Every year, we honor Australians who have made significant contributions to the film and entertainment industry with the Australians in Film Breakthrough Awards. Held last June, the awards are in their eighth year, bringing together stars from Australia, and around the world, to celebrate one of the world’s most competitive vocations.
AiF President, Andrew Warn said of the 2012 honorees, “We are delighted to recognize the undeniable talent and international success of two of Australia’s brightest rising stars, Liam Hemsworth and Yvonne Strahovski, by awarding them each a 2012 Australians in Film Breakthrough Award,” said Warne.
The 2012 Breakthrough Award recipients were presented with AiF’s Golden Boomerang in acknowledgement of their achievements as Australia’s brightest talents emerging in Hollywood.
For the first time, this year AiF also added an international category that honored studio executive Harvey Weinstein and filmmaker John Polson for their contributions to Australian film and television.
The award recognizes Polson’s contribution to film and television as an actor and director, and for being the creative founder of Tropfest, the world’s largest short film festival.
The award also was presented to Harvey Weinstein for his continued contribution to cinema, and for his consistent support of Australian film and filmmakers through development and acquisition.
The format of the event evolved from a cocktail event to a benefit dinner, prepared by Luke Magnan, one of Australia’s most popular celebrity chefs. Held at the InterContinental Hotel in Century City, the by-invitation only event was attended by over 300 of Hollywood’s elite. The Master of Ceremonies was Extra TV co-host and correspondent, Renee Bargh.
Proceeds from the event are helping to facilitate a series of educational modules for Australians in Film members seeking direction in their careers as writers, directors, producers and VFX artists.
The AiF Awards and Benefit dinner was followed by an exclusive after party, hosted by Levi Strauss & Co at their VIP event space Levi Haus in West Hollywood.
Past guests and presenters include James Cameron, Diablo Cody, Sacha Baron Cohen, Ryan Phillippe, Wanda Skykes, Josh Harnett and Ian Thorpe.
Another notable highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Heath Ledger Scholarship.
The Golden Boomerang and the Heath Ledger Scholarship have been been awarded to some of Australia’s biggest and brightest talents, all who have continued to develop exciting Hollywood careers, including:
2012 Breakthrough winners:
Actors Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games) and Yvonne Strahovski (Chuck) were honored for their work in international roles with the coveted 2012 Australians in Film Breakthrough Award.
Cutting his teeth on Australian television, Hemsworth appeared in minor roles on Home and Away and McLeod's Daughters, before landing a recurring part on Neighbours. In 2009, he left Melbourne and headed to Hollywood to further his career, and almost immediately landed a role opposite Miley Cyrus in The Last Song. Going from strength to strength, Hemsworth was cast as Gale in The Hunger Games, the blockbuster film that broke records around the world. He will reprise his role in its highly anticipated sequel, Catching Fire, which is set for release next year.
Warne said, “We are delighted to honor Liam Hemsworth with the 2012 Breakthrough Award. The string of his recent and upcoming films demonstrates an undeniable star power. From The Expendables 2, opposite Sylvester Stallone, and Paranoia, opposite screen legends Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford, to Arabian Nights, with Dwayne Johnson and Sir Anthony Hopkins, we believe this is only the beginning for Liam Hemsworth.”
Sydney actress Yvonne Strahovski was also awarded the 2012 AiF Breakthrough Award for her successful transition to American film and television. Strahovski began her career in 2005 with a recurring role on the 7 Network’s Headland. She arrived in Hollywood just two years later, and after a successful audition, landed the role as Sarah Walker, opposite Zachary Levi in the NBC hit, Chuck.
Warne said, “We also are honored to recognize Yvonne Strahovski with the 2012 Breakthrough Award. Last year, we watched as she starred opposite Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert De Niro in the action-thriller, Killer Elite. This year, we continue to celebrate her bright career, as we await the release of her upcoming comedy The Guilt Trip, where she stars alongside Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen and I, Frankenstein, in which she will feature opposite Aaron Eckhart and Bill Nighy.”
