Irish Eyes Were Smiling as Hollywood succumbed to more than a little Irish charm last night reports Paul Byrne…

With the Oscars just around the corner, last night it was the turn of the Irish to celebrate their latest batch of Hollywood heroes.

The threesome receiving awards last night at the fifth annual Oscar Wilde: Honouring The Irish In Film were young Carlow actress Saoirse Ronan, the man who resurrected Star Trek, J.J. Abrams, and acclaimed Omagh-born cinematographer Seamus McGarvey.

They say the Irish have the gift for the gab, and it was certainly much in evidence last night, as each of the award winners, their presenters and emcee Colum McCann filled the room with funny anecdotes, poetic quotes and laughter.

Ronan – star of The Lovely Bones, and Oscar-nominated in 2008 for Atonement – was being given the Wilde Card, an inaugural award recognising a rising talent, whilst Abrams was made an Honorary Irishman.

Abrams wasn’t quite sure how he’d come to be chosen for such an honour. The surprising reason being that his wife, Katie McGrath, is Irish. Well, at least it gave Abrams the opportunity to spin some hilarious stories about his family holiday in the wilds of Ireland last summer. Now, if only we could choose the Irish football team this way. It’s not so much about having some Irish in you, but being in some Irish.

The noted Irish actor Brian F. O’Byrne presented Saoirse Ronan with her award – who, busy young actress that she is, had to accept by video. Abrams was presented with his Honorary Irishman award by his good friend Tom Cruise – who swung by from a film set on his motorbike, alone. As is his wont.


Hollywood is in full backslapping mode in the week leading up to the Oscars, but the presence of Cruise made this one of the more prestigious pre-Academy Awards parties, and a major coup for The US-Ireland Alliance. The Washington-based non-profit organisation created the annual Oscar Wilde event five years ago to foster ties between the US and Ireland. And, judging from last night, it seems to be working.

Providing the entertainment were Irish bands Bell X1 and locals Jupiter Rising, whilst those attending included Elaine Cassidy and her husband, former Eastenders star Stephen Lord (the brains behind the webcom phenomenon, Dr Hoo), Danny McBride, Flora Montgomery, Samantha Mumba and Oscar nominee Lee Daniels (Precious).

In amongst the Oscar nominees present were this year’s Irish hopefuls – including Dublin’s Brown Bag Films, up for for Best Animated Short once again, for Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty, Juanita Wilson and James Flynn for their short, The Door, and Thom Moore for his feature, The Secret Of Kells, up for Best Animated Feature.

The other two Irish Oscar nominees – Richard Baneham in the Best Visual Effects category (for Avatar), and Peter J. Devlin in Best Sound Achievement (for Star Trek) – were also present.

Click here for Julia Roberts and Paul Rudd at the 2011 Oscar Wilde awards

Words – Paul Byrne