Entertainment Movies Jacki Weaver awarded Australian film’s highest accolade

Jacki Weaver awarded Australian film’s highest accolade

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Lots of highs, lots of lows and plenty of perseverance: that’s how Jacki Weaver has described her half a century as an actor.

The performer has been named as the 39th recipient of the Raymond Longford Award for her roles in movies over the past 52 years.

“I thought when you got a lifetime achievement award you were about to cark it,” the actor joked when the announcement was made.

Weaver’s first screen role was the 1966 ABC TV children’s sci-fi series Wandjina! and her first film role was in the 1971 movie Stork.

Weaver has spent most of her career on the stage but after a film-role drought, a part in David Michod’s international hit Animal Kingdom catapulted her into Hollywood.

She was nominated for an Academy Award for her role as the matriarch of a Melbourne crime family, and she quickly earned another Oscar nomination for her part in Silver Linings Playbook opposite Robert De Niro.

Now, the 66-year-old actor is the toast of Tinseltown.

“Not the girl next door, the granny next door now,” she said.

It was a double celebration for the actor, who received an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in the Australia Day Honours List.

However, Weaver says one of her regrets is that there are not more Australian films being made and not more audiences for them.

“One thing that makes me sad is Australian films are not embraced by the Australian public,” she said.

The entertainer will receive her prize at the Australian Academy Of Cinema And Television Art (AACTA) Awards later this week.

“I always do with any awards and honours think it might have been either a mistake or an elaborate hoax, but I think I probably deserve points for endurance,” she said.

Big week for local film industry

This year’s awards highlight a shift in the screen industry, partly due to the generous 40 per cent producer-offset scheme that allows the tax office to return large amounts of money to filmmakers.

Although there have long been calls to produce films with strong Australian storylines, the guidelines have led to an increasing number of movies and television shows with little Australian content.

As long as the creative team behind the productions includes Australians, the tax breaks flow.

This explains why the front-runners this year include an American story, a film shot in Laos and a televison series shot in New Zealand.

It also raises the question: what is an Australian story?

Baz Luhrmann’s blockbuster The Great Gatsby leads with 14 nominations and festival favourite, Kim Mordaunt’s The Rocket, is close behind with 12 nods.

Waving the Aussie stories flag are The Turning with seven nominations, Mystery Road with six, Dead Europe with five and Adoration with four.

Jane Campion’s New Zealand-based series Top Of The Lake leads a posse of Australian-located programs with 10 nods.

The new CEO of Screen Australia, Graeme Mason, has defended the system.

“On the screen they may be somewhere else, but what we’re trying to do is encourage Australian storytellers to tell the stories they want to tell,” he told the ABC.

He also supports the system that returned tens of millions to the Luhrmann production, even though it was a global financial success.

“That’s all money and wages on what people will be paying tax again,” Mr Mason said.

“If you actually look at the maths behind it, [it’s] good value here where they’re spent.”

He said another advantage was the exposure Australia received through our international filmmakers.

“Its probably the best way to promote our country abroad rather than having to back up what tourism does or trade,” he said.

“When you travel abroad, people are aware of Baz Luhrmann, Cate Blanchett and Nicole Kidman much more than anything else that comes out of the country.”

The ACCTA Awards will be presented in two different ceremonies in Sydney, with the technical prizes handed out on Tuesday, January 28 and the major honours on Thursday, January 30.