Van Morrison, Terry George and Bill Monahan honored in LA
Al Pacino Presents Award to Van Morrison, Roma Downey Emcees; Stars Light Up the Green Carpet
It was a fantabulous night to make music and mingle with the stars at the second annual "Oscar Wilde: Honoring Irish Writing in Film" awards party sponsored by the US-Ireland Alliance. Multi-award winning singer/songwriter Van Morrison, 2007 Oscar-nominated screenwriter William Monahan, and writer/director Terry George were honored at the star-studded event at the Wilshire Ebell in Los Angeles, California. Oscar-winning actor Al Pacino, who presented the Oscar Wilde award to Morrison, compared the legendary musician to the Irish playwright, describing the two artists as "visionaries who push boundaries."
Morrison, who treated the party guests to an intimate 45-minute private concert following the awards ceremony, was joined on stage by his daughter, Shana, a fantastic singer in her own right, rhythm and blues legend Solomon Burke, who, with Van, rocked the crowd with a rendition of "Stand By Me," and Chieftains front man Paddy Moloney. Towards the end of the concert, Grammy nominated singer Maura O'Connell came up on stage and sang "Crazy Love," with Van. When Van and his band left the stage, Shana and her band, San Francisco-based Caledonia, took over.
Actress Roma Downey emceed the pre-Academy Awards® party, which drew more than 400 VIPs, despite the rain. Major sponsors of the annual event are Quinlan Private, American Airlines, Culture Ireland and the Irish Film Board. The Oscar Wilde event was created to "bring together leaders in the Irish film community with their Hollywood counterparts at a fun, casual Irish party," according to Trina Vargo, founder and president of the US-Ireland Alliance.
And in keeping with that vision, this year's event brought a host of Hollywood and Irish film heavyweights who showed up to hail the trio of honorees. Some of the stars spotted walking the "green" carpet were: Fionnula Flanagan who presented the award to Terry George, Orlando Bloom, Charlize Theron, Mark Burnett, Stuart Townsend, Andie McDowell, Colm Meaney, Rachel Griffiths, Eric Stoltz, Bruno Maddox, who presented the award to William Monahan, and multi-Grammy Award winning music producer David Foster. Walt Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook served on this year's Host Committee, as did HBO Films President Colin & Elizabeth Callender, Anjelica Huston, Fionnula Flanagan and past honorees Jim Sheridan, Neil Jordan and David Holmes (who recently finished composing the original music for Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's 13). Another Academy Award nominated guest was Irish American Mark Fergus, nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay for Children of Men. Among those over from Ireland were Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, Chairman of Culture Ireland, Irish Film Board CEO Simon Perry, and best-selling author Cecelia Ahern, whose book, P.S. I Love You, is currently being made into a film starring Hilary Swank.
Al Pacino jokingly remarked that he didn't understand a word that Van said when they first met over twenty years in London, but noted "somehow I could feel what he meant through his body language and was taken by his sensitivity and kindness." Pacino has recently been in Dublin working on his upcoming docudrama on the life of Oscar Wilde and his masterpiece Salome. In presenting the award to Van, Pacino described the musician as a "descendant of a long line of Irish balladeers: poets and writers whose lyrical words read like music: Wilde, Shaw, Yeats, Joyce, and O'Casey."
A native of Belfast, Ireland, Van Morrison has one of the most enduring and consistently impressive careers in music history. His music is included in nearly fifty films, including the recently released Scorsese film, The Departed, as well as Breakfast on Pluto, What A Girl Wants, The Royal Tenenbaums, Bridget Jones's Diary, One Fine Day, When a Man Loves a Woman, Prelude to a Kiss, Thelma & Louise, An Officer and a Gentleman, Proof of Life, and As Good as It Gets.
Terry George and William Monahan were also recognized for the power of their writing in film. Fionnula Flanagan, who presented the Oscar Wilde award to George, said that Terry "is like a compass that always points true north, true north in the sense of guiding us to the truth." The acclaimed Belfast-born film writer, who wrote the script for Hotel Rwanda, has often woven Northern Ireland themes into his work. Frequently collaborating with Jim Sheridan, his credits include The Boxer, Some Mother's Son and In the Name of the Father, all starring Daniel Day Lewis, as well as Hart's War and A Bright Shining Lie. He is currently at work on Reservation Road - which he wrote and is directing – starring Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Connelly and Mira Sorvino. George also recently wrapped The Waterhouse, currently in post-production.
William Monahan has received wide acclaim, including a 2007 Oscar and a Writers Guild of America award, for his screenplay for The Departed, the Martin Scorsese-directed film about the Irish American mafia that stars Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg. Upon accepting his award, the scriptwriter looked out at the audience and said, "receiving this award from the US-Ireland Alliance, in this roomful of people, makes me feel like I've made it." Monahan is currently at work on the feature film, Penetration, which will be directed by Ridley Scott. He previously collaborated with Scott on the film Kingdom of Heaven, which was Monahan's first produced screenplay. Monahan is also the author of the acclaimed novel, Light House: A Trifle.
The evening's emcee, Derry, Northern Ireland-born Roma Downey, began the evening speaking of the influence Van Morrison's music has played in her life. Downey is an accomplished actress and producer, best known for her role as "Monica," the principal character in the long-running TV series, Touched By An Angel. She can currently be seen in "A Picasso" at the Geffen Playhouse.
Record company, EMI, presented each guest with a copy of the recently released Van Morrison At The Movies: Soundtrack Hits – a first time collection of Mr. Morrison's best-known songs that have been featured in films. In addition to such favorites as "Gloria" from The Outsiders, "Wild Night" from Thelma & Louise, and "Brown Eyed Girl" from Born On The Fourth Of July, the new collection includes a previously unreleased live version of "Moondance" from An American Werewolf In London, recorded live with strings in 1986 at Los Angeles' Greek Theatre.
Guests feasted on food provided by Kensington Caterer's Richard Mooney, originally from Limerick, Ireland. Other contributors to the event included River Films, Tiffany & Co., Baileys, Lily O'Briens, Food America, Bushmills, Hot Irishman, Boru Vodka, Kerrygold, Guinness, Harp, Sunset Marquis, Le Brea Bakery, Oronoco, Three Thieves and Laura Lee Designs.