Wilde Night Was Calling
February 20, 2015 Last night, Colin Davidson, Carrie Fisher and Stephen Colbert were honored at the US-Ireland Alliance’s 10th annual Oscar Wilde Awards.
J.J. Abrams emceed the event, which was held for the fourth year at his Bad Robot production company in Santa Monica. J.J.’s opening remarks celebrated US-Ireland Alliance founder and president, Trina Vargo, who encouraged him to film in Ireland.
“Trina and my wife Katie – McGrath -- go way back to the time when they both worked for Senator Ted Kennedy. Trina kept telling Katie that we had to visit Ireland. Then she said she was making me an “honorary” Irishman so we really had to visit Ireland. Which we did, and we loved. Then when we started to hold the event here, Trina said, “It’s still not enough J.J., now I want you to film in Ireland, and not just any film, goddamnit, it needs to be STAR WARS.” Scenes for the upcoming STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS were filmed on Skellig Michael last summer.
STAR WARS producer Kathleen Kennedy, co-writer Lawrence Kasdan and Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, were in attendance to see Carrie Fisher, aka Princess Leia, receive her Oscar Wilde Award. Stephen Fry presented Fisher with her award saying, “Our honoree must be talented, witty, charming, kind, funny, intellectually daring and vulnerable with a genius for life and friendship. Who can contain all of these qualities? Only one name comes to my mind.”
Irish painter Colin Davidson was presented with his award by Garrett Kelleher. A US-Ireland Alliance advisory board member, Kelleher is also the Executive Chairman of Lightstream Entertainment. Davidson’s grand scale portraits have won widespread recognition across the world. His most recent works depict important leaders, protagonists and voices of this generation – politicians, poets, writers, actors, musicians and members of the public. His painting of Seamus Heaney was the last portrait for which Heaney sat.
Davidson’s painting of Glen Hansard, auctioned for the benefit of the Alliance’s George J. Mitchell Scholarship program, brought $20,300 on the night. The scholarship, which provides Americans the opportunity to study on the island of Ireland has become one of the most, if not the most, prestigious scholarships for Americans to study abroad.
Accepting his award Davidson spoke of the impact film has had on his painting. “I’ve always had a passion for film, that’s why it is such a privilege for me to be here. It has inspired and continues to inspire my work.”
The final honoree of the evening was Stephen Colbert who will be replacing David Letterman as host of the Late Show on CBS. Colbert, whose ancestors came from Tyrone and Roscommon, was honored to receive the award, “There is no other award being given out in Los Angeles this week named after an Oscar that I would want more than this. And I’m gratified to finally be recognized for all I have done for the Irish people. I am not sure what any of that is, but now that I have the award, I know I can stop.”
Irish-British poet David Whyte recited a poem he wrote that celebrated the experience of taking a journey and choosing a path to follow, sentiments well understood by those being honored.
Irish singer/songwriters Gavin James and Megan O’Neill performed for the crowd, which included executives in the music industry. In previous years, musical acts performing at the event have achieved recording contracts and various other opportunities as a result.
Accenture was the lead sponsor of the event, which included repeat support from HBO, Morgan Stanley and Electus. The event’s planning committee includes Electus COO Drew Buckley, VP Enterprise Data Technology at The Walt Disney Company, Una Fox, and Des Carey, President of the new Resurgent Film Group. Resurgent will bring to the screen the novels of bestselling action thriller author Brad Thor.
Others in attendance included former honorees CAA agent Hylda Queally, Lionsgate Chairman Michael Burns, actress Sarah Bolger, Davis Guggenheim, Tim Murphy, Brian F. O’Byrne, Jason O’Mara, and John Cho. Irish director Stephen Bradley is in the US to promote his film NOBLE, which will soon be released in the US. Also present was Tim Dowling, screenwriter of PIXELS, the $110 million sci-fi film currently in post-production.
Oscar nominees in attendance included Paul Young, nominated for SONG OF THE SEA for Animated Feature Film; Michael Lennox and Ronan Blaney, Short Film Live Action BOOGALOO AND GRAHAM; Thomas Curley, for Best Achievement in Sound Mixing for WHIPLASH; Graham Moore for Adapted Screenplay for THE IMITATION GAME; and Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois, nominated for the song Lost Stars in John Carney’s film BEGIN AGAIN. Also recognized was David Macmillan, the Northern Ireland born sound mixer is a three-time Academy Award winner. Macmillan was honored earlier in the week by the Cinema Audio Society with a career achievement award.
Vargo noted that the intent behind the event has been to forge connections between members of the creative industries in Ireland and Los Angeles. The premiere event for Irish and friends of, Vargo describes the event as a party with a purpose. Several Bad Robot, HBO, Disney and Amazon Studios execs were in attendance. Nina Jacobson, HUNGER GAMES producer was among the many producers who represented more that $2.5 billion in US domestic box office in just the last 4 years.
Part of the casual, jeans event included great Irish food with a modern twist prepared by Irish caterer Richard Mooney of Kensington Caterers. Dublin-born Deirdre O’Neill, principal of The O’Neill Group, Inc. has produced the event for the ten years. Diageo provided the Guinness, Smithwick’s and Bailey’s, Teeling provided the whiskey, and Lenox awards.