No one’s sure exactly how one becomes an “honorary Irishman,” but in a business of odd requests, at least this one makes sense.
That’s because the Oscar Wilde Awards, now in their 11th year, has a simple mandate: Honor Irish film and TV figures — even if they have tenuous Irish connections, or no connections at all.
This year’s honorees are Lenny Abrahamson, the Dublin-born Academy Award-nominated director of “Room”; Irish actress Sarah Greene (“Penny Dreadful”); Northern Ireland rockers Snow Patrol, who’ll perform; CBS’ “The Late Late Show” host James Corden; and Daisy Ridley, the star of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
Created by the U.S.-Ireland Alliance, the event is held at J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot production company. The “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” director will reunite with his female lead when he serves as emcee Feb. 25.
“Daisy was totally up for it, and she talked about her Irish roots when she did the London press tour for the movie,” reports event founder Trina Vargo.
Abrams’ link: He shot the final scene on an Irish island. “He’s also one of our honorary Irishmen,” Vargo says. “Jim Brooks was our first one, J.J was our second. He offered to let us use his offices for the show when he moved locations, and we’ve been there for the past six years.”
While honoree Greene is still “largely unknown” in the U.S., “You’ll know all about her soon,” Vargo says. “She’s a big star on the London stage and was Tony-nominated last year for ‘The Cripple of Inishmaan.’ And, of course, Lenny’s another real Irish talent who’s now getting some very high-profile and well-deserved recognition outside of Ireland for his work. He’s got that other Oscar show to attend, but we have him first.”
Corden has been made an honorary Irishman, “because he’s such a lovely and funny guy,” she adds. “I’m sure he’ll have fun with it. A lot of our honorary Irish seem to feel on the night that they have to prove they deserve the honor, so they always have either the funniest or most poignant stories you’ve ever heard. And that makes for a great show.”
Vargo says this year’s event will have “about 400 guests. We intentionally keep it small and intimate. I think that bigger isn’t necessarily better, and I’m just not interested in having a thousand people sitting at tables in a hotel ballroom. That’s stuffy and boring.”