History

A look back at three decades of Spirit Awards history

31 Years of Nominees & Winners, 1986-2016 (PDF)

 

1984

The FINDIE Awards (Friends of Independents) are conceived by Jeanne Lucas and IFP/West (now Film Independent). President Anne Kimmel thanks individuals and organizations for their support of independent filmmakers. The awards are voted on by a nominating committee.

1985

FILMEX is brought on board to help increase the profile of the Awards. The ceremony is held at the trendy 385 North restaurant. Peter Coyote and Jamie Lee Curtis present the winners with Plexiglas pyramids designed by Carol, which contain a suspended shoestring dotted with sprockets, representing the shoestring budgets of independent films. The Reel Gold Award is given to Steve Wachtel for allowing IFP/West continual free use of his screening room.

 

1985: Peter Coyote & Jamie Lee Curtis

 

1986

The ceremony is renamed the Independent Spirit Awards and awards are given in the following categories: Best Feature, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Cinematographer and Best Foreign Film. It is also the first time IFP’s national membership votes on the winners. Peter Coyote hosts the event, held again at 385 North.

1987

Buck Henry signs on as Master of Ceremonies for the Spirit Awards–a position he holds for the next eight years. David Puttnam and Lee Grant give keynote speeches. Presenters include Kyle MacLachlan and Teri Garr. Spike Lee is the first director to win in the new category of Best First Feature.

1988

Buck Henry returns to host the event at an overflowing 385 North. Louis Malle gives the keynote address. Celebrity presenters include Anthony Edwards, Alfre Woodard and Meg Ryan. Two categories are added: Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.

1989

Due to an overwhelming demand for tickets, the Spirit Awards moves to the Blossom Room at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel to accommodate the record number of guests: 350 attendees. Oliver Stone gives the keynote address, urging filmmakers to “stick to your soul and to hell with your egos; it’s inch by motherfucking inch.”

1990

Martin Scorsese delivers the keynote address, stating, “being independent doesn’t mean making low-budget films without studio backing… it is a way for being innovative out of inspiration as well as necessity.” Presenters include Jodie Foster, Martin Landau, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Ally Sheedy.

 

1990: Edward James Olmos & Laura Dern

 

1991

The Spirit Awards move to the Beverly Hills Hotel with an attendance of 550 guests. Kevin Costner delivers the keynote speech and Oliver Stone is the event’s Honorary Chair. Edward R. Pressman and Jon Jost are recipients of a new award established in honor of the late maverick filmmaker John Cassavetes, to recognize a bold, creative body of work. Bravo produces a cable special on the event, hosted by Charles Champlin.

1992

The Spirit Awards move to a new location, Raleigh Studios, which accommodates a record-high 1,000 attendees. Francis Ford Coppola gives a 43-minute keynote address built around an analogy comparing filmmaking and winemaking. Honorary Co-Chairs are Martin Scorsese and Jodie Foster. Foster causes a stir with her speech entitled “The Scum-Sucking Vampire Pig Theory of Hollywood”. Martha Coolidge is the first woman to win Best Director for Rambling Rose. A new category is added for Best Score but is only given out for two years.

1993

The Spirit Awards moves to the beach in Santa Monica. Buck Henry hosts the awards for the eighth consecutive year. Neil Jordan delivers the keynote address. Danny Glover serves as Honorary Chair.

1994

Robert Townsend takes over as the Master of Ceremonies for the event, which is held at the Hollywood Palladium. Holly Hunter is Honorary Chair and Jim Sheridan delivers the keynote address. Jim Jarmusch is honored with the John Cassavetes Award. Bravo airs a series of Spirit Awards spots as counter-programming during the Academy Awards® telecast.

1995

The Spirit Awards ceremony returns to Santa Monica. The IFP/West (now Film Independent) Board scraps the nearly unenforceable financial regulations for determining a film’s eligibility for a Spirit Award nomination and replaces it with four criteria: original, provocative subject matter; uniqueness of vision; economy of means; and percentage of independent financing. These serve as rough guidelines that the nominating committee (a group of 15 independent film professionals) use to make their decisions. Diana Zahn-Storey begins producing the event. Jodie Foster and Harvey Keitel are Honorary Co-Chairs. Kevin Pollack hosts the ceremony.

