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Hollywood Toasts Australia at the G’Day USA Gala

Variety logo Variety 1/29/2017 Lawrence Yee
© Provided by Variety

All things Aussie were celebrated at the G’Day USA Gala at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood Saturday night.

Celebrities, diplomats, and supporters filled the Dolby Ballroom to honor three remarkable Australians — actor Ben Mendelsohn and producers David Hill and Catherine Martin — for their contributions to Australian-U.S. relations. The event also served as a showcase of the country’s natural beauty and thriving tourism industry.

Gareth Edwards , who directed Mendelsohn in the recent “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” presented the veteran actor with the G’Day USA Excellence in Film and Television Award. Edwards described Mendelsohn’s character Orson Krennic as “the bad guy of all bad guys” but called the actor the “ice cream man” of the set — everyone became a little kid and got really excited whenever he was around.

“They don’t actually give you this when you need it,” Mendelsohn joked upon receiving the award, a nod to the film’s success. (“Rogue One” has earned over $1 billion at the box office.)

Later in the evening, Keith Urban presented “American Idol” producer David Hill with the G’Day USA Lifetime Achievement Award. Hill’s produced many sporting and entertainment events –including the World Series, the final season of “Idol,” and even last year’s Academy Awards — during his decades-spanning career. Urban’s wife, Nicole Kidman, honored Oscar-winning production and costume designer Catherine Martin (“Moulin Rouge” “The Great Gatsby”) — who also happens to be the wife of Baz Luhrmann — the other G’Day USA Lifetime Achievement Award. Fun fact: Urban and Kidman met and fell in love at this event in 2005. 2017 marked the gala’s 14th year.

The mood was celebratory and light, thanks to the humorous emcees Renee Bargh and Richard Wilkins. Attendees dined on an Australian-inspired menu and wine list prepared by chefs Neil Perry and Wolfgang Puck. Naturally, lamb was the main course. Guests also were treated to discount flight vouchers from Qantas, longtime sponsor of the gala.

As jovial as the mood was, a shadow was cast over the event by President Trump’s executive order banning immigrants from seven countries. With G’Day celebrating intercontinental relationships and many of the attendees considering America their second home, Trump’s order felt against the spirit of the gala.

“The more the world comes together and is inclusive, the better for everyone. That’s the only future for the world,” Edwards explained.

Added celebrity chef Curtis Stone, “It’s a really sad day when we lose track of who we are. You’re a human being no matter what country you’re born in, what color your skin is or what god you pray to. From what I understand, that’s the fundamental basis of what America was built on.”

The gala celebrated Australia’s diversity, opening with a rousing guitar performance by indigenous Australian artist Chris Tamwoy and renditions of both the Australian and United States national anthems.

Other notable attendees included Qantas goodwill ambassador John Travolta, Paul Hogan, Jai Courtney, Brenton Thwaites, Luke Hemsworth, Dominic Purcell, and many more.

G’Day USA is Australia’s premier public and economic diplomacy program in the United States. Produced by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Qantas Airways, Tourism Australia, and Austrade.

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