Reese Witherspoon Honors Bruna Papandrea at Australians in Film Awards Gala

Bruna Papandrea, Elizabeth Debicki, Bill Mechanic and Dion Beebe were honored at the 4th annual Australians in Film awards benefit dinner and gala Sunday at the Hotel InterContinental in Century City. Carrie Bickmore hosted the reception that recognizes the contributions of actors and filmmakers to the Australian film industry.

Reese Witherspoon, who originally thought she would be unavailable Sunday, made a guest appearance to introduce her production partner and recipient of the Virgin Australia Orry-Kelly International Award, Papandrea. Witherspoon joked about Papandrea, rousing laughter from the crowd, but emphasized the producer’s work ethic and perseverance. “I have definitely learned through this process where there is a will and a really loud, opinionated Australian lady, there is a way,” Witherspoon said.

Papandrea and Witherspoon, who launched the production company Pacific Standard together in 2012, strive to create movies that focus on a strong female lead. The pair released two high-profile films within two weeks of each other last year — “Gone Girl” and “Wild” — both of which are based on best-selling books.

Papandrea was raised by a single mother in Australia. “My point in telling you where I came from is to remind young people, at a time when they are told so often that they can’t accomplish their dreams, that all things are possible regardless of where you come from,” Papandrea said. “Always be who you are, speak your truth, [and] don’t be afraid to express your opinions even if they differ from other people’s, which they will.”

Debicki, who received the Foxtel Breakthrough Award, shared her love for her home country and emphasized that Hollywood needs to tell more women’s stories. “Being Australian in this industry is such a source of pride for me because of the legacy of grounded and intelligent, unique work, which is made possible by organizations like Australians in Film,” Debicki said. “It’s also such an exciting time for women in film. I’m proud to be part of the grounds for all the change.”

Other award recipients and presenters stressed their Australian pride. “That’s right, I’m not from here, I’m from Australia. Being friendly is part of our DNA,” Ausfilms CEO Debra Richards said.

Mechanic was not in attendance because he is currently in Sydney, Australia, producing “Hacksaw Ridge.” Mel Gibson introduced Mechanic via video, and director Michael Bay presented Beebe with his award.

Bay mentioned he first worked with Beebe on a Victoria’s Secret commercial, noting Beebe has gone on to higher profile work. “What separates Dion from the rest is his intense focus on story and how to use camera work, lighting, lenses to get more emotional power from scenes,” Bay said.

The night concluded after a three course meal and live auction.

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