Tony McNamara, 1995 Bachelor of Arts (Film & Television) Scriptwriting graduate, will want to make sure his seat at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony is close to the stage, having just taken home the Original Screenplay Award at the 2019 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards for co-writing hot shot director Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite. The win comes after a Golden Globes nomination, an Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards win, critical acclaim and a host of other awards.
The Favourite won seven awards at this year’s BAFTAs, including the BAFTA for Production Design, which went to Alice Felton and Australian Fiona Crombie, and the BAFTAs for Leading Actress and Supporting Actress, awarded to Olivia Coleman and Rachel Weisz respectively. Speaking at a press conference during the ceremony with co-writer Deborah Davis, McNamara noted that the film’s trophy sweep “feels very good; everyone getting kudos for their hard work and everything they’ve done for the film. That we’re all here together is a great experience.”
Known for his experience writing beloved Australian TV series The Secret Life of Us, Puberty Blues and Doctor Doctor, and for writing/directing feature films The Rage in Placid Lake and Ashby, McNamara was brought on by Lanthimos (Dogtooth, The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer) to re-work Davis’ script, incorporating a modern vision and taking some licence with the story’s historical facts to up the camp and drama.
The Favourite also won Outstanding British Film, with McNarama sharing the honours with the rest of the film’s key creatives. Reflecting on the production, McNamara observed, “One of the main things I noted on-set was how remarkably everyone was making the same film and how incredible every head of department was.”
Asked whether there was a favourite day working on set, director Lanthimos pronounced without hesitation, “The extra ‘ducks’ day. We shot another day of ducks. That was quite relaxed and in-order,” showing blatant disregard for the ‘don’t work with animals’ rule.
Before the ceremony, McNamara spoke to the Sydney Morning Herald, relating his journey from “someone who got about 51 for English in the HSC” to an Oscar-nominated writer. “I went to London and I saw a lot of plays… They really triggered something in me – that maybe I could do that. Then once I started writing dialogue, I felt I was good at it. I started writing plays from there.” In 1993 he begun studying screenwriting at AFTRS.
He also recalled the moment he knew he had really made it. “My five-year-old saw the poster at a train station in London… Train stations to him are like the pinnacle of human civilisation. He was like ‘Oh my god, dad, your movie’s in a train station!'”
The Favourite is currently playing in Australian cinemas. The 91st Academy Awards ceremony will be held on February 24, 2019, at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, Los Angeles.