With an unprecedented number of Oscar nominations for Irish talent and films this year, everyone was celebrating the green wave at the 17th annual Oscar Wilde Awards, held Thursday night — before the rain arrived — at Bad Robot in Santa Monica. “It’s amazing, there are 7 million people on that island, and all of them were nominated and are here tonight,” host J.J. Abrams joked, in a year when 25 percent of the Academy Award acting nominations are held by Irish actors.
The Oscar Wilde honorees this year were Irish actresses Kerry Condon (The Banshees of Inisherin), Jessie Buckley (Women Talking), Eve Hewson (Flora and Son) and An Cailίn Ciúin (The Quiet Girl), the first Irish language film nominated for an Academy Award. Created by the US-Ireland Alliance, the Oscar Wilde Awards celebrate the work of those from Ireland — and some who are not — who contribute to the movies, television and music.
Condon, nominated for the best supporting actress Oscar, took the occasion — after being introduced by Better Call Saul mate Rhea Seehorn — to reminisce about coming to America when she was 17 and “smoking weed for the first time”; then, staying at the Saharan Motel on Sunset “because it was in the movie True Romance and it was all I could afford, and two days later, the police did a raid on a room down the hall and I thought, ‘That’s so cool.’” Other memories included staying with Heath Ledger in his house in Los Feliz, “being underage and driving with a fake license” and smoking Camel Lights.
She also recalled living in Hell’s Kitchen in New York and having “a fella stalking me, ’cause I was in this HBO show Rome, but no one on the job cared because he kept sending us cupcakes from his bakery.”
Buckley was brought to the podium by her Women Talking writer-director Sarah Polley (Oscar nominated for adapted screenplay), who said that in a movie “when there were nine, sometimes 12 characters in the same room, I would often shoot Jessie last after we’d run the scene upward of 150 times over the course of three days,” as “while Jessie was always brilliant on the first take, she’s really the only actor I’ve ever seen still able to genuinely surprise herself and everyone else on take 150. … Her wild laughter kept us alive through the hardest day.”
Buckley confessed that she finds awards shows “a bit bewildering. I usually get kind of squashed like some kind of sausage into a dress and on the way there I think, ‘I can’t wait to get home and like, have chips and tequila and put my pajamas on.’ But I thought this being Irish awards it might be a bit different, like being at a wake.”
Hewson, the Bad Sisters actress coming off a performance in John Carney’s Sundance entry, was introduced by Charlie Hunnam. Her parents, Bono and Ali Hewson, were on hand and thanked for giving her a “beautiful mix of logical self-confidence and chronic, crippling anxiety. It’s the perfect blend for an artist, and I wouldn’t be here today without it.”
To her dad: “Thank you for your guidance and your wisdom and for teaching me what hard work looks like and for building such a privileged life for me and my siblings that we are almost impossible to like. Thank God we’re not all tall, or we’d all be models and people would really, really fucking hate us.” And she praised her mom for “loving me so much that I feel like I can fly.”
Accepting an Oscar Wilde trophy for The Quiet Girl were producer Cleona Ní Chrualaoí and her husband, director Colm Bairéad.
“We’re grateful because there wasn’t always a belief that making a film in the Irish language was something that was possible or something that was even a good idea, commercially or creatively,” Bairéad said. “We can’t tell you how happy it has made us to prove that argument wrong.”
Oscar nominees in attendance included Richard Baneham (Avatar: The Way of Water), Mark Swift & Joel Crawford (Puss in Boots: The Last Wish), Tom Berkeley & Ross White (An Irish Goodbye), Andy Nelson (The Batman) and Charlie Mackesy & Matthew Freud (The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse.)
Also on hand: co-host Katie McGrath, Courtney B. Vance, Terry George, Jim Sheridan, John Conroy, Richard Lovett, Catherine Clinch, Alice Eve, Jim Gianopulos, Jason Patric, Patrick Crowley, Ram Charan, Sarah Bolger, Mamie Gummer, Rick Famuyiwa, Frankie Shaw, O-T Fagbenle, Franklin Leonard, Patrick Crowley, Len Amato, Aisha Taylor, Roma Downey, Peter Devlin and Dónall Ó Héalai.