Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation wins every film category but two at the annual Australian awards ceremony.

The big budget US-financed jazz age extravaganza The Great Gatsby won every film category but two at the annual AACTA (Australian Academy of Cinema and Television) Awards this evening Australian time in Sydney. 

This included the best film gong, which goes to Australian producers Baz Luhrmann, Catherine Martin and Catherine Knapman and their US counterparts Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher. 

Luhrmann also scored best director and, with his high school friend and regular collaborator Craig Pearce, best adapted screenplay. 

The only award The Great Gatsby could have won but didn’t was for best actress: that instead went to Rose Byrne for her small part — all the actors had small roles overall — in the bold anthology film The Turning, adapted from a book of short stories by popular novelist Tim Winton.

The Rocket, a festival hit made on a shoestring budget in Laos, had nearly matched The Great Gatsby’s nomination tally but didn’t go away empty-handed: director Kim Mordaunt won the prize for best original screenplay. 

“A screenplay does not happen unless something fuels your imagination and that was the people of Laos,” said Mordaunt, who has also made a documentary about the shockingly large number of unexploded rockets lying half buried in the country due to the Vietnam War. 

The Rocket’s child actor Sitthiphon Disamoe was one of those nominated  but lost out to Leonardo diCaprio. “You my friend have plenty of time ahead of you,” Luhrmann said after asking Disamoe to stand, then telling him a story about a boyish diCaprio coming to Australia to make a promo for Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet

The main message in team Luhrmann’s speeches was Australia’s filmmaking capabilities but the reality is very very few filmmakers can attract significant Hollywood dollars for made-in-Australia films. The Great Gatsby seriously outclassed all other AACTA Award contenders on budget. 

A song-and-dance tribute to Luhrmann’s films was one of the highlights of the evening, as was the honouring of actress Jacki Weaver whose career has been revitalised by the US interest in her work since she was nominated for an Oscar for the small Aussie film Animal Kingdom.

Weaver won the prestigious Raymond Longford Award for contribution to Australian film. The companion award, the Byron Kennedy, went to the Australian Cinematographers Society. 

During the evening AACTA president, the actor Geoffrey Rush, described the film and television production industry as “the passionate custodians of the national imagination”. Other presenters included Cate Blanchett and Sam Worthington. 

Top Of The Lake, season two of Redfern Now and Power Games: The Packer-Murdoch Story were the three big television drama winners, while Red Obsession won best feature documentary. 

“Documentary is a strange kind of animal that takes twists and turns,” said Warwick Ross, who also shared the best feature-length documentary direction award alongside co-director David Roach.

“We thought we were making something about red wine and France but it became more about China and the economic power shift from West to East.”

AACTA winners

Best Film The Great Gatsby, Baz Luhrmann, Catherine Martin, Douglas Wick, Lucy Fisher, Catherine Knapman

Best Direction Baz Luhrmann, The Great Gatsby

Best Original Screenplay Kim Mordaunt, The Rocket

Best Adapted Screenplay Baz Luhrmann, Craig Pearce, The Great Gatsby

Best Lead Actor Leonardo Dicaprio, The Great Gatsby

Best Lead Actress Rose Byrne, The Turning

Best Supporting Actor Joel Edgerton, The Great Gatsby

Best Supporting Actress Elizabeth Debicki, The Great Gatsby

Best cinematography Simon Duggan, The Great Gatsby

Best editing Matt Villa, Jason Ballantine, Jonathan Redmond, The Great Gatsby

Best sound Wayne Pashley, Jenny Ward, Fabian Sanjurjo, Steve Maslow, Phil Heywood, Guntis Sics, The Great Gatsby

Best original music score Craig Armstrong, The Great Gatsby

Best production design Catherine Martin, Karen Murphy, Ian Gracie and Beverley Dunn, The Great Gatsby

Best costume design Catherine Martin, Silvana Azzi Heras, Kerry Thompson, The Great Gatsby

Outstanding achievement in visual effects Chris Godfrey, Prue Fletcher, Tony Cole, Andy Brown

Raymond Longford Award Jacki Weaver


Best film Gravity

Best direction Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity

Best screenplay Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell, American Hustle

Best actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years A Slave

Lead actress Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Best supporting actor Michael Fassbender, 12 Years A Slave

Best supporting actress Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle