South Australian films and talent swept the field at the inaugural Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Awards ceremony, held on Tuesday at the Sydney Opera House. The critically acclaimed Snowtown took out four of the five awards for which it was nominated, including Best Direction for Justin Kurzel and Best Lead Actor for Daniel Henshall.
Snowtown was such a success that fellow SA production Red Dog seemed to have been forgotten – until it claimed the Samsung AACTA Award for Best Film. Hugo Weaving won Best Supporting Actor for the SA-made Oranges and Sunshine, while Adelaide actress Sarah Snook took out Best Lead Actress in a Television Drama for her role in Sisters of War (ABC1).
AACTA President Geoffrey Rush and Ambassador Cate Blanchett shared presenting duties with an abundance of Australian talent, including Rachael Taylor, Mia Wasikowska, Miranda Kerr, Jacki Weaver and others. Olivia Newton-John kicked off the ceremony by performing a medley of songs from the soundtrack of her latest film, the recently released A Few Best Men.
Best Actor winner Daniel Henshall was eager to sing the praises of the South Australian film industry and the new Adelaide Studios at Glenside.
"I love the South Australian Film Corp and I love the Adelaide Film Festival – I think what they do is brilliant in supporting Australian film," he told Glam Adelaide.
"Taking on risky projects the way they do, doing what they do in supporting this country and its film is just brilliant."
Australian supermodel and actress Megan Gale looked striking in a lacy gown by Alex Perry. Chatting about her ambitions for the future, she explained that she had put her acting career on hiatus to focus on opportunities such as Project Runway. However, she quickly added that she was keeping her options open and waiting for the right acting project.
"There've definitely been opportunities and things that've come up, but I'm a big believer in not doing a film just for the sake of doing it," she said.
"It has to be the right role, the right people involved, the right director, the right script."
Gale said her ideal role would be something unglamorous.
"Something a bit raw, a bit more exposed," she elaborated, laughing at suggestions that she do a Natalie Portman and be the next actress to shave her head for a part.
Rob Carlton, nominated for playing Kerry Packer in Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo (ABC1), loudly confessed to have found it more daunting portraying a real person.
"The one thing we have as actors normally, is that we can say 'It's the character, that's the choice I made'. But when it's somebody who actually existed and who everybody knows?"
Adelaide’s own Xavier Samuel looked dapper as he strode down the red carpet in a classic black suit. Known for his roles in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Anonymous and A Few Best Men, the young star spoke fondly about his hometown.
“I always look forward to coming back to Adelaide and spending time there, lots of my friends and family are still there,” he told Glam Adelaide. “I like to go back home.”
Asked how it felt to go from Adelaide to the AACTAs, he started wise-cracking.
“Yeah, the drive is nice. Via Melbourne, through the countryside…” he quipped, before turning serious.
“I think I’m really privileged and lucky to be in a position to keep doing what I love. I know a whole lot of very talented Australian actors who aren’t working, so I count myself very lucky.”
Samuel’s tendency towards charming sarcasm reared its head again when asked where he would like to see the Australian film industry in the future.
“Still in Australia.”
He was unable to hide a smirk at my protestations that the question was meant metaphorically. “I know!” he laughed. “I think a night like tonight is a real occasion to celebrate Australian film and television having wider recognition and more international recognition. There are a lot of very talented actors and filmmakers here and I think it’s about time we received that recognition.”
The conversation turned to the suit Samuel was wearing, which was made by Louis Vuitton.
“You look lovely, as well,” he added, just before he moved on – turning this reporter almost as red as the carpet.
“If you have a year where there’s a lot of comedies, people will say ‘We only ever produce comedies!’ – the next year it will be gloomy films and people say we only ever do those.”
Actress Radha Mitchell said that Australian filmmakers and audiences were privileged in being able to focus on film as art.
“I’m based in America mainly and that’s quite difficult [there] because everyone’s financially constrained,” she told Glam. “We have the opportunity to make movies that register on that level.”
Magda Szubanski said she disagreed with the oft-cited view that local audiences are too unwilling to support local movies. “Australians are big filmgoers,” she said.
“I think we really love seeing our own stories told.”
The AACTA Awards were launched in August last year as a continuum of the Australian Film Institute (AFI) Awards, which have been celebrating Australian film and television excellence for over half a century.
2012 Samsung AACTA Award Winners
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST YOUNG ACTOR
Lara Robinson, Cloudstreet – Part 1 (FOXTEL – Showcase).
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST TELEVISION DRAMA SERIES
East West 101, Season 3 – The Heroes' Journey. Steve Knapman, Kris Wyld (SBS).
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST TELEFEATURE, MINI SERIES OR SHORT RUN SERIES
The Slap, Tony Ayres, Helen Bowden, Michael McMahon (ABC1).
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST LIGHT ENTERTAINMENT TELEVISION SERIES
The Gruen Transfer, Series 4. Andrew Denton, Anita Jacoby, Jon Casimir (ABC1).
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST DIRECTION IN TELEVISION
The Slap – Episode 3 ‘Harry’. Matthew Saville (ABC1).
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST SCREENPLAY IN TELEVISION
The Slap – Episode 3 'Harry'. Brendan Cowell (ABC1).
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST LEAD ACTOR IN A TELEVISION DRAMA
Alex Dimitriades, The Slap (ABC1).
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST LEAD ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION DRAMA
Sarah Snook, Sisters Of War (ABC1).
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST GUEST OR SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A TELEVISION DRAMA
Richard Cawthorne, Killing Time – Episode 2 (FOXTEL – TV1).
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST GUEST OR SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION DRAMA
Diana Glenn, The Slap – Episode 3 'Harry' (ABC1).
SWITCHED ON AUDIENCE CHOICE AWARD FOR BEST TELEVISION PROGRAM
Packed To The Rafters, Seven Network.
SWITCHED ON AUDIENCE CHOICE AWARD FOR BEST PERFORMANCE IN A TELEVISION DRAMA
Asher Keddie, Paper Giants: The Birth Of Cleo (ABC1).
SAMSUNG AACTA AWARD FOR BEST FILM
Red Dog, Nelson Woss, Julie Ryan.
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST DIRECTION
Snowtown, Justin Kurzel.
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Griff The Invisible, Leon Ford.
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Snowtown, Shaun Grant.
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST LEAD ACTOR
Daniel Henshall, Snowtown.
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST LEAD ACTRESS
Judy Davis. The Eye Of The Storm.
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Hugo Weaving, Oranges And Sunshine.
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Louise Harris, Snowtown.
Photos by LJ PhotoCorp.