With 12 Australian Oscar nominees in eight categories, including Catherine Martin with three more nominations this year for Elvismaking her the most Oscar-nominated person from Australia, the place often referred to as the Land Down Under continues to prove that it is the proud home of some of the most celebrated talent around filmmaking today.
On Thursday night, with the 95th Academy Awards just days away, many acclaimed artists gathered at Australia’s Academy Awards Nominees Reception at the Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood, California. The evening was hosted by Ausfilm, Screen Australia, Australians in Film and Australian Consul General Jane Duke spoke with me briefly about having another year of recognized excellence for Australia.
Duke said: “Australians are known for being hardworking and fun and great creators, and to see them rewarded for their incredible achievements on the world’s biggest film stage is something to be proud of. There are a lot of incredible women in this lineup. Mandy Walker was the first woman to win an American Film Award for a feature film. I hope she’ll be the first woman to win a Motion Picture Oscar Elvis. There’s the incredible Cate Blanchett, who has won two acting Oscars, the only Australian to do so. I hope she can get off the line for a third for her incredible performance Tar.”
Duke said of Australia’s continued focus on supporting the arts in its country, “We have a number of incentive programs and this has proven to be extremely successful. We invest heavily in the development of writer talent, schools and skills and commerce. It’s great to see that people can see the success of their peers and their mentors and their icons overseas and then go on to whatever they can dream and achieve.”
Kate Marks, CEO of Ausfilm, also added: “Australia’s incredibly talented crew are considered some of the best in the world and it’s great to see so many recognized this year. It’s a testament to their skills and expertise that filmmakers continue to return to create content in Australia.”
With the all-Australian shot Elvis film that received eight Oscar nominations this year, I also spoke with director of photography and this year’s Best Picture Oscar nominee, Walker, as she shared what made working on this particular project stand out for her.
“I’ve been working with Baz and Catherine for 20 years,” Walker continued. “They are amazing partners and very generous. I feel like Baz is a true visionary, so it’s very exciting for me to be a part of any of his projects. Also, to be one of the many truly amazing women who are department heads in this film. [Oscar-nominated producer] Gail Berman and Catherine Martin wore three hats in this film and [Oscar-nominated production designer] Karen Murphy and me. I feel like it’s always a great adventure and it’s always a real achievement to create something special.”
Walker is only the third woman ever to be nominated in the Motion Picture Oscar category, and if she wins on Oscar Sunday, she’ll become the first woman ever to do so, a possibility she tells me makes her feel really proud, but also incredibly nervous . .
When I asked Walker what she would say to other female filmmakers making movies today or those considering this career, she said, “I think I would tell them to follow their passion. It gets better. There’s a lot more push for diversity on set and inclusion. I personally mentor a lot of women and find that studios and producers are much more into that setting now. There’s a really conscious effort to make it more equal.”
I also spoke to Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason at the Australian Oscar Nominees Reception as he reminded me of other top Hollywood stars on the scene today who have come from Australia including Chris Hemsworth, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman and Margot. Robbie.
Speaking on what his government agency continues to try to do for Australians today, Mason said: “We’re trying to work to find new talent and help people grow their careers and businesses. You can be a business – you can be a makeup artist, you can be a writer or director, you can be an actor. We are known for our actors, but we see that the arts matter. Just period – as if they matter. Also, it is a great way to shape and help the culture in your country. It reflects us back to ourselves and reflects us to the world.”
Martin, whose three Oscar nominations Elvis includes Costumes, Production Design and Best Picture, she spoke to me briefly about her latest award season recognition, her Australian roots and the support she continues to feel from her homeland.
“I feel really, really proud and happy,” Martin said. “I just don’t understand what’s in the water because per capita, we seem to have a huge number of people involved in the entertainment industry, from music to fine art to film to fashion. Sure, you can see how Buzz and I and Cate Blanchett were all products of the National Institute of Dramatic Art, which is a government-sponsored institution. I think it’s this government investment in the arts that allows for a very rich culture in Australia. I encourage the Australian government to continue to invest because I think in terms of promoting Australia on the world stage, I won’t speak for myself but I would say all my fellow Australians here are great ambassadors for Australia.”
Another Oscar contender this year is Lachlan Pendragon, a 26-year-old Australian director nominated for the animated short An ostrich told me the world is fake and I think I believe it. Pendragon spoke with me about how this Oscar nomination changed his life.
“This whole world opens up and all of a sudden, you’re talking to people you admire all over the world who have seen your film,” Pendragon said. “That’s an amazing thing that you don’t think about when you make a student film. Suddenly, some of your heroes have seen it and are commenting on it and talking to you. You feel really humbled and it’s an amazing thing. I love Australia. I grew up there in Queensland, Brisbane. I’m really proud to shine a light on this place and inspire others to do the same.”
Arguably one of the most beloved directors of our time, Australian director Luhrmann (Strictly ballroom, Romeo & Juliet, Red Mill, Australia, The Great Gatsby) has helmed many of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters over the past three decades. His reign continues with these eight Oscar nominations Elvis.
Speaking of longevity Elvis has had with moviegoers and the world at large over the past year, Luhrmann said: “For us, it’s very unusual because we open a film nine months ago and talk about it and communicate it and it’s still in theaters in some places. around the world – streaming, of course. I released the deluxe album days ago. It has an ongoing life, which is beyond me.”
Continuing to note the support of his home country, Luhrmann added: “I think what’s great is because of the support of Queensland, Screen Australia, all the institutions, the government, we really punch above our weight. For a small population, the number of Australians who make films, in films, make it happen and are involved in the industry is actually more than you might think. That’s something I feel really privileged to be a part of, I really do.”
Luhrmann is no stranger to the Oscars, as his 2001 film Red Mill it was also nominated for Best Picture in 2002. Heading into Sunday’s live ceremony, I wondered what will be going through his mind as the winners are announced.
Luhrmann said, “Obviously, Austin [Butler winning Best Actor] it would be great, but it has real competition. What I’m really interested in is Mandy winning the first woman in years to win for film – that would be historic. Whatever you do, you’re pretty cool with it, except when they open the envelope. No matter how you feel, you get a little weight on your heart.”