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Russell Crowe delivers a politically-charged opening speech at the 2021 AACTA Awards

Russell Crowe opened the 2021 AACTA Awards with a politically-charged speech, urging the star-studded crowd to ‘use your voice’.

The 57-year-old actor admitted that he was ‘supposed to tell the winners to be as time efficient and as apolitical as they can be in their acceptance speeches’. 

‘But this is the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts – that last word “arts”, to my mind, is your licence to be as political as you want to be,’ he began. 

Speaking out: Russell Crowe (pictured) opened the 2021 AACTA Awards with a politically-charged speech, urging the star-studded crowd to ‘use your voice’

‘To be as active in your community as you need to be. As loud, on behalf of those who don’t yet have a voice, as you have to be. 

‘As artists, you have the licence to overthrow empires. To hold mirrors to hypocrisy. To shine lights into dark corners and bring humanity into political discourse in a way that other professions simply can’t. 

‘Respect that. Use your voice. So, as I was saying, if you do win, by all means, share your joy, make your thank you’s, take your moment… efficiently.’

'As artists, you have the licence to overthrow empires. To hold mirrors to hypocrisy. To shine lights into dark corners and bring humanity into political discourse in a way that other professions simply can't,' he said

‘As artists, you have the licence to overthrow empires. To hold mirrors to hypocrisy. To shine lights into dark corners and bring humanity into political discourse in a way that other professions simply can’t,’ he said

History: He then handed the microphone over to Rebel Wilson (left), who recounted her first meeting with the Gladiator star

History: He then handed the microphone over to Rebel Wilson (left), who recounted her first meeting with the Gladiator star

He then handed the microphone over to Rebel Wilson, who recounted her first meeting with the Gladiator star.

‘I have to tell you guys a story about the very first time that I met Russell. I was a young actor. I was like 19,’ began the 41-year-old actress. 

‘And, um, he was sitting there having dinner with Nicole Kidman at STC [Sydney Theatre Company]. And I was like, “Oh, my God.” 

'I went up to them and I was like really nervous, and he turned to me and he looked me right in the eyes, and he just said, "F**k off." It's a true story,' Rebel recounted

‘I went up to them and I was like really nervous, and he turned to me and he looked me right in the eyes, and he just said, “F**k off.” It’s a true story,’ Rebel recounted

'You know, he did though, a few years ago, give me a hug. And then he, like, sweetly whispered in my ear, "I thought I told you to f**k off,"' Rebel recounted

‘You know, he did though, a few years ago, give me a hug. And then he, like, sweetly whispered in my ear, “I thought I told you to f**k off,”‘ Rebel recounted

‘And I went up to them and I was like really nervous, and he turned to me and he looked me right in the eyes, and he just said, “F**k off.” It’s a true story.’

She added: ‘You know, he did though, a few years ago, give me a hug. And then he, like, sweetly whispered in my ear, “I thought I told you to f**k off.”

Sarah Snook and Simon Baker took to the stage to present the AACTA’s first-ever Audience Choice Award, with Eric Bana announced as the winner. 

Presenting duties: Sarah Snook (left) and Simon Baker (right) took to the stage to present the AACTA's first-ever Audience Choice Award, with Eric Bana announced as the winner

Presenting duties: Sarah Snook (left) and Simon Baker (right) took to the stage to present the AACTA’s first-ever Audience Choice Award, with Eric Bana announced as the winner

'OK, definitely, definitely wasn't expecting that one. Um... wow! Favourite Actor! What are the perks? What do I get with this?' joked Eric Bana (left)

‘OK, definitely, definitely wasn’t expecting that one. Um… wow! Favourite Actor! What are the perks? What do I get with this?’ joked Eric Bana (left)

‘OK, definitely, definitely wasn’t expecting that one. Um… wow! Favourite Actor! What are the perks? What do I get with this?’ joked the 53-year-old actor.

He added: ‘To all the actors in this category, I can’t believe that I’m more popular than you now.’ 

Sam Neill presented the award for Best Lead Actress in a Film, addressing some recent changes to other awards shows. 

