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Stephen Colbert, Carrie Fisher, Colin Davidson 
Honored at Wilde Awards

Colin Davidson, Carrie Fisher and Stephen Colbert were honored at the US-Ireland Alliance’s 10th annual Oscar Wilde Awards at JJ Abrams’ Bad Robot studio in Santa Monica, Calif., on Feb. 19, 2015.

Abrams emceed the event, which was held for the fourth year at his Bad Robot production company. His 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 Sen. 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."

"While we expect the event to remain primarily focused on film, several people encouraged us to include successful, creative honorees from other fields and we are honored that Colin is our first honoree to be named," said Vargo.

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 best-selling 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.

Abrams returned as emcee after missing last year’s event since he was filming Star Wars, including a few days in Ireland. He will also present Colbert with his award. Comedian Stephen Fry presented the award to Fisher,while Garrett Kelleher presented Irish artist Davidson with his award. Irish musicians Gavin James and Megan O’Neill performed.

In 2005, the US-Ireland Alliance first honored acclaimed Irish directors Jim Sheridan and Neil Jordan, along with Northern Ireland electronic musician, composer, and DJ David Holmes. From 2005 to 2011, the pre-Oscar party, popular with the Irish and non-Irish alike, was held at the Wilshire Ebell. 

In 2012, JJ Abrams generously offered to host the event at his Bad Robot studio, calling the party the most fun, warmest event in L.A. The event has become known as an intimate, casual, fun evening for Oscar nominees, major studio executives and industry veterans in a week packed with formal pre-awards affairs. 

But the party has gained a reputation beyond just the relaxed atmosphere for the connections it has made between the US and Ireland in the entertainment community, for introducing many young contemporary Irish musicians to a new audience and for advancing the mission of the Alliance’s Mitchell Scholarship program.

The event featured Guinness, Smithwick’s and Bailey’s, an Irish whiskey tasting from Teeling, and 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 since its inception. Previous award recipients and presenters include Conan O’Brien, Fiona Shaw, Colin Farrell, Hylda Queally, Brian Burns, Paul Rudd, James L. Brooks, Michelle Williams, Tom Cruise, Al Pacino, Anjelica Huston, Jodie Foster, Julia Roberts, and Kate Winslet.

Many of the sponsors of the Oscar Wilde event were return supporters, including Accenture, HBO, and Morgan Stanley. Resurgent Film Group, led by Irish-born Des Carey, was also be among the sponsors in 2015. Resurgent’s first film, which is expected to turn into a franchise, will be a movie adaptation of Brad Thor’s spy thriller The Lions of Lucerne which starts filming in Switzerland next year.

Irish Get Hollywood Nod

By James Bartlett

It’s that most green of all months – March – so first off, let me say Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all our readers! By the time you read this, all the big movie award ceremonies will be over and Oscars will be on shelves across the world.

Sadly though, the two big Irish nominees failed to triumph in Hollywood on Feb. 22.

Northern Irish short movie Boogaloo and Graham, a heart-warming story about two young boys growing up in the 1970s "Troubles" with their pet chickens, and Song of the Sea, the much-praised animation from Newry-born Tomm Moore (who was also nominated for The Secret of Kells in 2009) both fell at the final fence, Moore however taking no shame in being beaten by studio monster hit Big Hero 6.

No matter, because there was some consolation – at least for Boogaloo and Graham, which before the Oscars won at the BAFTAs (the British Academy of Film & Television Arts) awards in London, England, so at least writer Ronan Blaney and director Michael have something to go on their fireplace.

Another recent Irish winner – in this case at the recent Sundance Film Festival in Utah – was actor Jack Reynor, who was awarded a special Jury Prize at the closing ceremony for his performance in Glassland.

"I’m absolutely thrilled to have been considered and to have won a prize at Sundance this year," he said, adding that "it’s definitely a reflection of the work of everybody who was part of the film and I’m incredibly proud to have worked with all of them."

Glassland also features Toni Collette (Little Miss Sunshine) and Will Poulter (We’re the Millers) and is an Irish film that’s written and directed by Gerard Barrett. It’s due for release in the UK and Ireland in April, and hopefully in the States later in the year.

Also hopefully on our screens later this year will be the latest movie from Irish director Jim Sheridan. Filming wrapped in early March on the adaptation of Sebastian Barry’s 2008 novel The Secret Scripture, and cast members including Rooney Mara, Vanessa Redgrave, Eric Bana and Jack Reynor (fresh off his Sundance success) were seen around Wicklow, Dublin, Kilkenny and Sligo. The script, written by Sheridan and Johnny Ferguson, will tell the story of a 100-year-old woman (Redgrave) reading her diary and recalling her days as a patient in a mental hospital.