2012 – HLS Winner Anna McGahan
Anna McGahan was an aspiring ballet dancer before switching to acting. The fiery bombshell won over Australian audiences and critics with her role in the hit television series Underbelly: Razor. This was the fourth instalment of the long-running series, and was based on real events that occurred in Sydney between 1927 and 1936. She will soon star alongside fellow HLS winner Oliver Ackland in the TV movie The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, and has a supporting role in Australia’s new drama series, House Husbands. The show features a huge Australian ensemble cast, including Gary Sweet, Gyton Grantly, Julia Morris and Firas Dirani.
In her acceptance speech, McGahan said of the Heath Ledger Scholarship, “This is not an accolade, it’s a door left ajar by someone who has undeniably paved the way for young Australians in film and television internationally, and I endeavor to open that door, holding up Heath’s work ethic, his devotion to craft, and creative, emotional and professional generosity that he was known for, as a priority.”
AiF awarded the 24-year-old $10,000 USD cash; return flights to Los Angeles, a one-year scholarship to Stella Adler Studio of Acting in LA, a 10-day trip around California for two from Visit California, an annual subscription to Quickflix, and a Showcast & Breakdown Services VIP casting package.
The winner of the Scholarship was decided by a specially selected judging panel, which this year included renowned Hollywood director Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight, Lords of Dogtown, Thirteen), respected casting director Donna Isaacson (127 Hours, Date Night), Will Ward, the cofounder and partner at the talent management and production company ROAR, and casting agent Anne Fay.
2011 Breakthrough winners:
Last years Breakthrough honorees and recipients of the Golden Boomerang, actors Joel Edgerton, Teresa Palmer and writer/director David Michôd continue their work at home and abroad.
Edgerton broke out with his supporting role in Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith, and broke noses in 2011’s UFC-inspired Warrior, opposite Tom Hardy. Starring in the recent Australian release Wish You Were Here, he appears next in Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby, opposite Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire. With no sign of slowing down, Edgerton has also signed on to the highly anticipated film about the killing of Osama Bin Laden, Zero Dark Thirty. From blockbuster to independent drama, Edgerton reassures us he can do it all.
Palmer has worked with the likes of Nicholas Cage (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice), Adam Sandler (Bedtime Stories) and Daniel Radcliffe (December Boys). Her next film is an adaptation of zombie-romance novel, Warm Bodies, where she will star alongside John Malkovich and Rob Corddry.
Michôd is a talented Australian director, who helmed the break-through true-crime drama, Animal Kingdom. He has received regular screenings at Sundance Film Festival, and Animal Kingdom claimed the World Cinema Jury Prize in 2010.
Palmer’s two features in post-production: Warm Bodies, a zombie love story and the romance drama AWOL, co-led by Australian upstart Liam Hemsworth, will both hopefully find release dates this year. Michôd’s last year has seen him work with both of his co-recipients. The anticipated follow-up feature to Animal Kingdom, titled The Rover, is in pre-production and has confirmed Edgerton as a lead. 2011 also saw Michôd team-up with Palmer during the short film Bear.
2011 – HLS Winner Ryan Corr
Melbourne-born actor Ryan Corr is one of Australia’s most promising talents. He has had numerous roles in some of Australia’s most popular television series, including Neighbours, Underbelly, Tangle and had the lead role in the drama series, Blue Water High. In 2009, Ryan landed a recurring role in the hit Australian television series Packed to the Rafters. He received two Logie nominations for his performance, including Most Popular New Male Talent and the Graham Kennedy Award for Most Outstanding New Talent. In 2012, he had a supporting role in Not Suitable For Children, which also starred AiF’s 2010 Breakthrough Award Winner Ryan Kwanten. Corr’s next role will be in the Australian thriller, 6 Plots.
2010 Breakthrough winners:
Both Home and Away alumni’s, Chris Hemsworth and Ryan Kwanten continue to demonstrate, with each new project, why they were our 2010 Breakthrough Awards winners.
Hemsworth’s leading man appeal in Hollywood seems inexhaustible, with a slew of blockbusters currently in cinemas, pending release or in production. He is most recognized for his portrayal of Marvel Comic hero Thor, the God of Thunder. In 2012, he reprised this role in the global blockbuster The Avengers, as well as starred in Joss Whedon’s The Cabin in the Woods, a film that was almost unanimously adored by thriller lovers and critics alike. His two new films set for release this year are Snow White and the Huntsman, which feature Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron, and the remake of the war-epic, Red Dawn, which will see Hemsworth acting venture into unexplored territory, alongside Josh Hutcherson and fellow Australian, Isabel Lucas. Though little else is needed to signal and celebrate his definite arrival in Hollywood, the anticipated release of Thor 2 continues to solidify his place in Hollywood.