Taking to the stage: Sam Neill (pictured) presented the award for Best Lead Actress in a Film, addressing some recent changes to other awards shows

Taking to the stage: Sam Neill (pictured) presented the award for Best Lead Actress in a Film, addressing some recent changes to other awards shows

Simply the best: Judy Davis was announced as the winner of Best Lead Actress in a Film for her role in Nitram, picking up her third AACTA Award

Simply the best: Judy Davis was announced as the winner of Best Lead Actress in a Film for her role in Nitram, picking up her third AACTA Award

‘You know, in these modern times, it’s often suggested that there shouldn’t be a separate category for men and women in these actor awards,’ the 74-year-old began. 

‘That’s a really bad idea. Because if men – people like me – were put up against women actors, they would wipe the bloody floor with us. That’s a word on behalf of the patriarchy.’  

Judy Davis was announced as the winner for her role in Nitram, picking up her third AACTA Award. 

Teaming up: Deborah Mailman (right) presented the award for Best Supporting Actor in a Film alongside American actor Vincent D'Onofrio (left)

Teaming up: Deborah Mailman (right) presented the award for Best Supporting Actor in a Film alongside American actor Vincent D’Onofrio (left)

Calling in: The award went to Anthony LaPaglia (pictured), who accepted via video link, citing work and COVID restrictions for his absence

Calling in: The award went to Anthony LaPaglia (pictured), who accepted via video link, citing work and COVID restrictions for his absence

Deborah Mailman presented the award for Best Supporting Actor in a Film alongside American actor Vincent D’Onofrio.

‘Well, first, I want to say – to be standing next to Deborah Mailman here is incredible. Deborah, I just bow to your talent, my dear,’ the 62-year-old Law & Order star told his co-host.

The award went to Anthony LaPaglia, who accepted via video link, citing work and COVID restrictions for his absence. 

Winner: Favourite Competition Reality Show went to LEGO Masters Australia, with host Hamish Blake (right) accepting the award

Winner: Favourite Competition Reality Show went to LEGO Masters Australia, with host Hamish Blake (right) accepting the award

Repeat winner: Essie Davis won for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Nitram, winning the award two years in a row

Repeat winner: Essie Davis won for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Nitram, winning the award two years in a row

Favourite Competition Reality Show went to LEGO Masters Australia, with host Hamish Blake accepting the award.

‘Two AACTAs for Lego Masters – Eric Bana’s got one. Crazy. Absolutely crazy,’ began the stunned 39-year-old. 

Essie Davis won for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Nitram, winning the award two years in a row. 

Winning recipe: MasterChef Australia picked up the award for Best Reality Program, with all three judges - (L-R) Andy Allen, Melissa Leong and Jock Zonfrillo - accepting via video

Winning recipe: MasterChef Australia picked up the award for Best Reality Program, with all three judges – (L-R) Andy Allen, Melissa Leong and Jock Zonfrillo – accepting via video

MasterChef Australia picked up the award for Best Reality Program, with all three judges – Andy Allen, Melissa Leong and Jock Zonfrillo – accepting via video.

‘To win this award in our 13th year is a massive achievement, and we couldn’t be prouder of MasterChef,’ they said. 

Caleb Landry Jones won the award for Best Lead Actor in Film for his role in Nitram, which was inspired by the 1996 Port Arthur massacre.

An emotional Rove McManus (pictured) paid tribute to late television icon Bert Newton, who died in October aged 83

An emotional Rove McManus (pictured) paid tribute to late television icon Bert Newton, who died in October aged 83

'Bert was a mentor and a friend to me, but I know to all of us in the industry, he was a huge titan of the game. He was the last of the true old-school all-rounders,' said Rove. Pictured, Bert Newton at the Logie Awards on the Gold Coast in July 2018

‘Bert was a mentor and a friend to me, but I know to all of us in the industry, he was a huge titan of the game. He was the last of the true old-school all-rounders,’ said Rove. Pictured, Bert Newton at the Logie Awards on the Gold Coast in July 2018

‘Everybody knows there are a lot of folks who didn’t want it done and thought it was impossible to do, and that beautiful group of people, you know, proved otherwise,’ said the 32-year-old. 

