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The Party Report: Awards Contenders Flock to Palm Springs, St. Barths Heats Up for UNICEF Gala

Plus, inside the CAA headquarters screening of ”Emancipation“ with Will Smith

After a quiet time in Hollywood and elsewhere as celebrities and their families celebrated Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and even Festivus, the New Year has arrived with some big bangs, especially at the 34th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala, which has traditionally been the first stop on the party season ride into the Oscars (on March 12 this year). Earlier, the Rose Bowl Parade brought out “Yellowstone” breakout star and country singer Lainey Wilson riding on Louisiana’s award-winning float; and lots of beautiful people flocked to St. Barths for a Caribbean vacation and to help a worthy cause, too, at the LuisaViaRoma for UNICEF Winter Gala.

Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala
Palm Springs Convention Center, Palm Springs

Colin Farrell and Sam Rockwell enjoy an emotional moment at the 2023 PSIFF Awards in Palm Springs

Film lovers made their way to the California desert to help kick off the 2023 awards season at the 34th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards. There was a special energy at the Palm Springs Convention Center due to the fact that it was the return of the popular annual event since the pandemic shut down the world.

Honoree Danielle Deadwyler is pretty in pink at the 2023 PSIFF Awards in Palm Springs.

Hosted by Entertainment Tonight correspondents Kevin Frasier and Nischelle Turner, the night was awash with star-studded appearances. The bash had a multitude of memorable moments, ranging from Jamie Lee Curtis ragging on Cate Blanchett’s driving to Chairman’s Award winner Viola Davis giving an awe-inspiring speech. It was a night to remember, full of memorable moments.

Inseparable awards season “Elvis” pair Baz Luhrmann and Austin Butler attend the 2023 Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Night Gala at Palm Springs Convention Center.

One of those moments was delivered by Brendan Fraser, who received the Spotlight Award and gave a touching speech about his career and got the audience cracking up with a little fun fact, that he showed up to his first meeting with a Hollywood agent holding his college diploma. “The Whale” star got cheers when he finished his speech, vowing that “I will continue to show up with my degree for the rest of my career!”

(Left) “The Woman King” Oscar contenders Gina Prince-Bythewood, Viola Davis and Thuso Mbedu reunite at the 34th Annual Palm Springs International Film Awards; (Right) Michelle Yeoh and Brendan Fraser happily attend the PSIFF Awards after party.

Breakthrough Performance Award honoree Danielle Deadwyler spoke to TheWrap about her recent portrayal of Mamie Till in “Till” and what it meant for her to take on such a role. “I took my time, I read it slowly and I understood the magnitude of it, I knew that this was the origin of the civil rights movement and I wanted to be responsible to take on this story,” she said.

Other honorees included Austin Butler, Sarah Polley, Michelle Yeoh, Colin Farrell, Cate Blanchett, Bill Nighy and Steven Spielberg, who along with his producer Kristie Macosko Krieger and the full cast from “The Fabelmans,” including Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Seth Rogen, Gabriel LaBelle, Judd Hirsch, Julia Butters, Sam Rechner and Keeley Karsten, received the Vanguard Award. And the presenters were just as famous, as Sally Field, Sam Rockwell, Stephanie Hsu, Eric Idle, Brian Tyree Henry and more familiar faces joined in making the celebration of the 34th Annual Palm Springs Film Festival one for the post-COVID memory books. – Elijah Gil

We’ll have what they’re having – Nina Hoss, Cate Blanchett, Brian Tyree Henry and Danielle Deadwyler laugh it up during the 34th Annual Palm Springs International Film Awards.

“Emancipation” Special Screening, Conversation and Party
CAA Headquarters, Century City

Will Smith promotes “Emancipation” during Awards Season.

A rainy day in Los Angeles didn’t stop people from facing SoCal’s version of winter and heading to CAA headquarters to take in a screening, conversation and post-party in an awards season push for the Apple TV+ film “Emancipation.” Starring disgraced Academy Award-winner Will Smith in the fact-based tale of Peter, whose photo from 1863 known as “Whipped Peter” helped serve as a vision of the horror of slavery.

After the heart-wrenching film unspooled, Smith, along with director Antoine Fuqua and co-star Charmaine Bingwa, took to the stage to discuss their work. “It was the toughest role I’ve ever had to play,” Smith emotionally admitted, then went on to describe how the crew put chains around his neck for a scene. Once Fuqua yelled “Cut,” the keys to unlock the chains were nowhere to be found, leaving Smith bound for 15 minutes. The actor, who has been on an international mission to promote the film and rehab his image after last year’s Academy Awards debacle, revealed that in that moment he felt a real glimpse of what Peter had gone through, while knowing that eventually his chains would come off.

