Palm Springs Festival News

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The 19th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) will honor Emile Hirsch and Nikki Blonsky with the Rising Star Award at the Festival’s annual Awards Gala. Festival chairman Earl Greenburg made the announcement at a private event at the historic Charlie Chaplin home of Patricia Barry in Beverly Hills, CA hosted by Festival board member Stephen Breimer. The Awards Gala will kick-off the 2008 Awards Season on Saturday, January 5, 2008 at the Palm Springs Convention Center, which will be hosted by “Entertainment Tonight’s” Mary Hart. The Festival will be held January 3-14, 2008.

Commenting on the selection, Greenburg said, “Emile Hirsch has earned a reputation as the foremost leading man of his generation and his performance in Into the Wild solidifies that. We’re excited to honor him this year and include him amongst the past recipients of the Festival’s Rising Star Award.”

Past recipients of the Rising Star Award include Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Biel, Bryce Dallas Howard, Terrence Howard and Adam Beach.

Hirsch stars in Paramount Vantage’s Into the Wild as Christopher McCandless who abandoned his possessions, gave his $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhiked to Alaska to live in the wilderness. Written and directed by Sean Penn, the film is based on a true story and the bestselling book by Jon Krakauer.

He just wrapped production on Speed Racer for directors Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski, in which he stars as the title character Speed, based on the classic 1960’s Japanese animated series chronicling the aspirations of a young race car driver. The Warner Bros. film, also starrring Susan Sarandon, Christina Ricci, John Goodman and Matthew Fox, will open on May 9, 2008.

Hirsch was last seen in Nick Cassavetes’ Alpha Dog opposite an all-star cast including Justin Timberlake, Sharon Stone and Bruce Willis. The film documented the life of Jesse James Hollywood (Hirsch), a drug dealer who became the youngest man ever to be on the FBI’s Most Wanted List. The film premiered to rave reviews at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. Additional credits include Catherine Hardwicke’s The Lords of Dogtown opposite Heath Ledger, Imaginary Heroes directed by Dan Harris and opposite Sigourney Weaver and Jeff Daniels, and The Girl Next Door with co-star Elisha Cuthbert, The Mudge Boy, The Emperor’s Club and The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys.

Blonsky will be honored along with previously announced honorees Emile Hirsch with the Rising Star Award Male and Marion Cotillard for Breakthrough Performance Award. Commenting on the selection, Greenburg said, “Nikki Blonsky gives a truly outstanding performance in her first big screen role as Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray, which we’re excited to recognize at this year’s event.” Past recipients of the Rising Star Award include Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Biel, Bryce Dallas Howard and Adam Beach.

Blonsky stars along with John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Zac Efron in New Line Cinema’s Hairspray, a remake of the 1988 film about a dancing obsessed teenager that lets the city of Baltimore know that being bigger is beautiful. Director Adam Shankman incorporates vibrant costume, an award-winning cast, and a musical-type feel to create a film that gives the Broadway version justice. Blonsky’s character, Tracy lands a dancing spot on the hip “Corney Collins Show,” where she finds her true love Link and worst enemy Amber Von Tussle. The show becomes her outlet to preach about integration and show the world that being different is not necessarily a bad thing.

Blonsky will follow her performance in Hairspray with the recently finished production on Harold starring Cuba Gooding Jr., Ally Sheedy and Spencer Breslin.

Hairspray marks the professional debut of eighteen-year-old Nikki Blonsky. She quit her day job scooping ice cream at the local Cold Stone Creamery in Great Neck in June when she found out she had won the role of Tracy Turnblad. Nikki was born and raised Long Island, New York. Although she graduated from the Great Neck Village School in January, 2006, she received all her dramatic and musical training at Great Neck South High School, which is a four-time Grammy Foundation Signature School.

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