1996

Jodie Foster, Laurence Fishburne and John Travolta are Honorary Co-Chairs. Samuel L. Jackson takes over as Master of Ceremonies. Two new categories are added: Best Debut Performance and Best First Screenplay. This is also the first year of the Someone to Watch Award, which bestows a $20,000 cash grant to an emerging narrative director. The show is broadcast live on IFC for the first time.

1997

Samuel L. Jackson returns as Master of Ceremonies. Jodie Foster and Ossie Davis are Honorary Co-Chairs. Mike Leigh gives a keynote address sharing the secrets of filmmaking from A to Z. A special grant is added for emerging documentarians: the Truer Than Fiction Award, which offers a $20,000 cash grant to the winning filmmaker.

 

1997: Salma Hayek

 

1998

Jodie Foster and Samuel L. Jackson are Honorary Co-Chairs. Spike Lee gives the keynote address. John Turturro hosts the show. A new filmmaker grant for emerging producers is added with a cash prize of $20,000.

1999

Queen Latifah is the first woman to host the Spirit Awards. John Waters steals the show with his keynote address. Robert Duvall and Alfre Woodard serve as Honorary Co-Chairs. Ally Sheedy gives a record-breaking 10-minute acceptance speech about the resurrection of an aging actress in Hollywood.

 

1999: Illeana Douglas, Eric Stoltz, Heather Matarazzo

 

2000

Jennifer Tilly hosts the 15th anniversary show. Buck Henry and Julianne Moore serve as Honorary Co-Chairs. James Schamus delivers what will be the last keynote address. The Spirit Awards introduces a new category: Best First Feature Under $500,000.

2001

John Waters returns to the Spirit Awards stage as Master of Ceremonies. Angela Bassett and Benicio Del Toro serve as Honorary Co-Chairs. Best First Feature Under $500,000 is renamed the John Cassavetes Award.

2002

John Waters returns for the third year as host. Ang Lee and Nicole Kidman are Honorary Co-Chairs.

2003

The United States begins its invasion of Iraq three days before the Spirit Awards ceremony. Elvis Costello makes a surprise appearance and performs “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding”. Halle Berry attends as Honorary Chair of the event. Bowling for Columbine wins Best Documentary and Michael Moore makes a speech against George Bush’s declared war. Satirical songs honoring the Best Feature nominees—which would become one of the show’s trademarks—are performed for the first time.

 

2003: Michael Moore

 

2004

The Spirit Awards has its first red carpet show, hosted by Carson Kressley and Debra Wilson. Tom Cruise is Honorary Chair of the event and John Waters hosts again. Waters does a bit addressing the MPAA screener ban and Jack Valenti takes him off the stage in handcuffs.

2005

The 20th Anniversary of the Spirit Awards features Salma Hayek and Quentin Tarantino as Co-Chairs. Samuel L. Jackson returns as host and Sideways sweeps the awards.

2006

Comedienne Sarah Silverman serves as host, making her mark with a joke about douching that informs George Clooney her vagina smells like a mountain breeze. Naomi Watts is the Awards’ Honorary Chair and the ceremony takes place in the largest tent ever. Dwight Yoakam and Macy Gray perform two of the Best Feature songs.

 

2006: Sarah Silverman

 

2007

A $20 million cap is set for all films submitted for Spirit Awards nomination consideration. Sarah Silverman hosts for the second year and trumps her previous year’s notoriety with a bit about sex and cheese. Maggie Gyllenhaal and Terrence Howard serve as Co-Chairs for the awards, while a tribute is presented to Robert Altman along with a new award created in his honor. Little Miss Sunshine sweeps the awards.

