Famous Australian actors and filmmakers descended on the Palm Springs International Film Festival last weekend to join the desert city's two-week celebration of movies with a Aussie sized party at the Viceroy Hotel. It was opening night of G'Day USA, the annual "Australia Week" celebration of all things great from Down Under that's rolling across America from CA to NY (January 9-22, 2010).
"Without a trace" fav Anthony LaPaglia led the charge; if you didn't detect the Aussie accent, it's because he's such a good actor. The now-blonde and buff actor joined director Robert Connolly to screen their new drama "The Bilbao Conspiracy," before heading to the hotel to chow on tender lamb chops paired with fest sponsor Penfold's wines.
Aussie flicks screened all day on Saturday, with Ana Kokkinos' "Blessed" causing a buzz. She and star, Frances O'Connor of "AI: Artificial Intelligence" fame, posed prettily at the party, but we missed Deborra-Lee Furness, who also stars. Okay, we lied, we really missed seeing her husband, Hugh Jackman, the most charming and handsome Australian on the planet.
While that Aussie family is reported to be vacationing in Rio at the moment, the PSIFF had another power couple playing in the spotlight. Gorgeous Rachel Ward and her handsome hubby Bryan Brown brought their latest collaboration, "Beautiful Kate," to the fest. Unlike "The Thorn Birds" where the couple played opposite each other and began their lifelong romance, Rachel is now the writer-director, and Bryan is the star.
"It's exciting to come to this festival," Brown said as the party rollicked around him. "Palm Springs is what Sundance and Toronto used to be, before those festivals turned into places where it is more about the selling of films, rather than about a love of films. People here seem to really love movies, and they are incredibly intelligent about films coming from overseas."
"We know how hard it is to get foreign films distributed in the United States," Ward added, despite the obvious fact that "Beautiful Kate" is an English-speaking movie. "So being a part of such an internationally diverse festival here in America is amazing."
And Bryan Brown said what everyone in LA already knows, too.
"There is really no important film festival in Los Angeles," he shrugged. "Which is why this Palm Springs Festival has become so important over the years."
The French agreed, too, hosting a packed brunch the next day at Spencer's, and more parties filed with foreigners will rock the desert until the festival wraps on January 18. The Israelis, Russians, Hungarians, and Filipinos all will throw down fetes at what the PSIFF Festival Director Darryl Macdonald calls, "the most fun you can have in January in Southern California!"