Nicole Kidman backs AACTA Award in honour of the late Brian Walsh

Brian Walsh at the 6th AACTA Awards in 2016. (Photo: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images for AFI)

AACTA, with the support of Nicole Kidman, is set to establish the Brian Walsh Award for Emerging Talent.

The award will be aimed at discovering and nurturing the next generation of Australian actors, and pays homage to the late Foxtel executive Brian Walsh. The recipient of the award will receive $50,000 towards their career development, contributed by Kidman, in addition to career support, exposure and recognition through AACTA and its partners.

To be eligible, actors must have less than five years of professional, credited experience, be over 18 and may not have been previously been nominated for an AACTA Award, excluding the AACTA Award for Best Short Film.

Kidman, who is the vice president of AACTA, shared a long-term friendship with Walsh, who died in March, aged 67. Their relationship goes back to the beginning of her career on series Vietnam and Bangkok Hilton, when Walsh was an executive at Ten.

Walsh was one of the founding members of the executive team at the Foxtel Group, and over his 28 years with company, oversaw the commissioning of projects such as WentworthUprightDeadline GallipoliThe Kettering IncidentThe End and most recently, Love MeColin from Accounts and The Twelve.

His career began at the ABC, and included work in feature film production and distribution, radio, and publicity, and leadership roles at Ten and Sky. His varied legacy includes the NRL’s Simply the Best campaign, featuring Tina Turner, and 1985 revival of Neighbours on Ten, after which the series launched the careers of Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan and Guy Pearce.

“Brian Walsh played an important and influential role in the careers of many, including my own,” Kidman said.

“I considered him family, and for that reason I approached AACTA with a view to creating a legacy in his name worthy of Brian’s long and substantial career.”

The judging panel for the award includes culture editor-at-large of The Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age Michael Idato; communications consultant Jamie Campbell; actor Rob Collins, Fremantle head of scripted Fremantle Carly Heaton; Foxtel Group chief content and commercial officer and Binge managing director Amanda Laing; CBS Studios senior vice-president of international co-productions and development Lindsey Martin; casting director Kirsty McGregor, director and producer Unjoo Moon; director, producer, writer and actor Leah Purcell, and actor and director Pamela Rabe.

AACTA CEO Damian Trewhella said Kidman’s longstanding friendship with Walsh embodied the spirit of theaward.

“It is an honour to be able to pay tribute to Brian. This award not only celebrates the dedication and passion of emerging actors but also symbolises a commitment to shaping the future of Australia’s screen industry,” he said.

Walsh’s former colleague Laing said the Foxtel Group would be “forever grateful” to Kidman for helping to honour Walsh’s legacy.

“Brian dedicated his personal and professional life to identifying, nurturing and mentoring young and emerging talent from right across the creative industry. Many of these people became lifelong friends of his and have gone on to have stellar careers in Australia and on the global stage.”

At SXSW Sydney last month, Kidman discussed how Walsh fought to bring her company Blossom Films’ current project, The Last Anniversary, to Binge. The series, also produced by Made Up Stories and based on the Liane Moriarty novel by the same name, is currently in production.

“This is [Brian’s] project,” she said.

“He was watching over it. He wanted it. He wanted Binge and Foxtel to have it, and he fought like crazy to get it. And it’s devastating that he’s not here, but maybe he is.

“Brian’s been a huge part of my life through my whole career and to be able to just still continue his legacy is is fantastic. So, Brian Walsh, we miss you and we love you.”

Other organisations to have paid homage to Walsh’s legacy include NIDA, which established the Brian Walsh Memorial Scholarship Fund earlier this year.