“I love what I do. I love what I do so, so much.”
So said Zendaya as she received a Star of the Year Award in Las Vegas on Thursday night inside Caesars Palace, host of CinemaCon’s Big Screen Achievement Awards. The starry event closed out the four-day gathering put on by the National Association of Theater Owners, and she dedicated part of her comments to them.
“I’m so grateful for all of you because without all of you, what I do wouldn’t have a home or place to go,” said the 26-year-old star who will give audiences a place to go this year in Denis Villeneuve’s epic sequel Dune: Part Two and Luca Guadagnino’s The Challengers. “I think my gift is storytelling. That’s what I love to do, and it means nothing if those stories don’t get to the people they need to get to.”
She then told a story of her own, recalling her very first date at age 15, to a film that would soon have special significance in her life.
“In a theater, that’s where someone can feel seen. That’s where someone can feel less alone. That’s when someone can escape. That’s where someone can build a new dream. I have been witness to that and I’ve experienced it myself,” said the Emmy Award-winning Euphoria star. “Literally, my first date was when I was 15 years old and it was to go see Spider-Man in 3D.”
The actress would, years later, join the cast of the franchise playing MJ in installments Spider-Man: Homecoming, Far From Home and No Way Home. (It’s also worth noting that she’s wound up in a years-long relationship with Spider-Man himself, Tom Holland.)
Zendaya received her trophy during the Coca-Cola-sponsored Big Screen Achievement Awards, which featured a program of fellow honorees including Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas, Melissa McCarthy, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts stars Anthony Ramos and Dominique Fishback, Illumination CEO Chris Meledandri, the cast of Lionsgate and Adele Lim’s Joy Ride as Comedy Ensemble of the Year and Rolando B. Rodriguez with the NATO Marquee Award.
Zendaya walked to the stage after a tribute from host Kevin Frazier who also introduced a sizzle reel that showed her acting work in Euphoria, the Spider-Man franchise, Malcom & Marie, Dune (both parts) and the upcoming Challengers, a showing that marked the first time footage has been shown of the film that Guadagnino has described as a sexy tennis pic. In the brief clips, the Louis Vuitton ambassador and fashion icon is seen playing tennis and in intense conversations with her co-stars, played by Josh O’Connor and Mike Faist.
In closing her speech, Zendaya circled back to the power of the theatrical experience, something that has been a running theme this week. It was her second appearance on the Colosseum main stage after she joined Villeneuve and co-star Timothée Chalamet yesterday to debut the first-ever look at their upcoming blockbuster from Warner Bros. and Legendary.
“Now I consider myself honored to be able to buy a ticket and sneak into the back of one of your theaters, which I’ve done many times before, and watch my own,” she explained. “And it’s been so special because I get to watch what the movie going experience does for people. It’s healing and it’s magical and I feel so grateful to be a part of it. So, thank you so much for this honor. Thank you for tonight. Thank you for all you do, and I hope to continue working with you for many, many years to come.”