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» A Rush, Then A Flurry
by Jim Schembri

March 26, 1997

It was a little wonder that Shine star Geoffrey Rush looked a tad uncomfortable as he walked into the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to take his seat among the Shine clique at the 69th Academy Awards Ceremony. Riding on his back were 18 million cheering Australians hoping against hope that he would win a Best Actor doorstop for his performance as pianist David Helfgott.

The seven nominations Shine had received not only served to invigorate the nationalistic pride of an entire land mass, more importantly it resulted in a bigger turnout than usual to the annual Oscars bash at Channel 9. About 60 minor celebrities and media usually assemble to watch the live feed from America's ABC, but yesterday there were more than 100.

Among the most enthusiastic attendees was local small-screen drama queen Rebecca Gibney, who hooked up with her close friend Marcus Graham with such affection they often looked like Siamese twins joined at the armpit.

There was the standard display of tack on screen, the worst of which was a facelifted Faye Dunaway who looked nothing like herself. "It's a distortion on the screen,'' said Alan Finney from Village film corporation. Village had a lot of people at the bash, mainly because the film expected to sweep the awards, The English Patient, was its baby. Their confidence was running so high, in fact, they'd already booked ads celebrating the film's Oscar triumph in The Australian, the Herald Sun, The Financial Review and The Daily Telegraph Mirror - on Monday.

More than an hour before the awards, Shoba Martin, general manager (marketing) for Village, said "obviously we're confident that it is going to win most of the awards. It is just a matter of how many awards it is going to win. It is as sure a thing as anything.'' Sure enough, The English Patient began taking out almost everything it was up for, and it looked like Shine was going to strike out.

Then the noisy, smoky boardroom fell silent as Susan Sarandon announced the Best Actor contenders. This was not Shine's last chance, but it was its best.

When Rush's name was read out the room erupted. People hugged and kissed. Gibney and Graham swept tears from their cheeks. "He's such a wonderful man, he's such a wonderful actor,'' said Gibney. "It's made my day. Absolutely.''

David Helfgott's uncle and aunt, Helen and John Granek, received three heartfelt cheers. They were speechless for a moment, but once that cleared up Helen crystallised the pride about to sweep the nation: ``It's an honor for Australia, for Geoffrey Rush, and for David and Gillian Helfgott. They are just wonderful human beings.''


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