Oscar Wilde Awards 2016!
February 25, 2016: J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions company in Santa Monica was the setting for the US-Ireland’s Alliance’s 11th annual Oscar Wilde Awards. Tonight’s honorees included Irish actress Sarah Greene; the Northern Ireland band, Snow Patrol; STAR WARS heroine (with Irish ancestry) Daisy Ridley; Ireland’s Oscar-nominated director, Lenny Abrahamson, and the very funny James Corden who was this year’s “honorary” Irishman. Roisin O performed and Corden joined Snow Patrol onstage to sing their hit song, Set The Fire To The Third Bar.
In addition to celebrating the success of the Irish in terms of Oscar nominations (including for ROOM and BROOKLYN), the crowd celebrated the recent release of STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS. Abrams shot the last scene of the film off the west coast of Ireland, and breathtaking footage of Skellig Michael was projected throughout the evening. Abrams quoted George Bernard Shaw who, after visiting Skelling in 1910, wrote to a friend: “I tell you the thing does not belong to any world that you and I have lived and worked in: it is part of our dream world.” Abrams said he felt the same way and couldn’t think of a more fitting place for the dream world of STAR WARS. He also joked that it if he hadn’t filmed there, Alliance president Trina Vargo would have taken away his honorary Irishman status. Vargo, the founder and president of the US-Ireland Alliance, had long-encouraged Abrams to film in Ireland.
The guest list is always an eclectic group of the Irish, Irish Americans and those who are for a night. Steven Spielberg & Kate Capshaw were on hand -- Spielberg’s BRIDGE OF SPIES has six Oscar noms, including for Best Picture. Other Oscar nominees present were Ed Guiney, nominated for Best Picture with ROOM; nominated for Best Picture with BROOKLYN; Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey for Film Editing, STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS; Neal Scanlan & Roger Guyette for Best Visual Effects for STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS; Benjamin Cleary and Serena Armitage for Short Film Live Action, STUTTERER; and Jamie Donoughue for Short Film Live Action, SHOK.
Joanne Froggatt of Downton Abbey was spotted in the crowd, as was Idris Elba who, after hearing Corden’s speech said he wants to be an honorary Irishman. Execs in the room included Lionsgate Vice Chairman (and former honoree) Michael Burns; HBO Films President Len Amato; and Amy Powell, President of Paramount television. Roberto Orci, producer of STAR TREK and SPIDER-MAN was there as was Chad Hartigan, director of MORRIS FROM AMERICA. The Irish American’s film got a lot of buzz at Sundance recently.
CAA was well repped with Richard Lovett, President and Managing Partner; Kevin Huvane, Managing Partner and Director; Joel Lubin, Co-Head of the Motion Picture Talent Department; Joe Cohen, Co-head of the Television Department; and Hylda Queally, a former honoree from Ireland, who is on the Advisory Board of the US-Ireland Alliance and is the agent of Daisy Ridley, Kate Winslet, Jessica Chastain and Cate Blanchett to name a few.
Just some of the talent from Ireland, Northern Ireland the US and UK walking the “green” carpet included: John Cho, Jason O’Mara, Paige Turco, Karl Urban, Steven Weber, Nora Jane Noone, Geraldine Hughes, Sonya Macari, Colin Devlin, Amy Huberman, Claudine Keane, Aisha Taylor and Emmett Hughes, and Emmett Scanlan. David Whyte read an Irish poem to kick off the evening.
Abrahamson, the Academy Award-nominated director of ROOM, was joined by his wife and mother at the event. He was introduced by Abrams as the only other Irish Jew in the room. Abrahamson joked that when he tried to explain to his five-year old daughter what he does for a living, and told her he makes movies, she asked, “like Star Wars? Lenny explained, “Not quite the same box office.”
Also honored was Cork-born Sarah Greene who said she had always hoped to be part of the Oscar Wilde Awards after seeing Colin Farrell honored at the event a few years ago. She spoke about how warmly she was welcomed by Americans when she did The Cripple of Inishmaan on Broadway last year (a role for which she was Tony nominated). It was then that she met former Oscar Wilde Award honoree, John Logan and that led to her current role in Logan’s Penny Dreadful.
Gary Lightbody, speaking for Snow Patrol, talked about the differences between LA and Ireland. He said, “When someone from LA says ‘do you want to go out for a beer?’, they mean it. When somebody from Ireland says, ‘Do you want to go out for a beer’, what they mean is, maybe I’ll be home tonight, I wouldn’t count on it.”
Daisy Ridley, the heroine in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, was touched with the Oscar Wilde Award, which she said was the first award she’s won. She spoke of her Irish ancestry, a recent visit to the Burren, and how wonderful everyone was when she filmed on Skellig Michael – especially as she was very ill at the time. In introducing her, Abrams sang her praises as an actress and mentioned that Ridley is also a good singer. In addition to presenting at the Academy Awards on Sunday, Abrams said Ridley will record a song on Saturday “with a massive superstar,” before flying back to the UK to star in Episode 8.
James Corden was delighted to be honored with his friends in Snow Patrol -- Lightbody sang at Corden’s wedding. Corden, made an honorary Irishman, started with an apology “on behalf of myself, my countryman and anyone else in the world who isn’t Irish for every time myself and anyone else ever used the phrase ‘top of the morning to you’. It’s only now, as an honorary Irishman, I realize quite how annoying it is.”
The food from Kensington Caterers always blends Irish staples with a modern twist. Guests feasted on beer-battered fish n’ chips with jalapeno tartar, seafood pies, stout marinated beef, Irish breakfast panini, Kerrygold cheeses, hand-rolled Irish cream truffles, and Irish coffee shots. The Wilde Wine Bar and Restaurant in LA hosted a wine bar with wines by Angle Vineyards and there was, of course, plenty of Guinness, Irish whiskey.
Accenture is the lead sponsor of the event with additional support from Resurgent Film Group, HBO, CAA, Disney, Showtime, Girardi Keese, and Stephen McCormack who is behind the MediaCon Global TV Summit, set for Dublin in September.
Photos by Alberto Rodriguez, Getty Images and Dean Machin/Event Image Services
Drone footage courtesy of Mitchell Scholar YJ Heo's www.midwestdesignlab.com