The actress has earned admirers for her lively performance in Tate Taylor’s The Help (pictured, centre) and will receive the honour at the gala ceremony in Palm Springs on Jan 7.

“Octavia Spencer is a consummate actress who seamlessly blends her dramatic and comedic talents, creating performances of uncommon depth,” Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) chairman Harold Matzner said.

“As the irascible Minny in The Help, she captures the essence of a woman who deals with life head-on, relishing confrontation and serving as a source of courage and humour for those whom she loves.”

Spencer’s big screen debut came in 1995 in A Time To Kill and her credits include Peep World, The Soloist, Drag Me To Hell, Pretty Ugly People, Bad Santa, Being John Malkovich and Never Been Kissed, among others.

Previous recipients of the Breakthrough Performance Award include Carey Mulligan, Marion Cotillard, Jennifer Hudson, Mariah Carey, Felicity Huffman and Freida Pinto.

PSIFF is scheduled to run from Jan 5-16.