The Audience Choice Award for Favourite Drama went to Wentworth, while Favourite Film was awarded to The Dry. 

An emotional Rove McManus paid tribute to late television icon Bert Newton, who died in October aged 83.

Announcement: Amanda Keller (right) and Shane Jacobson (left) presented the award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama, with Rachel Griffiths winning for Total Control

Announcement: Amanda Keller (right) and Shane Jacobson (left) presented the award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama, with Rachel Griffiths winning for Total Control

'I have to say, this whole supporting actor thing is just a total racket. We turn up like 20 per cent of the time, we get a nice fee, we don't have to carry the audience on our backs or have them walk in our shoes,' said Rachel Griffiths (pictured)

‘I have to say, this whole supporting actor thing is just a total racket. We turn up like 20 per cent of the time, we get a nice fee, we don’t have to carry the audience on our backs or have them walk in our shoes,’ said Rachel Griffiths (pictured)

‘I’m here tonight to take a moment to acknowledge a huge loss to our industry this year – Bert Newton,’ began Rove, 47. 

‘Bert was a mentor and a friend to me, but I know to all of us in the industry, he was a huge titan of the game. He was the last of the true old-school all-rounders. 

‘He grew up with variety in his veins and ended up becoming one of the greatest entertainers Australia has ever seen. 

Trophy: Best Lead Actor in a Drama went to Scott Ryan for his role in Mr Inbetween, while Favourite TV Host went to Costa Georgiadis (pictured)

Trophy: Best Lead Actor in a Drama went to Scott Ryan for his role in Mr Inbetween, while Favourite TV Host went to Costa Georgiadis (pictured)

‘Bert had personality and positivity to spare, and his lightning-quick comedy reflexes knew no equal. 

‘And no matter how brightly his star shone, he always made sure that he had time for those whose light was only just starting to emerge in the industry as well. And I, for one, will forever be grateful for that.’ 

Amanda Keller and Shane Jacobson presented the award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama, with Rachel Griffiths winning for Total Control.

‘I have to say, this whole supporting actor thing is just a total racket. We turn up like 20 per cent of the time, we get a nice fee, we don’t have to carry the audience on our backs or have them walk in our shoes,’ said Rachel, 52. 

‘You know, it’s a really simple job. We do two things – we tell the lead character that we believe in them, or we f**k them up. Sometimes, you’re lucky enough to get to do both in the same role.’ 

Best Lead Actor in a Drama went to Scott Ryan for his role in Mr Inbetween, while Favourite TV Host went to Costa Georgiadis, who also won Favourite Entertainment Show for Gardening Australia. 

Paying their respects: David Gulpilil - who died on November 29 - was the recipient of 2021 Longford Lyell Award, with director Rachel Perkins (right) and his longtime friend Jack Thompson (left) paying tribute to him

Paying their respects: David Gulpilil – who died on November 29 – was the recipient of 2021 Longford Lyell Award, with director Rachel Perkins (right) and his longtime friend Jack Thompson (left) paying tribute to him

'There is no doubt David will live on in all our hearts. Through his extraordinary body of work,' said an emotional Jack

‘There is no doubt David will live on in all our hearts. Through his extraordinary body of work,’ said an emotional Jack

David Gulpilil – who died on November 29 – was the recipient of 2021 Longford Lyell Award, with director Rachel Perkins and his longtime friend Jack Thompson paying tribute to him. 

‘There is no doubt David will live on in all our hearts. Through his extraordinary body of work,’ said an emotional Jack, 81. 

Directors Baz Luhrmann and Taika Waititi teamed up to present the award for Best Film, with both jostling for space behind the microphone.

Making the cut: Directors Baz Luhrmann (left) and Taika Waititi (right) teamed up to present the award for Best Film, with both jostling for space behind the microphone

Making the cut: Directors Baz Luhrmann (left) and Taika Waititi (right) teamed up to present the award for Best Film, with both jostling for space behind the microphone

‘Two directors get together. What do you think happens?’ deadpanned Baz, 59. 

The award for Best Film went to Nitram, who cleaned up, winning a total of eight AACTAs at this year’s ceremony. 