Before the Oscars were The Oscar Wilde Awards, which was celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. The three winners were contemporary painter Colin Davidson from Northern Ireland, and then two perhaps more well-known names: comedian/satirist Stephen Colbert, who, on receiving the nomination, joked that "My great-great-grandfather sailed from Limerick with but two goals. One was to get a job digging the Erie Canal and, the second was to party in L.A. I am proud to fulfill his dream." 

Then there was Carrie Fisher, the erstwhile author and actress currently reprising her role as Princess Leia in the new Star Wars movie.

On hearing the news, she was typically witty: "My great, great, fabulous grandfather Burt McReynolds from the Co. Donegal was wrongfully accused of being a horse thief, a case of mistaken identity. But rather than put his family through the rigors of a trial to clear the family name, he emigrated to America, dropped the Mc in the ocean, became Burt Reynolds and the rest is history…and incredibly boring. Thankfully, my mother changed all that and gave our family name a kick in the pants that it might or might not deserve."

Fisher’s mother, of course, is legendary Singin’ in the Rain actress Debbie Reynolds.

On the night, Star Wars producer Kathleen Kennedy, co-writer Lawrence Kasdan and Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, were in attendance to support Fisher, while the movie’s director JJ Abrams was MC for the night.

Stephen Fry presented her with the award, noting that "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."

The final honoree of the evening was Stephen Colbert – complete with Twitter-busting beard - who will be replacing David Letterman as host of the Late Show in May. Colbert, and whose ancestors came from Tyrone and Roscommon. "There is no other award being given out in Los Angeles this week named after an Oscar that I would want more than this," he said, "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."

Moving to the future, there’s a new role for Irish actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who has been cast as the lead in Moroccan-set Damascus Cover, which has just started shooting under the directorial eye of Daniel Zelik Berk. Set in 1989 Berlin, the story is about a veteran spy who is sent undercover in Syria to smuggle a chemical weapons scientist and his family out of the country.

Co-stars include John Hurt, and Rhys Meyers is of course known from Woody Allen’s Match Point (opposite Scarlett Johannson) and celebrated television roles as Elvis Presley in the 2005 television movie Elvis and of course in four seasons of the historical hit The Tudors.

Also, unless you’ve been hiding under the bed, you can’t have failed to notice Belfast-born Jamie Dornan on billboards and commercials. Of course, he’s "Mr. Grey" alongside Dakota Johnson’s "Anastasia" in the box office juggernaut Fifty Shades of Grey, which took $81 million dollars opening weekend in the States alone (twice its budget!) and is still atop the box office as we speak. Expect to see him in the sequel – and third movie – that’s undoubtedly being planned as I write.
The following are honor predictions by James Bartlett,
written well before the Academies.

An Irish movie that's already moving closer to the nod is short animation Coda, which has made the shortlist of 10 movies announced by the Academy of Motion Arts and Sciences. There were nearly 60 candidates, but Coda has already won awards at the Dublin Animation Film Festival, the SXSW Festival in Texas, the Seoul International Cartoon and Animation Festival in Korea, the Los Angeles International Short Film Festival and the Galway Film Fleadh.

On hearing the news, director Alan Holly said that while "in many ways Coda is quite an Irish story; there are also a lot of very universal elements to the film as well, which I think international audiences really relate to. And then of course there are parts that are quite personal to me too, so yes, I really happy to see the film take off internationally."

Voiced by Brian Gleeson and Orla Fitzgerald and directed by Alan Holly, the nine minute Coda took two years to make and tells the story of a lost soul who stumbles drunkenly through a city. Death finds him in a park, and shows him many things.

Also, two short movies from Northern Ireland were in with a shot at the famous golden statue; both Boogaloo and Graham and SLR were selected for the Live Action Short category, an area that was won by the Northern Irish director Terry George in 2012 with The Shore. They managed to best over 140 shorts to make it to the top 10 "long list," and the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts & Sciences will choose between three and five of them to competed at the Oscars. 

Boogaloo and Graham stars Martin McCann and Charlene McKenna, and is about two young boys who discover the facts of life with the help of their pet chickens, and is written by Ronan Blaney and directed by Michael Lennox. SLR was written and directed by Stephen Fingleton and is a thriller about amateur photographer Elliott, played by Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones, Hunger), who is obsessed with voyeur pornography and finds himself in trouble when he makes a shocking discovery. 

The 87th Academy Awards nominations were announced live on Thursday, January 15, but just recently a number of honorary Governor's Awards Oscars were awarded at a star-studded event in Hollywood. Honored alongside Harry Belafonte, Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki and French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere, was 94-year-old Maureen O'Hara.

