WIZARDS OF OZ
A new generation of our stars is being celebrated in Hollywood, supported by the Australians in Film Foundation, at whose gala awards Vogue captured this exclusive portrait series. Sophie Tedmanson goes behind the scenes. Photographed by Julie Adams.
Someone once joked in Hollywood that if an actor wants to land a role they should put on an Australian accent. It’s a quip comedian and actress Rebel Wilson can relate to. “It was hard for me, coming over here just six years ago … hard to be a pioneer in my area, to do comedy in my Australian voice, which really wasn’t done when I first came here. But now it’s changed to the point where people are requesting Australian accents and Australian actors in comedy,” she says.
Certainly those broad Aussie tones were in full force last October as Australia’s new generation of stars was feted at an awards ceremony. With the scent of eucalyptus in the air – an homage to Australia – Wilson hammed it up on stage with her Bridesmaids director Paul Feig; while side of stage Joel Edgerton joked with Jai Courtney, Luke Bracey and Patrick Brammall.
It was a coming together for the Australians in Film (AiF) awards, the annual gala fundraiser for the LA-based foundation. Now in its 16th year, AiF was created in Hollywood at a timet when the likes of Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, Russell Crowe and Geoffrey Rush were paving their way to Oscar glory. But now, a new generation is reaping the rewards, both in front of and behind the cameras.
A NEW GENERATION IS REAPING THE REWARDS, BOTH IN FRONT OF AND BEHIND THE CAMERAS
Known collectively as the “koala” or “gumleaf mafia”, or “Aussiewood”, the growing number of Australian creatives in Hollywood now has the support of US-based industry bodies and awards ceremonies, including G’Day USA and the AACTA International Awards.
A not-for-profit foundation, AiF aims to develop and nurture new film-makers and stars. “Our purpose is twofold,” says AiF president Kate Marks, who is also an LA-based executive vice-president for Ausfilm. “Celebrating success of Australians in Hollywood through the awards … providing opportunities to nurture that next generation.”
The AiF rebranded and grew during 2016, garnering support from other industry bodies. It also set up Charlie’s (named after Charlie Chaplin), an office and creative space housed on the historic Raleigh Studios lot in Hollywood and stunningly designed by creative Ingrid Weir, daughter of director Peter Weir.
When Vogue visited the space we discovered Queensland writer and producer Megan Doneman working quietly away on a script for NCIS: Los Angeles. Doneman was the recipient of AiF’s inaugural Greg Coote Scholarship for screenwriters, while the Heath Ledger scholarship for emerging actors was won by Ashleigh Cummings.
The 2016 AiF gala event also included the inaugural Screen NSW Annette Kellerman award for trailblazing women, presented by Vogue Australia and won by Rebel Wilson. Feig, who gave Wilson the award, described the comedian as “brave, unstoppable, hardworking, caring and funny as fuck”.
Wilson says she’s grateful to her Australians predecessors. “We are in a privileged category because of all the hard work from the people who have come before us and made it over here … I really feel lucky to be an Australian working in LA because we are kind of blessed. We’re normally pretty down-to-earth, hardworking, talented and versatile actors. Sometimes I joke with my Aussie actor-friends that one day America is going to wake up and kick us all out because we take their jobs!”
Marks agrees, but adds that despite the doors being open much wider now, young creatives still need support. “There are so many Aussies over here doing great things, so there’s an assumption it’s easy, but it’s not. It’s a hard city to crack,” she says. “And that’s why Australians in Film is such a lovely support network for everyone. When you hear Rebel talk about how difficult it was for her it’s a good reminder of how Australians do get behind each other. And while it’s not easy, with hard work and determination you can go through, and Aussies seem to have a knack for doing that.”
From left: actors James Mackay, Thomas Cocquerel and Brenton Thwaites. Actress Isabel Lucas. Below right: actress and singer Sophie Lowe.
Alycia Debnam-Carey. Above: actress and 2016 Heath Ledger Scholarship winner Ashleigh Cummings.