Arts and Culture


Oscar Wilde Awards celebrate another big year for the Irish in film

Richie Baneham, Pierce Brosnan, Molly Shannon honored

see photos here

March 7, 2024. J.J. Abrams and Katie McGrath’s Bad Robot production company was again the site of the US-Ireland Alliance’s Oscar Wilde Awards, an annual event created 18 years ago by Alliance founder Trina Vargo to honor the Irish in entertainment, and to provide an opportunity for people in the entertainment community in Ireland and Northern Ireland to meet their counterparts in LA, in hopes that creative collaborations would result. 

The event-kicked off when Cillian Murphy, Oscar nominated for OPPENHEIMER, graciously popped by on his way to the Academy’s dinner for Best Actor nominees.  The fun, casual party has long appealed to industry insiders, studio executives and Oscar nominees as the non-traditional Oscars-week event with its casual, unfussy tone and always hilarious and irreverent speaking program. The informality extends from the dress code (jeans for most) to the program (brief and delivered to attendees as they stand around enjoying great food and Irish drinks) and is a welcome change during a week of endless gowns and tuxedos. Other Oscar nominees in attendance included Ed Guiney and Andrew Lowe, nominated for Best Picture with POOR THINGS; Robbie Ryan, nominated for Best Cinematography of the film; and Kemp Powers, nominated for Best Animated Feature Film for Spider-Man: Across the Spiderverse.

Covid kept Abrams from his usual role emceeing the event, but his long-time friend Greg Grunberg stepped in to do the honors and filled Abrams’ shoes with ease and great humor.  James Cameron presented Richie Baneham with his award – the two worked together for many years on the AVATAR films, with Baneham winning two Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects in 2010 and last year. Cameron joked that presenting Baneham with his award is the closest he’s getting to another Oscar “after the whole the King of the World thing”. Baneham movingly spoke of his years training in animation in Ireland, working with Cameron, and his life in LA which includes many of his friends and colleagues from Dublin.  Roma Downey, taking a page from Oscar Wilde, noted that Pierce Brosnan is someone who is “a true joy and a shining light wherever he goes.” Brosnan spoke eloquently about the importance of Ireland in his life and career. In presenting to Molly Shannon, Grunberg noted that when she visited Ireland, she learned that her great grandfather was a seanchaí, the Irish word for storyteller and “How fitting is it that Molly became an incredible seanchaí herself.”  Shannon spoke of her excitement about receiving this award as she’s been learning a lot about her Irish ancestry.  She spoke of the influences of her Irish Catholic upbringing, her childhood crush on her Irish priest, and how her first grade, Irish American dance teachers inspired her SNL character Sally O’Malley.  She said that when she was new to Hollywood, in her twenties, trying get a break, “just like Oscar Wilde, I realized I might have to break the rules a little” and thus was born “the Mamet scam” wherein she and a friend pretended to be on the famous playwright’s team, calling casting directors and A-listers, recommending each other “on behalf of Mamet.” She thought Oscar Wilde would approve of her “Irish shenaningans”.

Irish band, VNXI, performed.  On the rise since they first played the event a few years ago, the Dublin-based group attracted many music producers, agents, and supervisors as well as serious music fans.   George Drakoulias, Peter Asher, Bear McCreary, John and Patrick Houlihan, Colin Devlin, Michael Giacchino, Marianne Goode, Spotify and label execs were seen enjoying the music.

In addition to this annual Oscars’ week event, the US-Ireland Alliance’s Mitchell Scholarship program introduces future leaders to the island of Ireland. The program now has several alums working in theater and film.  Several were in attendance, including director Neil Ferron, who is nominated for a student Emmy.  Mitchell Scholarship sponsors Sam Dennigan, Ciara Heslin, and several members of the US-Ireland Alliance boards were on hand.

Others seen in Bad Robot’s inviting space included Reinaldo Marcus Green, who just directed BOB MARLEY:  ONE LOVE; Issa Lopez, director and writer of HBO’s wildly successful True Detective Night Country; Producer and Director Rick Famuyiwa.

Among the actors hitting the “green carpet” were former Oscar Wilde Award honoree Maura Tierney, soon to be seen in TWISTERS; Jane Seymour, whose tv series Harry Wild is filmed in Ireland; Matt Walsh of VEEP fame; Donal Logue, and Jason O’Mara.

Vargo often describes the event as a party with a purpose and Screen Ireland, Northern Ireland Screen and Studio Ulster representatives had plenty of people to talk with about the appeal of the island as a filming location.

Executives from Northern Ireland Screen and Studio Ulster were seen talking with filmmakers about the new, large-scale studio complex in Belfast that integrates Virtual Production with traditional film, animation, games and broadcast industry alongside leading edge R&D and Visual FX capability.  

Screen Ireland, having been very successful in recent years at both investing in local talent whilst also luring international productions to Ireland. The agency was also celebrating the success of the country’s animation industry.  Honoree Richie Baneham got his start in animation in Ireland.

In addition to the team at Bad Robot, execs at the event included Mattel’s Chairman and CEO, Ynon Kreiz; Sanford Panitch, President of Sony’s Motion Picture Group; former Chair and CEO of Warner Bros, Ann Sarnoff; producers Pat Crowley, Courtney Vance, Suzanne Todd, Lorcan and Garrett Kelleher of Lightstream Entertainment, Joanne Lee of Jackson Pictures, and Liz Raposo of Michael B. Jordan’s Outlier Society, as well as execs from Amblin, Warner Bros, Sony, Amazon, Paramount, Netflix, Disney, Apple, Mattel Films, NBC Universal, HBO Max, AMC Studios, Spotify Studios, Universal Studios, Skydance, and Gaumont.  

Among the agents in the room were CAA President Richard Lovett, a member of the US-Ireland Alliance’s Advisory Board.  Also seen in the room were the producer and director of KNEECAP, Trevor Birney and Rich Peppiatt; Paul Breen and Hamlet Sweeney – two Irishman instrumental in the creation of the Sphere in Las Vegas; and Maurice Galway, founder of the Dingle Animation Festival.

Guests enjoyed Irish favorites like fish and chips, caramelized apple crumbles with Irish oatmeal, Taytos, Five Farms Irish Cream, Writers Tears Whiskey, Guinness, and Wilde Irish Gin. Referencing Barry Keoghan’s role in SALTBURN, Grunberg joked that a cocktail available on the night was called the ‘Barry Bath Bomb.’