Thesp nabs Raymond Longford Award

SYDNEY — Geoffrey Rush, who has twice presented the Australian Film Institute’s annual AFI awards, was honored with the org’s highest accolade, the Raymond Longford Award, July 31 at Melbourne’s Convention Center.

Peer-judged trophy named after a famous Australian film pioneer recognizes contributions to the country’s screen biz. At the black-tie dinner for 300 to herald the start of Oz’s kudos season, Rush used his acceptance speech to lament, among other things, the way bizzers everywhere have come to interpret box office grosses as a statement of a film’s merit. He also said that as one of only six actors to have received the award, his contribution was less serious than those of some other recipients, such as directors Peter Weir, George Miller and Fred Schepisi.

“When I was starting out in film, no one knew who Toni Collette was, no one knew who Baz Luhrmann was, no one knew who I was,” he said. “We were the right people in the right place, and the right actors for specific roles that made those films into something we all became terribly terribly proud of.”

Baz Luhrmann’s “Australia” and Warwick Thornton’s “Samson and Delilah,” which won the Camera d’Or winner at Cannes in May, are among 26 pics competing in the AFI feature categories this year. Nominations will be announced in October ahead of the December kudos.

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