Honorees Expected (and Unexpected) at Irish in Film Event
On a chilly night on a rooftop in Santa Monica, actor Colin Farrell, Lionsgate vice chairman Michael Burns and two-time Oscar-winning makeup artist Michele Burke were honored at the eighth annual Oscar Wilde: Irish in Film bash.
Oh yeah, and so was actor Peter Gallagher.
While the first three were listed in the official program and received a glass trophy from the U.S.-Ireland Alliance, it was Gallagher who won a free trip for two to Ireland as the random winner of a raffle among the 400 in attendance.
Some in the audience thought it was a ruse and that Gallagher, after hearing his name called by Vegas actor Jason O'Mara, would make his way to the podium and announce the "real" winner. But this was an event full of industry people, so someone from the industry had to win, right?
"I was determined to get up here by hook or by crook," quipped the clearly delighted Gallagher, a New Yorker of Irish descent. The trip includes airfare, hotels, a rental car and a visit to luxury retail outlet Kildare Village near Dublin.
Gallagher later informed Alliance president Trina Vargo that he is donating the prize back to the nonprofit organization, she tells The Hollywood Reporter.
The rest of the evening went according to form as Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw, Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, Hylda Queally, Rob Friedman, Len Amato, Mace Neufeld, Cameron Crowe, Wes Bentley, Griffin Dunne, Sarah Bolger, Electus' Drew Buckley and others enjoyed the laid-back affair.
Guests sampled the wares of sponsor Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey at the event, held for the second straight year at J.J. Abrams' eclectic Bad Robot offices. It always takes place on the Thursday night before the Oscars.
Academy Award short-film nominees Fodhla Cronin O'Reilly (producer of the animated Head Over Heels) and Shawn Christensen (director of the live-action Curfew) were there seeking some proverbial "luck of the Irish" before the Oscars.
Jim Sheridan, a six-time Academy Award-nominated writer-director-producer from Wicklow, Ireland, introduced Farrell and said he secretly wished he was the actor's father "because then I could smack him in the arse."
"In Ireland, we admire Daniel Day-Lewis and we respect Liam Neeson, but we really love Colin because we know he is going to f--- up," Sheridan said before turning serious. "He's a soulful, deep Irishman, someone who we can be proud of."
Farrell said that it felt strange to be honored just for being Irish but joked that he brought his birth certificate just in case Donald Trump was there and had any doubts.
When preparing his speech, the Dublin native said he "started touching on the famine, and then I said, 'What are you doing?! Upbeat, Farrell, upbeat!' "
Farrell offered a quote from Wilde: "Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.
"And I think what he was speaking of is the power of experience over comprehension, and that is what film feels like for me in many ways. It feels like the sweet and perfect marriage of comprehension and experience."
Earlier, Paula Wagner introduced Burke, whom she met when she produced Crowe's 2001 film Vanilla Sky and Burke designed the makeup. She recently asked Burke to jump in at the last minute to create a prosthetic nose for Jessica Chastain for the Broadway revival of The Heiress.
Burke, the second oldest of 10 children (that was nothing -- she noted that her neighbors in Kildare had 26 kids), said her family taught her "how to settle disputes, wipe away tears and improvise, skills that would serve me well on a film set."
Burke related how she received her first Oscar, for 1981's Quest of Fire. In Canada at the time, she was called to the customs' post office to pick up a package officials were suspicious might contain something illegal. It had her gold statuette inside.
"I said, 'Someone has to present it to me,' so the postman did it, and everyone gathered around and applauded," Burke said.
The makeup specialist evoked Wilde, the revered late-19th century Irish writer and poet, when she closed her acceptance speech by saying, "Illusion is the first of all pleasures, and it certainly is for me."
Burns, whose Lionsgate brought in $2.5 billion worth of worldwide box office revenue in 2012, was introduced by Star Wars: Episode VII director Abrams and was in fine spirits seven weeks after he and his wife, Pell (of Irish heritage), welcomed their third son, Finnegan.
When preparing his Irish in Film speech, Burns said he heeded some advice from his late father, who once told him: "Think of yourself as the body at an Irish wake. Everyone expects you to be there but doesn't expect you to say too much."
An investment-banking veteran who was born in New Jersey and raised in Connecticut, Burns saluted the optimists in Hollywood. He pointed out that "when, as happens to all of us from time to time, we are disappointed that something we’ve done wasn’t properly recognized, remember this," that some of the best films in history -- like his all-time favorite, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid -- didn't win the best picture Oscar.
Burns, too, trotted out the wisdom of Wilde. "Remember, all of us are in the gutter," he said, "but some of us are looking at the stars."
Famed Irish photographer John Minihan snapped photos during the party, and musicians Julie Feeney, Declan O’Rourke and Heathers performed.