His status as a fan favorite on the TV show True Blood has garnered Kwanten with copious amounts of attention. With a new season of True Blood, three films in the can and one underway, Kwanten’s career keeps moving in leaps and bounds. His latest film, Not Suitable for Children, which also stars AiF’s 2011 Heath Ledger Scholarship winner, Ryan Corr, is set to open this year’s Sydney Film Festival. Scott Kosar has also announced his desire to have Kwanten play Charles Manson in his upcoming Manson Family biopic.
2010 – HLS Winner Bella Heathcote
The second annual Heath Ledger Scholarship was awarded to Bella Heathcote. Bella’s film debut was alongside 2011 Breakthrough recipient Joel Edgerton in the Aussie thriller Acolytes (2008), but like many before her, her career was set in motion the following year, when she landed the role of Amanda Fowler in the Australian TV series Neighbours. Bella has been in the spotlight recently, after her role as Johnny Depp’s love interest in Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows. The film is based on a 1960’s gothic soap opera, and stars a huge support cast, including Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green and Chloë Grace Moretz. Heathcote admitted that working on the film was “unlike anything I’ve ever experienced”. She will soon appear opposite Brad Pitt in Killing Them Softly, a crime thriller directed by Australia’s Andrew Dominik (Chopper), who received international praise for his debut Chopper. Killing Them Softly is set for US release 19 October 2012.
2009 Breakthrough winners:
Avatar star Sam Worthington and director of Lars and the Real Girl Craig Gillespie continue their Hollywood rise.
Worthington has worked with some big-name directors, including James Cameron (Avatar) and McG (Terminator Salvation). Since receiving the Golden Boomerang, he starred in 2010s Clash of the Titans for Louis Leterrier, and returning earlier this year as Greek legend Perseus, the mortal son of Zeus, in Jonathan Liebesman’s sequel Wrath of the Titans, opposite Liam Neeson. A studio favorite, Worthington’s has a string of upcoming films set for release between now and 2015, culminating in the long awaited sequel to Avatar.
With his film budgets increasing, Gillespie has gone from a must-watch independent auteur, to a full-fledged Hollywood Director. Gillespie helmed the indie feel-good Lars and the Real Girl, starring Hollywood heartthrob Ryan Gosling and his remake of the 80’s cult classic Fright Night, starring Collin Farrell, grossed over $42,000,000 in cinemas worldwide. He has also been working in television, directing episodes of the Golden Globe/Emmy award winning family drama The United States of Tara.
2009 – HLS Winner: Oliver Ackland
Oliver was the first recipient of the Heath Ledger Scholarship and, as predicted, has become one of Australia’s brightest actors. He began his career in Australia in 2001 on the children's television series Outriders, where he played Vince the downtrodden foster child. The show ran on the Nine Network and also starred 2007 Breakthrough recipient Abbie Cornish. After paying his dues, and working on numerous television programs and TV movies, Oliver finally landed the role of Darren in Ben C. Lucas’ thriller Wasted on the Young, alongside Adelaide Clemens and Alex Russell. He has since worked on other acclaimed productions, including The Proposition, from writer/director team Nick Cave and John Hillcoat. Ackland also starred in two major Australian television series, which were both based on best-selling novels; Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet, with Emma Booth and Kerry Fox, and Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap, the highly lauded drama that also starred 2005 Breakthrough recipient Melissa George and the Heartbreak Kid, Alex Dimitriades. The show won four Logies and numerous AACTA Awards. In 2012, Oliver could be found playing James, opposite Damon Herriman and 2012 HLS winner Anna McGahan in the Cairnes brothers first feature film, the comedy-horror 100 Bloody Acres. 2013 continues to look bright for the rising star, as he will feature in the film Blinder, and TV movie, The Mystery of a Hansom Cab
2008 Breakthrough winners:
Mia Wasikowska and Abbie Cornish consistently light up the screen and hold their ground against the Hollywood female elite.