2008

Rainn Wilson hosts the show, sporting a (Dennis) “Hopperz Bitch” tattoo on his chest, and Javier Bardem is Honorary Chair. Diablo Cody wins the Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay (a.k.a. “the best award ever” or “this motherf**ker right here) for Juno. Wilson and his writing team later go on to win a WGA award for Best Awards Special for their work on the Spirit Awards.

 

2008 Film Independent's Spirit Awards - Show

 

2009

British comedian Steve Coogan hosts and Alec Baldwin serves as chair. When Mickey Rourke wins Best Actor for The Wrestler, he delivers an expletive-laden six minute speech, which includes thanking the Santa Monica Police Department for giving him a bed to sleep in 10 years ago and encouraging the industry to give Eric Roberts a second chance.

2010

Eddie Izzard serves as host for the 25th anniversary show, which moved from an afternoon slot on the beach in Santa Monica to an evening party on the L.A. LIVE Event Deck in downtown Los Angeles. Jeff Bridges wins Best Actor and performs a song from Crazy Heart along with T. Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham. Ben Stiller serves as Honorary Chair.

2011

The Spirit Awards returns to a tent on the beach in Santa Monica, with actor and comedian Joel McHale hosting. James Franco and Natalie Portman garner Best Actor and Actress nods, and while Banksy didn’t show up (or did he?) to accept his award for Exit Through the Gift Shop, artist and subject Thierry Guetta joyfully hops on stage.

 

2009 Film Independent Spirit Awards - Show

 

2012

Seth Rogen hosts the show and The Artist takes honors for Best Feature, Best Director, Best Male Lead and Best Cinematography. Director Michel Hazanavicius flies in from the Cesar Awards and gets a police escort from LAX just in time to take the stage to accept his award for Best Director.

2013

Host Andy Samberg opens the show by saying “fuck you” to Hollywood. Silver Linings Playbook wins Best Feature, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Female Lead. Derek Connolly wins Best First Screenplay for Safety Not Guaranteed and makes a lengthy acceptance speech, during which actor Bryan Cranston intervenes and offers him a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey.

2014

Host Patton Oswalt receives mid-show motivational messages via Skype from Sarah Silverman, Reggie Watts, Weird Al Yankovic and… his parents. 12 Years a Slave wins Best Feature, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Female and Best Cinematography. Lupita Nyong’o celebrates her birthday at the Spirit Awards and wins Best Supporting Female. Jared Leto wins Best Supporting Male for Dallas Buyers Club and thanks everyone from his family and costars to Jackson Pollock, Pink Floyd, Mark Twain, Ansel Adams, Mozart, homemade burritos and Whitcomb L. Judson, the inventor of the zipper.

 

2014: Jill Soloway, Jane Lynch, Michaela Watkins

 

2015

Joel Gallen joins the team as the executive producer of the 30th annual Film Independent Spirit Awards. Fred Armisen and Kristen Bell co-host the show, opening with a hilarious spoof of Birdman (which would go on to win Best Feature) and Whiplash, featuring cameos from Adam Scott, Miles Teller and Bill Hader. Michael Keaton (Birdman) and Julianne Moore (Still Alice) win Best Male Lead and Best Female Lead, respectively. Dan Gilroy takes home two Spirit Awards for Nightcrawler: Best Screenplay and Best First Feature.

2016

Joel Gallen returns as executive producer and director for his second year. El Nino threatens the Santa Monica Pier, but clears just in time to make the blue carpet shine brighter than nominee Bel Powley’s azure eyes. Comedians Kate McKinnon & Kumail Nanjiani ham it up as hosts—literally (one of Kate’s biggest bits of the night is force-feeding lunchmeat to nominee Paul Dano.) The show includes hilarious parodies of Room and Carol, and Spotlight cleans up with Best Feature, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Editing and the Robert Altman Award for ensemble cast. Idris Elba wins Best Supporting Male and 14-year-old Abraham Attah wins Best Male Lead for their roles in Beasts of No Nation. History is made when Mya Taylor, the first transgender actress to win a major award, takes home Best Supporting Female for her role in Tangerine.