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John Logan, Melissa McCarthy and Michelle Williams Honored

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February 23, 2012

Oscar Wilde once said: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”  There were a lot of stars to look at at the US-Ireland Alliance’s seventh annual “Oscar Wilde:  Honoring the Irish in Film.” 

Three Academy Award nominees – John Logan, Melissa McCarthy and Michelle Williams – were honored Thursday night at J.J. Abrams Santa Monica production company, Bad Robot.

Among the 300 guests in attendance were Stephen Spielberg and Cate Capshaw, Motion Picture Association Chairman Chris Dodd, Colin Farrell, Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall and Jim Sheridan.

Abrams welcomed guests calling the party the most fun, warmest event in L.A.  He was followed by Senator George J. Mitchell who spoke about the non-profit US-Ireland Alliance and the connections it has made between the US and Ireland both for entertainment community and with the scholarship program that bears his name. 

Abrams and Mitchell raved about the Alliance and founder Trina Vargo.   Vargo and J.J.’s wife, Katie McGrath, are friends from years of working together with Senator Ted Kennedy.  Abrams noted that Vargo invited all the honorees before they were nominated for Academy Awards, suggesting that guests might want to ask Vargo for her Kentucky Derby picks.

In presenting John Logan with his award, Kenneth Branagh said Logan gives each of his characters “humanity and compassion and humor and sometimes a little madness, in fact I think you write them all as Irish.”  On accepting, Logan, whose mother and sister were present, spoke touchingly of his Belfast-born father, who died earlier this year.  He noted that “HUGO was about a boy who loses his father and finds a home -- so everything about this year has made me think about my father.” 

While it is hard to imagine Melissa McCarthy without a voice, she lost hers and doctors ordered her to bed.  So host J.J. Abrams accepted on her behalf saying he appreciated her brilliance and he could only imagine how funny her speech would have been.

John Logan did double duty on the night by introducing Michelle Williams.  He joked that Michelle is not actually Irish but her Norwegian ancestors were the Viking hordes who came to Belfast and pillaged.   He talked about what it is to be Irish and why Williams qualifies: “It means an incandescent twinkle in the eye, the love of mad poetry… and more than anything … a generosity of spirit.  And so for tonight you are as Irish as any of us.”

Williams said the award meant so much to her, “because I consider it from a land and from a people who are known for poetry, for literature and lore, for myth and legend and in a business that’s ultimately about storytelling, I’m honored to be acknowledged by the original storytellers.”  Williams said her Norwegian ancestry was well known but she was happy to be able to focus on “the Irish in me, Hylda Queally.”  Williams was referring to her agent, County Clare-born, Hylda Queally who she said is one of those who empowers her to do what she does.

Incredible music was heard from Irish singers Sharon Corr, Cathy Davey and Colin Devlin and Size2Shoes, aka Moley and Eoin O’Suilleabhain.  Many Irish performers have had significant career breaks playing at this event and the room had a generous sprinkling of music supervisors on hand including Grammy Award winning music producer George Drakoulias and Wayne Jobson.

Others in attendance included Abrams’ Bad Robot partner Bryan Burk; Drew Buckley of Electus; former Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook; Simon Curtis, the director of MY WEEK WITH MARILYN; HUGO author Brian Selznik; President of Santa Fe Studios, Jason Hool;  Michael Moore, President of Raleigh Studios; Grey Rembert of GK Films; Light Iron Digital’s Des Carey; and execs from HBO, Focus Features, Walt Disney Studios, and too many producers to count.

Actors on hand included Jason O’Mara, Dana Delany, Richard Schiff, Donal Logue, Brian F. O’Bryne, Brit Marling, Kerry Condon, Colin O’Donoghue, Catriona Balfe, Elaine Cassidy, Amy Huberman, Sonya Macari, David Keoghan.  Many of the cast of Star Trek, the film Abrams is currently shooting, were also on hand: John Ho, Alice Eve, Zach Quinto and Karl Urban.

A plethora of Academy Award nominees were relaxed if anxious for Sunday:  Terry and Oorlagh George, Daniel Junge, Peter Devlin, Eimear O’Kane, and director Michael Roskam who was there with his actor Matthais Schoenaerts.

In addition to Sheridan and Queally, other US-Ireland Alliance board members included John Gardiner and Una Fox.  Silicon Valley was also well represented with YouTube founder Chad Hurley, John O’Farrell, Tony Conrad, Matt Galligan, and Mike Maples.

With the change of venue to Bad Robot, a more intimate space than the previous Wilshire Ebell venue, the Alliance still managed to maintain the casual, fun Irish party feel that has made the event one of the hottest tickets during Oscars week.   The outdoor event was blessed by good weather – the Irish did not bring the rain with them.   The delicious food was provided by Irishman Richard Mooney’s Kensington Caterers, which has a tradition of keeping it Irish yet modern.  And there was a playful atmosphere with film clips projected on the walls as well as cool animations of the Bad Robot, Alliance and Oscar Wilde logos. 

Sponsors of the event were American Airlines and Accenture.

Previous recipients of the award include Jim Sheridan, Neil Jordan, David Holmes, Terry George, Van Morrison, Bill Monahan, James L. Brooks, Fiona Shaw, Colm Meaney, Hylda Queally, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Brendan Gleeson, J.J. Abrams, Saoirse Ronan, Seamus McGarvey, Sarah Bolger, Paul Rudd, and Ros and John Hubbard.