In a year in which Australia had plenty of entertainment stars who made headlines or names for themselves, five were standouts, from writing lines for Oscar winners to putting Oscar nominees in the shade.
The people’s voice: Liane Moriarty
Trying to buy a dress in Los Angeles for the 2017 Emmy Awards, author Liane Moriarty had a hard time. “People in the boutiques were ignoring the middle-aged woman looking out of her element,” Moriarty said. She ended up on stage with Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon when HBO’s Big Little Lies, based on Moriarty’s sixth novel, won eight Emmys.
The year has been just as fabulous for Moriarty, whose latest novel Nine Perfect Strangers was optioned by Kidman before its September release. At 52, the former copywriter is Australia’s best-selling, most famous and richest author (estimated worth $12 million) but has no Instagram or Twitter presence.
The reluctant star – a Sunday Times story in October said she faced media duties with “stoic resignation” – is happiest eating chocolate, reading in the bath and writing at a “hot desk” shared with her two kids at the family’s North Sydney home – described in one report as “Versailles-like” – where her ex-Tasmanian farmer husband Adam is house husband.
What intrigues Moriarty? That “most of us live such comfortable middle-class lives” but desire transformation, she said.
“I can never see an article that says, ‘Just change this one thing about your life and you’ll be transformed forever’. Even though you know when you click on it, it won’t work, I find it irresistible.”
Setting the stage: Amy Shark
Two years after her breakout single Adore got airplay around the world – and more than a decade after she started gigging in tiny venues, inspired by “sad” artists like Silverchair and Alanis Morissette – Amy Shark became Australia’s undisputed music star in 2018.
Thanks to her first album Love Monster (which debuted at No.1), the I Said Hi singer won four ARIAs in November, including album of the year and best female artist, charmed US talk show hosts Jimmy Fallon and James Corden, played Lollapalooza, and did her first arena shows.
Despite her growing international fan base, Shark, 32, keeps things real with her stage uniform of skinny jeans, T-shirt and Adidas shoes (“I couldn’t be an artist [who] travels with costumes and needs hair and make-up,” she told InStyle in July) and is all about the music.
“I started so long ago trying to do this … I’d given that sort of dream away long ago. So I’m sort of waiting for someone to just wake me up,” she said after sweeping the ARIAs and giving a shout out to husband Shane Billings.
One song she’ll “never get over” performing? Adore.
“[It] has given me such an amazing life,” she told InStyle. “The second those guitar notes come on and everyone loses their sh-t – it’s the best.”
Scene stealer: Eliza Scanlen
Two things Eliza Scanlen learned this year: To roller skate like a pro, and how to steal the show from five-time Academy Award nominee Amy Adams.
In her first US role opposite Adams in Jean-Marc Vallée’s cryptic Sharp Objects – the HBO series based on Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn’s 2006 debut novel – the Sydney actor was a revelation, by turns knowing, sweet and terrifying as teenager Amma. She won critical acclaim, a worldwide audience and her next role, in Greta Gerwig’s Little Women.
Before Sharp Objects, the biggest thing on Scanlen’s CV was 15 episodes on Home and Away in 2016. Still 19, with previous career goals that included clarinet player, chef and vet, she made her self-tape audition to send to Los Angeles between Year 12 exams.
“It’s weird to think that, a year ago, I was starstruck seeing these people, and now I could probably tell them anything,” she told Collider in September of befriending Adams and co-stars Patricia Clarkson, Elizabeth Perkins and Chris Messina.
“I have to pinch myself, every day. Even though this is definitely what I want to do with my life and I’m just at the beginning of my career, it’s already been a fantastic ride.”
Game face: Mel McLaughlin
Australia has bigger-name sports reporters, but arguably none as natural as the Sydney University science graduate turned radio producer turned commentator.
In 2018 – hosting Seven’s coverage of the Winter Olympics, Commonwealth Games and Test and Big Bash League cricket – McLaughlin proved she can turn her hand to anything with expertise and the same unruffled professionalism she showed when cricketer Chris Gayle propositioned her on air in 2016. “Please,” she said when asked if she actually did blush. “I can handle myself.”
The camera and audiences love the life-long “sports nut” because she knows and nails her stuff – live crosses, links, commentary – not because she fills a quota.
“The more [women] the better. A bunch of men only in suits talking about sport is completely out of touch with reality and life and society,” McLaughlin, 39, told News Corp last year of TV sports coverage.
“I’m bored of the hype, of this being an issue. I don’t see myself, and I never have, as anything other than a sports fan … just like the men.”
Hard core: Tom Gleeson
This year, Gleeson’s ‘Hard Chat’ segment on The Weekly with Charlie Pickering cemented itself as ABC-TV’s breakout sensation. As the broadcaster put it, “It’s a fine line between talk and torture”, and the father of two masterfully smashed that line with guests as diverse as Roxy Jacenko, Paul Kelly and Grant Denyer.
It was enough to land him a Gold Logie nomination, but the comedian, 44, didn’t stop at tearing strips off people.
He roasted whole cities, most notably “tropical s–––hole” Cairns, which he sledged as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef “in the same way that marijuana is a gateway to meth”.
The trick with Gleeson? He says what everyone else would think if they were witty and daring enough, and still manages to appear loveable and never mean-spirited. That’s hard-core talent.
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