory Aunjanue Ellis with this award,’ said the festival’s executive director Roger Durling in a statement in November.
‘In King Richard, the “doubles match” of their intricate relationship onscreen as Richard and Oracene are electrifying and a joy to behold.’
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Previous recipients of the award include Sacha Baron Cohen, Viola Davis, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lawrence, Rami Malek, and the late Heath Ledger.
The film has been nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for Smith and Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for Ellis.
The film is also nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Original Screenplay, Best Achievement in Film Editing, and Best Achievement in Motion Picture Music.
Smith discussed his enthusiasm for the project in a November interview with Saniyya Sidney, 15, and Demi Singleton, 15, who played Venus and Serena Williams, respectively, in the film.
‘I like stories where you think you know what’s going on,’ he said. ‘You pull back the veil when no one knew there was one.’ Richard Williams was a man who was misunderstood. I liked humanising a character who had been somewhat demonised in the sport.
‘He’s a true genius.’ He had two Michael Jordans in mind. Consider how unusual that is.’
Kristen Stewart, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Javier Bardem are the other celebrities set to be honoured at this year’s festival.
The Santa Barbara International Film Festival will be held until March 12.