Squint and you could have been at the Oscars


Pierce Brosnan looked every bit the old smoothie as he exuded the 007 charm

I DON’T think we’re in Dublin 4 any more, Toto. Welcome to the next generation Irish Film and Television Awards, rebooted and reimagined in the vast, tilted cylinder of the brand spanking new Convention Centre, “known to the IMF as Lot 40”, as host Simon Delaney quipped.

After seven years in the Burlo, the Iftas were moving into new premises, but only time will tell whether it’s a new birth or a false dawn for the Irish film and television industry.

Squint your eyes and you could have been at the Oscars, as crowds gathered on each side of the Convention Centre’s wide steps, waiting to catch a glimpse of the guests as they made their way along the 400sq m of red carpet. There was plenty of space out front for the limos to pull up – or for Limerick’s Rubberbandits, who won the People’s Choice award for best TV moment of 2010, to leave their horse outside.

The stars began arriving around 6pm – although with some of them, you’d have to squint very hard to pretend they were Hollywood A-Listers. Among the blink-and-you’d-miss-their-onscreen-credit brigade was a cast member of Coronation Street, Michelle Keegan, who was cleverly combining the awards with a “girlie weekend in Dublin”; an MTV presenter, Laura Whitmore, who did her best Veronica Lake pose; and various TV presenters and personalities, all trying hard to outfab and outfash each other.

Evanna Lynch, who plays Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter films, looked suitably gothic, while Saoirse Ronan, winner of the best supporting actress award for her part in The Way Back, seemed to float serenely above it all in her black John Rocha outfit.

Asked about rumours that she’s been cast in Peter Jackson’s upcoming film of The Hobbit, Ronan said, “No, nothing has actually been confirmed yet. I’d love to get a role in The Hobbit. I think everybody in the world would like a role in The Hobbit.”

The older, wiser women easily held their own among the young wannabes. Sinead Cusack and Miriam O’Callaghan exuded glamour, although Kim Cattrall was a bit of a disappointment in the bling stakes, dressing tastefully in a relatively understated blue number. This is Samantha from Sex and the City, for goodness sake – shouldn’t she be flaunting something scandalous?

“I flew in from New York this morning, and I only got two hours’ sleep,” she explains. She and her SATCco-stars would love to do another movie, says Cattrall, but so far she hasn’t seen a script. How about sending them on a girlie weekend to Dublin? That could really get the economy moving again.

Older gents like Brendan Gleeson and Colm Meaney didn’t scrub up too badly either. But they couldn’t compete with Pierce Brosnan, who looked every bit the old smoothie in a bespoke suit from his favourite Italian tailor, Brioni, whose suits he wore when playing James Bond. When asked for his thoughts on the state of Ireland’s economy, he still displayed the gung-ho philosophy of 007. “This country has been in worse pickles before – I’m sure we’ll find a way out of this one.”

For Irish filmmakers, TV may provide the way forward, reckoned Tudorsproducer Morgan O’Sullivan, who was presented with a lifetime achievement award. With US series such as Mad Menand Boardwalk Empirebringing TV up to cinematic levels of excellence, the producer of The Tudorsand the upcoming Camelotreckons Ireland is in a good place to succeed on the smaller screen.

“We’re very much in that space now, because Tudorsopened up so many doors, not just in the US but globally. In India, we have 100 million viewers. So we’re very proud of The Tudors, and I think the Irish can take their place anywhere on the world’s stage.

“We’re doing other shows which are nominated tonight, Love/Hate, and Rawis another great series. The standard is exceptionally high on those shows.”