Oscars 2018: Margot Robbie leads Australia’s charge at Academy Awards

Margot Robbie, at a pre-Oscars dinner on Saturday, is Australia's best chance of an Academy Award.

Margot Robbie, at a pre-Oscars dinner on Saturday, is Australia's best chance of an Academy Award. Photo: AP

Australia’s Oscar nominees are a mixed lot this year.

There is glamorous star and emerging Hollywood power player Margot Robbie and the bearded, bespectacled giant-sized editor Lee Smith who cut British director Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk into a masterpiece.

There’s also Derin Seale, who has Australian film royalty blood flowing through his veins, and his longtime friend, movie-making partner and renaissance man Josh Lawson.

Australia’s Oscar dark horse could be another editor, Paul Machliss, who was literally on the edge of his seat on moving vehicles with his editing equipment as the stars of the high-octane, musically-influenced action film Baby Driver were shooting their scenes.

The 90th Annual Academy Awards, hosted by comedian Jimmy Kimmel, are scheduled to begin at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre at noon on Monday (AEDT).

Queenslander Robbie, 27, who spent three years on the Australian TV soap Neighbours before moving to Los Angeles and quickly rising the ranks, was nominated for best actress for her performance as scandal-plagued US Olympic ice skater Tonya Harding in I, Tonya.

Robbie also produced the film, which picked up nominations for supporting actress Allison Janney and editor Tatiana Riegel.

margot robbie

Margot Robbie’s transformation into figure skater Tonya Harding is remarkable. Photo: I, Tonya

Despite an acclaimed performance channelling the tough Harding and spending months on the ice preparing for the role, Robbie is a long shot with Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) the short-priced favourite.

Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird) and Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water) are the next best chances.

The only nominee behind Robbie is one of the greats, Meryl Streep, a three-time Oscar winner and 21-time nominee, whose odds have blown out to around 100 to 1 for her performance in The Post.

“The nomination in itself is beyond anything I could have dreamed for, but to be among this group in particular that I specifically aspire to be like is the highest praise,” Robbie, marvelling at the nominees in her category, told AAP.

Sydney’s Smith, who stands 196cm tall, is Australia’s best chance of an Oscar for editing the World War II epic Dunkirk.

Smith has been nominated twice before, for The Dark Knight in 2009 and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World in 2004, but left both Academy Awards ceremonies empty-handed.

His front runner Oscar status was confirmed last month when he won the American Cinema Editors award for Dunkirk.

History shows 23 of the last 27 ACE winners won the editing Oscar.

Smith said being so tall comes in handy despite spending much of his life in the confined space of editing suites.

“It’s good because you are always in arguments with people in an editing room and at six foot five I always get my way,” he laughed.

Aussie Oscar nominees

Aussies (L-R) Josh Lawson, Derin Seale and Lee Smith attended a pre-Oscar party in Los Angeles on Friday. Photo: AAP

Smith’s biggest threat is fellow Australian Machliss who was so close to the action editing on the set of Baby Driver a small cart was built to hold his editing equipment so he could wheel it from location to location.

Machliss also was placed on a trailer with the actors, who were in vehicles, so he could edit their scenes live.

Seale and Lawson, nominated for their Sydney-shot short live action film The Eleven O’Clock, are considered outsiders for the Oscar.

Seale, who directed the 13-minute comedy, is the son of Australian cinematographer John Seale, who won the Oscar in 1997 for The English Patient and nominated four other times for Rain Man, Witness, Cold Mountain and Mad Max: Fury Road.

His first memory of being on a film set with his dad was 1981’s Gallipoli and his first job was as video playback operator on The English Patient.

Lawson, who wrote, produced and stars in the short film, played Paul Hogan in last year’s TV mini-series Hoges.

He wrote The Eleven O’Clock for a Sydney theatre production 13 years ago and during a dinner with Seale mentioned the play about a delusional patient who believes he is a psychiatrist.

“We sat down and had dinner a couple of years ago and Derin said ‘I want to make a short film’ and I said, ‘Well I have a script that I don’t think will be hard to make. It’s pretty much just two guys in a room’,” Lawson said.

Three Billboards is favourite for best picture, just ahead of The Shape Of Water, while Gary Oldman is considered unbeatable for best actor for Darkest Hour.

The Shape of Water‘s Guillermo del Toro is front runner for director while Three Billboard‘s Sam Rockwell is hot favourite for supporting actor and Janney also appears way ahead of the pack for best supporting actress.


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