Abbie Cornish first made waves with her award-winning role in Somersault. She starred opposite Heath Ledger in the emotional drama, Candy, and portrayed the young Queen in Elizabeth: The Golden Age. Cornish’s next film for release is Seven Psychopaths by English director Martian McDonagh, where she will star opposite Colin Farrell and Woody Harrelson.
The award celebrated her roles in the Australian horror, Rogue, and the WW2-set Defiance, but Wasikowska went on to even bigger roles. She was named the second highest grossing actor of 2010 after starring in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, and The Kids Are All Right opposite Annette Bening, Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo. Not slowing down, Wasikowska followed these by playing the title character in Jane Eyre and Annabel, a terminally ill teenager, in Gus Van Sant’s doomed love story Restless. She can now be seen along side Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf and Guy Pearce in Nick Cave’s Lawless, and look out for her in Korean director Pack Chan Wook’s first English language film Stoker - her credits make for a complex body of work for the young actress.
2007 Breakthrough winners:
Like Heath Ledger and other Breakthrough recipients, Isla began with a role on the Australian soap opera, Home & Away. Since breaking into Hollywood, she has shown a flair for comedy, with roles in Scooby-Doo, Wedding Crashers, Hot Rod and had the lead in Confessions of a Shopaholic and 2012’s comedy Bachelorette, opposite fellow funny woman Rebel Wilson. She is also married to comedian Sacha Baron Cohen.
Cult director, producer and writer Greg McLean broke-through with the eerie Wolf Creek, which Quentin Tarantino claimed was one of the best horror movies of the last 25 years! Since then, McLean both wrote and produced Rogue, which featured fellow Breakthrough winners, Mia Wasikowska and Sam Worthington, Aussie-Western Red Hill and is currently filming Wolf Creek 2.
Emile De Ravin
Emilie is most recognized for her roles on hit television show’s Lost and Roswell. She has also featured in a broad mix of films; including the explosive indie Brick, horror remake The Hills Have Eyes, gangster flick Public Enemies and the romantic drama Remember Me opposite Robert Pattinson. In 2012, she returns to the small screen for Once Upon a Time and Americana.
2006 Breakthrough winners:
Spencer was born in Melbourne and also started his career as Billy Kennedy in the long-running series Neighbours. He became an international heart-throb for his role as Dr. Robert Chase in the multi-award winning witty medical drama, House.
Jacinda was first cast in The Real World: London, which led to a string of Hollywood movies, including Ladder 49 opposite Joaquin Phoenix and John Travolta, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Wolfgang Peterson’s Poseidon, The Last Kiss with Scrubs star Zach Braff and School for Scoundrels opposite Billy Bob Thornton. She will next appear in the television movie Zero Hour.
Wan is a Malaysian-born, Australian filmmaker, who became an overnight sensation after helming Saw. He and Leigh Whannel, his filmmaking partner, went on to produce the rest of the franchise. Wan directed a long-list of horror films, including Dead Silence, Death Sentence and Insidious with Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne.
Another of Neighbours’ alumni, Whannel wrote the original Saw with James Wan, and acted in the lead role. He also returned for the sequels Saw 3 and Saw 3D. His other roles include a part in The Matrix Reloaded, the Australian dramas One Perfect Day and Dying Breed, Death Sentence with Kevin Bacon, John Goodman and Kelly Preston. He recently teamed up with fellow Breakthrough winner and director James Wan for Insidious, which he both wrote and starred in opposite Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne.
2005 Breakthrough winners:
Most Australians were introduced to Melissa George as Angel, from Home & Away, the role that earned her a Logie for Most Popular New Talent in 1994. Internationally, Melissa is recognized for her roles on the television series Friends, Alias, In Treatment, which garnered her the AFI International award for Best Actress and a Golden Globe nomination, and as Dr. Sadie Harris in Grey’s Anatomy. In 2011, George returned to Australia and made quite an impact with her role in the highly lauded Australian series, The Slap.
The Sydney-born director is best-known for directing romantic comedies, particularly 2001’s Legally Blonde with Reese Witherspoon, which won him the Hottest Young Filmmaker Award at the Young Hollywood Awards in 2002. He has worked with some of Hollywood’s biggest names, directing Monster-In-Law with Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda, 21 with Kate Bosworth and Kevin Spacey and The Ugly Truth with Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler.