Margot Robbie, Brenton Thwaites Feted at Australians in Film Gala

As the sun began to set behind the Santa Monica pier, the evening was just getting started at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows Resort where Aussie thesps showed their support at the third annual Australians in Film awards and benefit gala dinner Sunday.

Breakthrough Award honorees Margot Robbie and Brenton Thwaites were joined on the red carpet by fellow Australian film stars and friends including Oliver Ackland, Luke Hemsworth and Callan McAuliffe as well as the event’s MC, “Australian Idol” host Osher Günsberg.

“Any event where you get to sit at a table and actually have a meal with everyone – that’s always fun, as opposed to a sit-down award show,” Robbie told Variety as she made her way down the carpet. “It’s kind of like going out to dinner with friends.”

The “Wolf of Wall Street” actress also shared her excitement to be back in Los Angeles after spending the past year shooting her upcoming film “Focus” in New Orleans and Buenos Aires.

Inside the hotel’s Starlight Ballroom, Thwaites was introduced by his “The Signal” director William Eubank.

“For me, finding a talent like Brenton’s is like finding a treasure and if I could, like a good little leprechaun, I’d protect that treasure and keep it for only my movies,” the helmer said of working with the young “The Giver” star.

Thwaites, who will next be seen alongside Gerard Butler in “Gods of Egypt,” cited the support of fellow Australians and AiF as a major driving force in his career, telling the audience, “It’s the support from Australians and Australians in Film that really inspires, encourages and pushes you to go forward.”

Warner Bros. worldwide physical production prexy Steve Papazian then introduced Fox Studios Australia international honoree  Zareh Nalbandian, CEO of Animal Logic. Nalbandian, who most recently served as an executive producer on “The Lego Movie,” spoke about the importance of L.A. for Aussies, calling the city “our collective second home.”

AiF also honored the late Australian film exec Greg Coote as one of its Virgin Australia Orry-Kelly international honorees. Hugh Jackman, who is currently preparing for his upcoming return to Broadway in the “The River,” appeared via video message to pay tribute to Coote. “Greg has left a legacy in the world of film that is immense, but for Australians he holds a special place because I don’t think there’s anyone else who’s done more for Aussies in film,” he said.

Jackman also announced the launch of the Greg Coote Scholarship, which will offer a Queensland writer, producer, director or creative executive a placement to work on the U.S. television series “Writers’ Room.”

Jonathan LaPaglia accepted the other Virgin Australia Orry-Kelly award on behalf of his brother Anthony, who was unable to attend.

Robbie was presented with her Breakthrough award by Warner Bros. president of creative  development and worldwide production Greg Silverman, who noted how Australian actors have come to dominate in Hollywood.

“I started to notice this pattern that when you needed a great American part filled, it seemed that Hugh Jackman was best. If you need to find a Nantucket fisherman, it seemed that Chris Hemsworth was more than able to do it,” Silverman said. “And of course we’re here to celebrate tonight Margot Robbie, who continues that tradition, because when you needed a great New Yorker for ‘Focus,’ there was no one else who could do it but the great Australian.”

Robbie, who accepted her award with stilettos in hand due to a broken heel, said it has been exactly four years since she moved to L.A. and joined the “Aussie mafia” in West Hollywood. “For those who have yet to make the leap, please know that there are a ton of people over here who are willing to make that possible for you, and it’s not as hard as it looks,” she said.

Ausfilm international honoree Fred Baron, exec VP of feature production at 20th Century Fox, was the last to take the stage and summed up the night of praise for Aussie thesps saying, “I don’t know what is in the water with the actors in Australia. It’s endless.”

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