‘It’s been a tough time’: AACTA Awards return in blaze of glory at Sydney Opera House

Russell Crowe, Sarah Snook and Rebel Wilson will be front and centre on Wednesday night.

Russell Crowe, Sarah Snook and Rebel Wilson will be front and centre on Wednesday night. Photo: TND

The entertainment industry’s night of nights, the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Awards, returns this year to the Sydney Opera House amid much anticipation as to which TV shows, films and actors will take home the top nods.

It has been a challenging year for those working in front of, and behind, the cameras.

AACTA president Russell Crowe, who has been busy this year filming Poker Face and Vietnam War movie The Greatest Beer Run Ever in Thailand, said on December 4 “there’s no doubt it’s been a tough time – for our industry and the world at large”.

“The 2021 AACTAs offer us the opportunity to come together and recognise those who have worked so hard and produced such high-quality entertainment for people at a time when they needed it most,” says the actor and director before the show’s live broadcast on Wednesday evening.

Last year’s ACCTA awards night (formerly the AFI Awards, which has been in play since 1958), came at the end of a tumultuous year for the industry, celebrating movies and television series that mostly were made before COVID-19.

This year, with nine films and 65 television productions up for grabs (plus short-form content totalling 97 awards), the red carpet returns to the Opera House with an A-list cast of both national and international big names.

AACTA CEO Damian Trewhella said it had been a challenging year for the industry.

“We are privileged to be able to host an event that brings together some of Australia’s most talented and creative practitioners and allows us to recognise the people who have kept us entertained over the past year. Being able to do this at the iconic Sydney Opera House is the icing on the cake.”

Adds NSW Minister for Tourism Stuart Ayres: “We are delighted to roll out the red carpet in Sydney.”

David Gulpilil Ridjimiraril Dalaithngu AM on film projected over the Sydney Opera House Eastern Bennelong sails, will be awarded the Longford Lyell Award for his contribution to the film industry. Photo: Getty

Alongside Crowe, multi-award-winning director Baz Luhrmann, AACTA Award Winner and Emmy Nominated Succession star Sarah Snook and comedian Rebel Wilson will present awards.

Joining them on stage will be Sam Neill (Rams), Rachel Griffiths (Total Control), Jack Thompson (High Ground), Marta Dusseldorp (Wentworth), brothers Stephen and Bernard Curry, Phoebe Tonkin (Bloom), NZ director Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit, Thor) and the creator of The Newsreader, Michael Lucas.

Celebrating those who lost their lives in the entertainment industry during the past year is always a significant moment at any awards night, and the ACCTAs have singer Steve Kilbey performing a solo acoustic version of The Church’s classic Under the Milky Way during the In Memoriam section of the broadcast.

Named one of the most Australian songs of all time in Triple M’s Ozzest 100, and heard in the movie, The Dry, Kilbey has only performed this unique and haunting version of his 1988 hit a handful of times.

Eric Bana and his wife Rebecca at the premiere of The Dry in 2020. Photo: AAP

Who’s in the running for the coveted awards?

Nitram featuring Anthony LaPaglia, The Dry starring Eric Bana, and Penguin Bloom with Naomi Watts are among films competing for the coveted awards.

The Newsreader – a six-part ABC drama about a 1980s TV newsroom – is in the running for 10 awards and currently has the most nominations this year including Best Drama Series, with director Emma Freeman and actors Anna Torv, Sam Reid, William McInnes and Stephen Peacocke among those up for accolades.

The compelling final seasons of Wentworth, Mr Inbetween, and Jack Irish are also recognised this year.

Veteran actor Noni Hazlehurst’s work in television and film is acknowledged with nominations for Best Actress in the bittersweet movie, June Again, and Best Supporting Actress in the compelling Foxtel euthanasia miniseries The End.

Some of television’s biggest entertainment juggernauts and reality formats – such as The Block, MasterChef Australia, The Voice and LEGO Masters – will vie for awards alongside the new kid on the block, Luxe Listings Sydney and returning favourite The Real Housewives of Melbourne.

Taika Waititi presents the 2020 AACTA Award for Best Drama Series at The Star on November 30. Photo: Getty

Another big year of TV laughs sees newcomers Preppers, Fisk, The Moth Effect and Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House of Fun join perennial favourites Rosehaven, Hard Quiz and The Weekly in the comedy categories.

Acclaimed sets from Hannah Gadsby, Tom Gleeson and Celia Pacquola feature in the new Best Stand-Up category and the Best Comedy Performer category expands to eight nominees, with Nakkiah Lui, Sarah Kendall and Kitty Flanagan among the hilarious comics in the running.

On December 5, the academy announced the top five nominees for the 2021 Audience Choice Awards, now in its second year, where the viewing public get the chance to vote for their favourite actors, films and TV shows from the past year.

According to ACCTA, following an online poll, five nominees in seven categories including favourite actor (both male and female), favourite film and favourite television drama have been determined.

The winners will be announced on Wednesday, in addition to the peer-voted awards.

Among the contenders for Favourite actor: Eric Bana, Asher Keddie, Deborah Mailman, Celia Pacquola and Pamela Rabe; Favourite Television Drama: Clickbait (Netflix) and Home & Away (Seven Network), and Favourite film: A Sunburnt Christmas, The Dry, Mortal Kombat, Penguin Bloom and Peter Rabbit 2.

Read the full list of nominees and categories here:

Also featuring in what is sure to be a night of stellar entertainment at the Sydney Opera House, will be musical performances from Lime Cordiale and Baker Boy.

Lime Cordiale’s latest single, Apple Crumble, is a collaboration between the popular pop rock band and actor Idris Elba, who will feature in their performance at the ceremony in a world-first exclusive.

Also performing at the ceremony is rapper, dancer, artist and actor Danzal Baker – aka Baker Boy – whose debut album Gela is out now.

The 2021 AACTA Awards presented by Foxtel Group ceremony will be broadcast on Channel 10 at 7.30pm on December 8, and later on FOX ARENA on FOXTEL, BINGE, and AACTA TV

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