IIreland could see big Oscar wins this year, with Irish actors nominated in key categories including best supporting actor and actress. Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast, inspired by his own childhood during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, earned seven nominations, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay.
At Ireland’s Oscars party, the Wilde Oscars, in Los Angeles on Thursday, the mood was upbeat, with Belfast cast members and other celebrities excited about the film’s nominations and the power to see a wide recognition for an Irish story.
With his role as a critically acclaimed Northern Irish father in Branagh’s film, actor Jamie Dornan casts off the shackles of the Fifty Shades of Gray franchise, in which he plays an insipid sex maniac who seduces a woman who wears cardigans. Dornan literally threw off those shackles as he accepted an Oscar Wilde award for his work on Thursday, pulling out a pair of handcuffs from inside his jacket and then tossing them aside.
In a tearful speech, Dornan paid tribute to his father, a renowned Belfast doctor who died of Covid-19 a year ago, and thanked Branagh for taking a chance on dumping him.
Dornan, himself from Belfast, said in his speech that he proudly identifies as Irish.
“Where I’m from, identity is very skewed. If you’re from the North, how you identify gets you into a whole lot of trouble, maybe thirty years of trouble, and it’s going to be a constant source of conflict, unfortunately.
“I was always told I was Irish, that’s all I’ve ever known. I’ve been proud of it since the day I was born,” Dornan said, pledging to keep trying to tell Irish stories.
“If you’re lucky enough to be Irish, then you’re lucky.”
Branagh himself, who also received an Oscar Wilde award, only appeared via video, amid reports he had tested positive for Covid-19. He said he felt “in good shape” but wanted to stick to rewards protocols.
The Irish Oscars, now in its 16th year, is organized by the US-Ireland Alliance, founded by Trina Vargo, a former foreign policy adviser to Senator Edward Kennedy. The non-profit organization aims to showcase emerging Irish talent in Hollywood, as well as celebrate established Irish and Irish American stars. This year, the prize for new talent to follow was awarded to actor Dónall Ó Héalai, a central figure in a new ascendancy of Irish-language films.
Four years ago, Ó Héalai gave a popular Ted Talk on the beauty of the Irish language. After years of struggling to build an acting career, he starred in Arracht, a 2019 drama which was the first Gaelic film about the potato famine, and Foscadh, a contemporary Gaelic film about a neurodivergent man from the Connemara trying to find love after her mother died. . Both films were chosen as Ireland’s official selections for the Foreign Language Oscars.
“I’m really happy to be able to perform in my own language,” Ó Héalai told the Guardian in an interview on the party’s green carpet. He said the resounding success of other foreign-language movies and TV shows, such as Parasite and Squid Game, had created new opportunities for foreign-language movies with streaming services like Netflix, but he thought also that the rise of Gaelic film was driven by a revival of interest. among the Irish to reflect on their own history.
While filming Arracht, he said in his award speech, “the dignity of our ancestors was with us throughout this filming.”
Other promising Irish-language films are in the works: Ó Héalai said he was enthusiastic about Tarrac, an upcoming Gaelic film on the traditional women’s boat races in West Kerry. But it is likely that Ó Héalai will soon also play roles in English language films. Reinaldo Marcus Green, director of Best Picture nominee King Richard, called Ó Héalai a close friend and said they met in New York when he was a struggling student filmmaker with $300,000 in debt from student loan, “looking at Uber applications”. Ó Héalai convinced him not to give up by telling him: “Keep going. You guys are so close,” Green said.
Green hailed Ó Héalai’s “brilliant work” when presenting him with his award, saying that soon everyone “will know his name”.
Dornan called Ó Héalai’s work on the Irish-language film “vital and necessary” and said he was “so excited” to see the next steps in his career.
Glenn Keogh, a film and TV actor who has appeared in Curb Your Enthusiasm and Sons of Anarchy, said there has long been a ‘fantastic’ and ‘tight’ Irish network in Hollywood, and a network that has been crucial for his own career. . When he arrived in Los Angeles 15 years ago, Keogh said, he had joined an Irish soccer team, the Santa Monica Celtics, which helped him establish connections with the entertainment industry. The Irish-Hollywood network was in full swing today, he said, with established Irish professionals always happy to offer advice and help securing day jobs for their newly arrived fellows.
This extensive Irish network was on display Thursday, with Oscar Wilde guests ranging from Fig O’Reilly, an Irish American model and TV presenter who was crowned Miss Universe Ireland in 2019, to Donie O’Sullivan, CNN’s beloved Irish journalist who covers politics and disinformation, to Star Wars director JJ Abrams, who hosted the Oscar Wilde Awards for years and was named a “Honorary Irishman” at the event in 2010.
Abrams said he was preparing to film part of his new sci-fi series, Demimonde, in Ireland in the coming months, and credited event host Vargo with helping him set it up. film parts of Star Wars in Ireland. In a speech, Abrams called the Wilde Oscars “so much better than the other Oscars” because it’s shorter, there are no losers and almost everyone is Irish, which means “100% of the winners will be gorgeous and want to party.”
Terry George, who was nominated for Best Original Screenplay for Belfast, has devoted much of his career to making films about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. “I’m excited for Belfast. This is my hometown,” he said on the green carpet.
George’s work is deeply personal: he was imprisoned in the mid-1970s after to be accused of carrying arms for the Irish Republican Army.
Whether or not he wins an Oscar on Sunday, George told the Guardian he’s already working on a new screenplay exploring these themes: “I’m trying to tell the story of the Good Friday peace accord,” a- he declared. “Just a little, little story.”