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Colin Farrell, Michael Burns and Michele Burke Honored at Oscar Wilde Event


J.J. Abrams, Steven Speilberg and Warren Beatty on hand for the US-Ireland Alliance awards ceremony 


 click here to see photo gallery

February 21, 2013                                                                

Colin Farrell, Lionsgate Vice Chairman Michael Burns, and Academy Award winning makeup artist, Michele Burke, were honored at the US-Ireland Alliance’s annual “Oscar Wilde:  Honoring the Irish in Film.”  J.J. Abrams welcomed guests to Bad Robot, Abrams’ production company in Santa Monica.  Major sponsors were American Airlines and Accenture.

Abrams, recently tapped to direct Star Wars, introduced honoree Michael Burns saying “the legendary producer Sam Goldwyn said ‘nobody knows anything.’  If he were alive today he might change that to ‘nobody knows anything except Michael Burns.’  Or he might say ‘nobody knows anything including Michael Burns, but holy shit is that guy lucky!’”

Burns’ acceptance speech was full of wisdom and optimism as he spoke of his family and his and his wife Pell’s Irish heritage.  He quoted Yeats and Joyce and regaled guests with funny and poignant stories about his children and Hollywood.  He noted that ‘when, as happens to all of us from time to time, we are disappointed that something we’ve done wasn’t properly recognized, remember this, THE WIZARD OF OZ, GOODBYE MR. CHIPS, THE GRAPES OF WRATH, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, THE GRADUATE, MASH, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, STAR WARS, APOCALYPSE NOW, RAGING BULL AND, YES, CITIZEN KANE all have two things in common, they inspired millions and  none of those fantastic films won the Academy Award for Best Picture.”

Paula Wagner introduced honoree Michele Burke, who she has worked with for twenty years, noting “she is responsible for makeup design that for years to come will be remembered as indelible screen images.”  Burke grew up in Kildare, Ireland where her mother instilled in her a sense of fearlessness, which allowed her to accept the job for QUEST FOR FIRE.  Other makeup artists turned down the job which gave three days notice get to Africa for a film about Neanderthals, and that she’d be told the rest when she arrived.  Michele was not on hand at the Academy Awards to receive her Oscar for that film.  In Canada at the time, the post office customs division called her with a cryptic message that she was to come down and claim a package, suspicious that it could contain some sort of contraband.  When the postman opened the box in front of Michele he exclaimed ‘but this is an Oscar!’  Michele said, “then you will have to present it to me’ and he leaned forward with great officialdom, bestowed the Oscar and everyone in the post office applauded.   

In introducing honoree Colin Farrell, director Jim Sheridan said “in Ireland we admire Daniel Day Lewis, we respect Liam Neeson but we love Colin.” Colin was extremely poetic and eloquent in his acceptance speech.  Quoting Oscar Wilde, he said, “’Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.’  And I think what he was speaking of is the power of experience over comprehension and that is what film feels like for me in many ways, it feels like the sweet and perfect marriage of comprehension and experience.”

Trina Vargo, president of the US-Ireland noted “these wonderful honorees demonstrate the breadth and depth of Irish talent in the modern film industry.  Colin Farrell as a remarkable acting talent with a poetic soul.  Michele Burke whose face may not be seen on screen but whose work is constantly visible in the faces of the characters she helps bring to life.  And Michael Burns represents the rare combination of business skill, quiet confidence, and creative insight which has made Lionsgate a film industry leader.”

The event has become known for shining a light on up-and-coming Irish music acts.  Performing this year were the innovative Julie Feeney, the soulful Declan O’Rourke and energetic young Heathers.

Jason O’Mara, currently starring in the television show Vegas, spoke of President Kennedy’s visit to Ireland 50 years ago and how he said that Ireland’s diaspora who visit Ireland, in a sense, ‘come home.’   Tourism Ireland is encouraging Ireland’s diaspora to visit Ireland in 2013.  Actor Peter Gallagher won the trip to Ireland that includes flights on American Airlines, stays at the Doyle Hotel Group’s Westbury Hotel in Dublin and the River Lee Hotel in Cork, a Dan Dooley Car Rental and a visit to Kildare Village, a high-end retail outlet.  O’Mara encouraged all guests to visit Ireland, noting that Ireland’s céad mile fáilte (100,000 welcomes) are for everyone, not just its diaspora.

Famed Irish photographer John Minihan snapped pics of guests. Tullamore D.E.W. hosted a whiskey tasting and great food was served by Kensington Caterers.

Among the 400 guests were Steven Spielberg, Kate Capshaw, Warren Beatty, Annette Bening; directors Cameron Crowe, and Marc Forster; US-Ireland Alliance advisory board members Hylda Queally (CAA) and Una Fox (Disney); many of the Bad Robot team including Bryan Burk; actors Griffin Dunne, Dominique McElligott, Bronagh Gallagher, and Mike O’Malley; Academy Award nominees Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly and Shawn Christensen; Irish Film Board CEO James Hickey and Commissioner Naoise Barry; several Irish producers and directors including Ciaran Foy, Gary Shore, and Nick Ryan;  Irish boxer Barry McGuigan; numerous film industry execs including several from Lionsgate, Summit Entertainment CEO Rob Friedman, HBO President Len Amato, and Drew Buckley of Electus;  several music supervisors, music producer George Drakoulias; Garrett Kelleher of Lightstream Productions; 2012 Oscar winner Oorlagh George, Limerick screenwriter Conor Ryan (who recently became the only two-time winner of the LA Comedy Festival pilot script competition), Light Iron’s Des Carey, and media lawyer Paul Tweed.