RISING STARS : Four out of five attendees light up SBIFF’s 2010 Virtuoso Awards

 From left, Michael Stuhlbarg, Saiorse Ronan, Carey Mulligan and Emily Blunt recieve the Virtuoso Award on Sunday. ROBBY BARTHELMESS / NEWS-PRESS

From left, Michael Stuhlbarg, Saiorse Ronan, Carey Mulligan and Emily Blunt recieve the Virtuoso Award on Sunday.
ROBBY BARTHELMESS / NEWS-PRESS

 Carey Mulligan, above, Michael Stuhlbarg, above center, Emily Blunt, above right in grey, and Saiorse Ronan are shown on the red carpet on Sunday before receiving their Virtuoso Awards.

Carey Mulligan, above, Michael Stuhlbarg, above center, Emily Blunt, above right in grey, and Saiorse Ronan are shown on the red carpet on Sunday before receiving their Virtuoso Awards.
Young, talented and British: that could sum up a majority of this year’s Virtuoso Award honorees at Sunday night’s special event at the Lobero. Consider the list: Irish-raised Saoirse Ronan, who plays the young murder victim in Peter Jackson’s “The Lovely Bones.” London-born Emily Blunt, who plays the young queen in “The Young Victoria.” And Carey Mulligan, who went from Westminster to stardom as the seduced and seductive schoolgirl in “An Education.” Screams from a sparse but enthusiastic crowd gathered outside the Lobero and watching the red carpet greeted each star’s arrival.

Odd man out was Long Beach native Michael Stuhlbarg, who jumped from decades of Broadway theater work to unlikely leading man in the Coen Brothers’ “A Serious Man.” Mr. Stuhlbarg is more than twice the age of Miss Ronan, but to audiences, they are all fresh faces who delivered some of 2009’s best performances.

(Gabourey Sidibe, the New Yorker who inhabits the title character of “Precious” so fearlessly that the film seems more documentary than fiction, was also part of the line-up for the evening, but scheduling conflicts has led to her appearance being pushed to Friday.)

Miss Ronan arrived on the red carpet carrying gifts from fans: a stuffed toy cow and a tiny bouquet of flowers. At age 15, she answered questions readily on the red carpet and on stage. Asked on the carpet about working with director Peter Jackson and the heavy amount of special effects work, Miss Ronan said, “It probably took more concentration. But Pete talked to me a lot between takes and played a lot of music quite a lot every day Usually ’70s music and classical music. And now there’s snippets of music that remind me of certain days on the set.”

Emily Blunt’s role as the young Queen Victoria in Jean-Marc Vallèe’s biopic revealed a monarch divorced from the “depressed” older portrayals of the queen. Miss Blunt credited the script by Julian Fellows, but also Victoria’s own diaries. “She was feisty, full of zeal. She was a party girl. She wasn’t the image that I had at all.” Miss Blunt also talked about how she had a bad stutter as a child, but how a teacher suggested playing a character in a play would help. “I don’t know how this guy had the instinct about this, but it worked.”

Carey Mulligan has wowed audiences and critics as her role as the headstrong schoolgirl in “An Education,” who falls in love and plans to marry a much older man. The performance has earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. On the red carpet, Miss Mulligan said the stuffy and confining schoolgirl outfit — for a film set in 1961 as well — really helped her get into the character and feel the attitude from the other characters towards such a young girl. It was a bit better than her own uniform from schooldays.

“I had to wear a beret,” she said. She spoke in her interview about how the choices for a young girl in 1961 in the UK were so very limited. And not much different, she added, when she was in school in the ’80s.

Michael Stuhlbarg, looking in no way like the middle-class science teacher of the Coen Brothers’ “A Serious Man,” talked on the red carpet about his upcoming film with Steve Buscemi. Both men have worked together (2001’s “The Grey Zone”) and now they can share Coen Brothers anecdotes. “It’s been fun, and he’s really been supportive of (my career). ” He also added that at the same time “A Serious Man” opened, his other film “After School,” directed by Antonio Campos, was released. No doubt, Mr. Stuhlbarg’s success will prompt new interest in “A Serious Man’s” contemporary.

After brief one-on-one interviews, all four stars returned to the Lobero stage for further Q&A. And despite a full day of film business, the Super Bowl still got some applause-worthy mentions.

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