Feisty as ever despite being in a wheelchair, the red-haired legend came on stage humming "Danny Boy," and wanted to carry on talking when her time was up. Known for movies such as Miracle on 34th Street, Sinbad the Sailor and The Parent Trap, she was also a frequent collaborator with director John Ford, appearing in five of his films, including one of the most famous Irish movies ever, The Quiet Man.

Liam Neeson and Clint Eastwood both admitted to crushes on the actress before handing over the award, and then O'Hara thanked the men who helped make her career: actors Charles Laughton and John Wayne. Coincidentally, just a few weeks before it had been announced by Galway County Council that they had voted unanimously to add the cottage where The Quiet Man was filmed was to be added to the council's Record of Protected Structures.

Sean Thornton and Mary Kate Danaher's real-life "wee humble cottage," located at Tiernakill South, Maam, Co. Galway, currently lies in ruin and has been deteriorating for a number of years, but a 8,000-name signature and years of campaigning by fans seems to have saved the cottage, which will hopefully see the absentee landlord agree to the preservation or renovation. More than 60 years have passed since Ford brought in his cast and crew to film on location in Galway and Connemara, and hundreds of thousands of tourists have flocked there ever since. 

Staying with awards, Irish director of photography PJ Dillon was nominated for an American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) Award in the category of Outstanding Cinematography For A Television Series for his work on the History Channel show Vikings which films in Ireland. 

The Society was founded in Hollywood in 1919, and has a mission to advance the art and science of cinematography and bring cinematographers together to exchange ideas and promote the movie as an art form. Dillon has won three Irish Film & Television Academy awards before, has also worked on Game Of Thrones and Penny Dreadful, as well as Strangerland. This Australian film stars Nicole Kidman and Joseph Fiennes that is due for release in 2015.

Dillon said that he was "delighted to receive the nomination. I'm privileged to work with an amazing Camera, lighting and grip team on Vikings and this nomination signifies recognition of our work from our international peers, which is very satisfying."

He was up against cinematographers who worked on Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, Gotham and Manhattan

Finally, recall a crazy story from a few months ago about a runaway raccoon in Ballymena, Co. Antrim, in the North of Ireland. A movie in the making, it now has an ending because he has finally been recaptured. Rab was finally discovered by a member of the public in a car port in Ballycastle, some 26 miles away.

He had left behind his mate Rita and four kits, as young raccoons are called, and was initially reported missing in September, but now the fugitive is safely in the hands of the Ulster Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. 

He had been spotted several times since escaping from a mini-zoo, and had become quite the media sensation. That's all over now though - bar the movie animation adaptation or children's book, of course - and this rare visitor (raccoons are native to North America and are rare in some parts of Europe) is now back from his adventure.

Siskel Film Center,
Hibernian Transmedia
to Present 1st Irish American Movie Hooley

Barbara Scharres, program director of The Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago, and Irish American News columnist and radio personality Mike Houlihan announced today their plan to present the first annual "Irish American Movie Hooley" at the Siskel Film Center from Sept. 25-27, 2015.

The "Hooley" will present a program of premieres of Irish-American films that include either an Irish-American theme or feature a script, director, or star with Irish or Irish-American roots. Houlihan said, "We’re hoping to discover the next John Ford, Preston Sturges, or James Cagney, who epitomized the romantic Irish-American sense of identity, with a search for contemporary keepers of the flame of Irish-American pride, bravado, and legendary storytelling."

A call for submissions will go out in March for independent feature films that fit the criteria outlined further on the Hibernian Transmedia website, Houlihan is chairman of Hibernian Transmedia NFP, a 501(c)(3), not-for-profit producing organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Irish and Irish-American culture.

For more than 40 years, the Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) has presented world-class independent, international, and classic cinema. Renamed in honor of the late film critic in 2000, the Gene Siskel Film Center presents approximately 1,500 screenings and 100 guest artist appearances each year to over 65,000 film enthusiasts at its unique, sophisticated, modern facilities, which have been operating since June 2001 at 164 N. State Street, Chicago.

"We at the Gene Siskel Film Center are excited to initiate this new community partnership with Hibernian Transmedia in order to create a showcase for Irish American films and directors. Discovering and promoting emerging talent is an important function of our cultural mission." said Siskel Program Director Barbara Scharres.

Filmmakers across the country are encouraged to submit their films to the "Hooley" which will screen the top three for their premieres in September. "We welcome filmmaker submissions of Irish American narrative or documentary feature premieres." For more info:


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