‘We’ve known from the outset that it’s sensitive material and, for some, really confronting,’ said the film’s director Justin Kurzel in a poignant acceptance speech. 

Big winner: The award for Best Film went to Nitram, who cleaned up, winning a total of eight AACTAs at this year's ceremony. Pictured, director Justin Kurzel

Big winner: The award for Best Film went to Nitram, who cleaned up, winning a total of eight AACTAs at this year’s ceremony. Pictured, director Justin Kurzel

'We've known from the outset that it's sensitive material and, for some, really confronting,' said Nitram's director Justin Kurzel in a poignant acceptance speech

‘We’ve known from the outset that it’s sensitive material and, for some, really confronting,’ said Nitram’s director Justin Kurzel in a poignant acceptance speech

‘We always tried to approach it with restraint, but that said, we always accepted and appreciated that it’s not necessarily a film for everybody. And that’s so OK. 

‘As Russell touched on at the beginning, we’re also incredibly grateful we live in a place where art is able to rub up against difficult subject matter and ask questions and start conversations.’  

He added: ‘So maybe we can’t unpick the world we live in, but work out a better way to move forward.’ 

Returning to the microphone, Baz closed out the ceremony by urging the Australian government not to make budget cuts to the arts. 

‘Looking around this room, being in this space, and remembering that so many years ago, our forefathers, our foremothers in the land far, far away – you know, it’s really important to put government money in and to have a film school, to have an acting school, to even get this building built,’ he began. 

‘They put that money in and, if they hadn’t have done that, if the government hadn’t have supported us, none of us would be here today. Not King Jack – we wouldn’t be celebrating the spirit of David. We wouldn’t be what we are. 

‘Because as a small country, we hit so far above our weight, it’s almost inconceivable. And that’s because we’ve had government support in the arts. 

‘And I look at all these young faces here, and I think about how many opportunities we were given when we were young, and how that vision – that on the edge of the world, that the arts matter, and that giving young people opportunity matters – that has made us who we are today.’

He finished: ‘So let’s not stop doing it. Let’s double-down on that. That’s what I’d like to close with.’  

Taking a stand: Returning to the microphone, Baz closed out the ceremony by urging the Australian government not to make budget cuts to the arts

Taking a stand: Returning to the microphone, Baz closed out the ceremony by urging the Australian government not to make budget cuts to the arts

2021 AACTA Awards winners

 Film:

Best film: Nitram

Best director: Justin Kurzel (Nitram)

Best leading actress: Judy Davis (Nitram)

Best leading actor: Caleb Landry Jones (Nitram)

Best supporting actress: Essie Davis (Nitram)

Best supporting actor: Anthony LaPaglia (Nitram)

Best original screenplay: Shaun Grant (Nitram)

Best cinematography: Stefan Duscio (The Dry)

Best editing: Nick Fenton (Nitram)

Best costume design: Erin Roche (High Ground)

Best indie film: Ellie and Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt)

Best documentary: My Name is Gulpilil 

Television: 

Best drama series: The Newsreader (Werner Film Productions / ABC)

Best miniseries or telefeature: Fires (Tony Ayres Production / ABC)

Best children’s program: Bluey (Ludo Studio / ABC)

Best lead actress in a television drama: Anna Torv (The Newsreader)

Best lead actor in a television drama: Scott Ryan (Mr Inbetween)

Best supporting actress in a television drama: Rachel Griffiths (Total Control)

Best supporting actor in a television drama: William McInnes (The Newsreader)

Best comedy performer: Kitty Flanagan (Fisk)

Best narrative comedy series: Fisk (Porchlight Films / ABC)

Best comedy entertainment program: Hard Quiz (Thinkative Television / ABC)

Best entertainment program: Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (Blink TV / SBS)

Best factual entertainment program: Love on the Spectrum (Northern Pictures / ABC)

Best documentary or factual program: Old People’s Home For 4 Year Olds (Endemol Shine / ABC)

Best lifestyle program: Grand Designs Australia (Fremantle / Foxtel)

Best reality program: MasterChef Australia (Endemol Shine / Network Ten)

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