Babyteeth shaping up strongly at AACTA Awards

Babyteeth, an artful drama about a schoolgirl diagnosed with cancer, is shaping up strongly at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards.

Toby Wallace has won best actor, Ben Mendelsohn best supporting actor and Essie Davis best supporting actress for their roles in Shannon Murphy's modestly-budgeted debut feature film.

Playwright turned screenwriter Rita Kalnejais also won best screenplay for Babyteeth, adapting her own play which was staged at Belvoir Street Theatre in 2012.

Best-known for the TV series Romper Stomper and for playing the young Michael Hutchence in Never Tear Us Apart, Wallace played the drug-dealing boyfriend of a teenage girl Milla (Eliza Scanlen) whose cancer diagnosis and how it affects the lives of everyone around her is at the heart of the film.

It was a role that won him the Marcello Mastroianni Award for best young actor or actress at the Venice Film Festival last year.

Mendelsohn and Davis played a quirkily mismatched couple, the parents of Milla, in the film which balances delicately on the edge of intense drama and eccentric suburban comedy.

Babyteeth received 12 AACTA Award nominations including best film, best director and best actress for Eliza.

After a surging career in the US that has included The Dark Knight Rises, Rogue One and Captain Marvel, Mendelsohn returned to shoot Babyteeth as his first Australian film for "eight or nine years".

Essie Davis and Ben Mendelsohn as psychiatrist Henry and former concert pianist Anna in Babyteeth.Credit:Lisa Tomasetti

“I love Babyteeth,” Mendelsohn said, in a video from a night shoot in Sicily played at the AACTA Awards ceremony on Monday. “Of all the films I’ve made that I’ve seen, it’s my favourite…Importantly it seems to me to be about people who have flaws – ridiculous flaws, funny flaws – who are desperately trying to contribute and be together in a really difficult circumstance.”

A decade ago, Mendelsohn won best actor at the Australian Film Institute Awards – predecessor to the AACTAs – for Animal Kingdom.

The awards are being presented at two ceremonies – film in the afternoon and television this evening – at The Star in Sydney today.

In a video speech "from the bush", the academy's new president Russell Crowe urged the federal government to take advantage of the film and television production boom that has resulted due Australia's management of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I want to encourage the federal government to use this time to set a platform so this rise in production can be facilitated to continue,” Crowe said. “Given the right support, the screen industry can be used as a powerful driver for economic recovery.”

Eliza Scanlen arrives at the AACTA Awards on MondayCredit:Brendon Thorne/Getty Images for AFI

Justin Kurzel's wild bushranger drama True History of the Kelly Gang is in contention for 10 awards, with John Sheedy's family film H Is For Happiness up for nine. All three are up for best film with horror-thriller and international hit The Invisible Man, Helen Reddy bio-pic I Am Woman and horror pic Relic. Nominations in the television categories were led by ABC series Mystery Road and Stateless, with seven each.

The first awards were handed out on Friday night.

At these earlier Industry Awards,The Invisible Man won best cinematography, editing and sound; True History of the Kelly Gang claimed best costume design, production design and hair and make-up; and Babyteeth won best casting and original score. In the television categories, Stateless won six awards: best cinematography, costume design, editing, original score, production design and sound in television.

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AACTA AWARD NOMINEES

Best Film: Babyteeth, H Is for Happiness, I Am Woman, The Invisible Man, True History of the Kelly Gang, Relic

Best Indie Film: A Boy Called Sailboat, Hot Mess, Koko: A Red Dog Story, A Lion Returns, Standing Up for Sunny, Unsound

Best Direction: Shannon Murphy (Babyteeth), John Sheedy (H Is for Happiness), Leigh Whannell (The Invisible Man), Natalie Erika James (Relic), Justin Kurzel (True History of the Kelly Gang)

Best Lead Actress: Tilda Cobham-Hervey (I Am Woman), Laura Gordon (Undertow), Elisabeth Moss (The Invisible Man), Lupita Nyong’o (Little Monsters), Eliza Scanlen (Babyteeth)

Best Lead Actor: George Mackay (True History of the Kelly Gang), Sam Neill (Rams), Richard Roxburgh (H Is for Happiness), Toby Wallace (Babyteeth), Hugo Weaving (Measure for Measure)

Best Supporting Actress: Emma Booth (H Is for Happiness), Essie Davis (Babyteeth), Bella Heathcote (Relic), Deborah Mailman (H Is for Happiness), Doris Younane (Measure for Measure)

Best Supporting Actor: Fayssal Bazzi (Measure for Measure), Russell Crowe (True History of the Kelly Gang), Aaron Jeffery (The Flood), Ben Mendelsohn (Babyteeth), Wesley Patten (H Is for Happiness)

Best Screenplay: Rita Kalnejais (Babyteeth), Abe Forsythe (Little Monsters), Leigh Whannell (The Invisible Man), Natalie Erika James, Christian White (Relic), Shaun Grant (True History of the Kelly Gang)

Best TV Drama Series: Bloom, Doctor Doctor, Halifax: Retribution, The Heights, Mystery Road, Wentworth

Best Telefeature Or Miniseries: The Gloaming, Hungry Ghosts, Operation Buffalo, The Secrets She Keeps, Stateless

Best Comedy Series: At Home Alone Together, Black Comedy, The Other Guy, Rosehaven, Upright

Best Entertainment Program: Eurovision – Australia Decides, Hard Quiz, Have You Been Paying Attention?, Lego Masters, The Voice, The Weekly

Best Documentary: Brazen Hussies (director Catherine Dwyer), Brock: Over the Top (Kriv Stenders), Looky Looky Here Comes Cooky (Steven McGregor), Firestarter – The Story of Bangarra (Nel Minchin), Slim & I (Kriv Stenders), Suzi Q (Liam Firmager)

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