Antoine Fuqua addressed his hesitancy to take on the project , admitting that “I knew going in how much of a toll this would take.” The director also revealed that there was a therapist on set, because of the emotional toll the project had on many of the cast and crew. “The white cast on set really went through a lot,” he pointed out. “They felt the importance of the story, but hated the characters that they played – and felt such guilt.” – Elijah Gil

LuisaViaRoma for UNICEF Winter Gala
Emeraude, St. Barths

Taika Waititi and Rita Ora attend the LuisaViaRoma for UNICEF Winter Gala at Emeraude, St. Barths.

Famous faces descended on the little island of St. Barths and packed more than beachwear for the trip, as they combined a holiday vacation on that beautiful Caribbean gem with a fundraising affair that raised over $3 million for charity.

The luxury e-commerce site known as LuisaViaRoma puts on two galas a year to raise funds for UNICEF, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund that is dedicated to aiding kids in need around the world. It’s a great cause, and this Winter Edition brought out the wealthy and famous from Hollywood and beyond. It didn’t hurt that Lenny Kravitz and Drake were the musical headliners at the gala, held in a huge tent on Emeraude Beach.

Happy couple Billy Crudup and Naomi Watts attend the LuisaViaRoma for UNICEF Winter Gala.

New Zealander Taika Waititi escorted his new wife, British singer Rita Ora to the festivities (she wore a revealing David Koma creation), where they greeted another power couple, Australian Naomi Watts (in Roberto Cavalli) and American Billy Crudup in the fashionably international crowd. Those two have been together since 2017, but no signs of wedding bells in their future. And Luke Evans brought his main squeeze to the party, too, as he got cozy with Fran Tomas as the couple made their red-carpet debut as 2022 went into the history books.

Also making the French-influenced scene were Leonardo DiCaprio (who avoided the cameras), his pal Tobey Maguire, supermodel Karolina Kurkova and loads of other jet setters, who bid on both silent and live auction events. Kravitz got the dancing started and Drake closed out the night with a long set that gave everyone the chance to sing along to Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” as the party finally wound down after midnight.

(L-R) Luke Evans and Fran Tomas attend the LuisaViaRoma for UNICEF Winter Gala at Emeraude in St Barths.

Rose Parade 2023 Louisiana Tourism “Feed Your Soul” Welcome Reception
Hilton Hotel, Pasadena

Louisiana Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser, country singer Lainey Wilson and Cher Nungesser at the 2023 Louisiana Tourism Rose Bowl welcome party

It’s been quite the year for country singer-songwriter and now actress Lainey Wilson, as her career has skyrocketed in 2022. First she took home the top prizes at the Country Music Awards, including New Artist of the Year and Female Vocalist of the Year; then she followed that up by making a splash on “Yellowstone” as (you guessed it) a country crooner who gets involved with her very own Dutton Ranch cowboy (Ian Bohen).

So when the Louisiana native got the call to join Louisiana Tourism on their Rose Parade “Feed Your Soul” float, she was ready and willing. We caught up with her at the Welcome Reception at the Hilton Hotel Pasadena, which was complete with beads, gumbo, charred oysters, tiara-ed beauty queens and even an impromptu second-line parade.

Known for her signature bell bottoms (and her 2022 hit album called “Bell Bottom Country”) Wilson kept that style going at the party as she gushed about being a part of the Rose Parade traditions. “Being here with all these Louisiana folks, it’s a cool way for me to represent us,” she said. “I’m proud, really proud of the people who made me and it’s important for me to remember where I come from.”

That’s a little town called Baskin, where she grew up the daughter of a farmer and a schoolteacher; these days she’s based in Nashville, but going home has always meant a return to the heart of Louisiana. But this year was a bit different for her, as her career is on fire and she’s started acting, following in the footsteps of two of her favorite role models – “I love women who are not scared of anything, like Reba and Dolly. When I think about them, that’s the kind of career I want to have, I want to, I just want to be creative no matter what.”

And when she spent the holidays at home this year, Wilson knew she had finally made it, after 10 years of working hard in Nashville and beyond.

“Every year I’d go home,” Wilson recalled with a hearty laugh, “and one of my family members would ask me, ‘Lainey, when are you going stop this and to come back home and be a kindergarten teacher?’ Well, she didn’t ask me that this year!”

In keeping with how things have been going for Lainey Wilson, she even triumphed at the Rose Parade, as she brought her luck (and rousing performance style) to her state’s riverboat-themed float, which took home the Showmanship Award for the most outstanding display of showmanship and entertainment.

Lainey Wilson joins the second-line celebration at the Louisiana Tourism Rose Bowl 2023 Welcome Party. (Charlie Whinham for Louisiana Tourism)

Please send event invitations to Jenny Peters at jenny.peters@thewrap.com