Toby Wallace’s turn as a small-time drug dealer in Shannon Murphy’s debut feature Babyteeth has won him the Venice Film Festival’s Marcello Mastroianni Award for best young actor.
It is the second year in a row that the prize has been won by an Australian, with last year’s gong going to Baykali Ganambarr for his debut performance in Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale.
In Babyteeth, Wallace stars as Moses, the love interest of Eliza Scanlen’s Milla, a terminally ill teenager. Their relationship is a nightmare for Milla’s parents, played by Ben Mendelsohn and Essie Davis, but Milla teaches those in her orbit how to live like there is nothing to lose.
Produced by Alex White and based on Rita Kalnejais’ Belvoir Theatre play of the same name, the film was critically lauded after its debut in competition at Venice last week.
Variety’s Guy Lodge said Wallace found “a tender human center amid all Moses’ rapidly tick-tocking moods, impulses and slinky-scuzzy body language”, while IndieWire’s David Ehrlich hailed his performance as strong – “refusing to let his demons peel off the way that a lesser film would ask them to” – and calling him “the funniest part of a film with a wicked sense of humor”.
Wallace has been acting since he was 13, and has had a career upswing since he played the lead in Nicholas Verso’s Boys In The Trees, which screened in Venice’s Orizzonti (Horizons) section in 2016, as well as the Toronto International Film Festival. Since then he’s had roles in Thomas M. Wright’s Acute Misfortune and Stan series Romper Stomper, and made his US series debut in Netflix’s young adult drama The Society.
Wallace’s other credits include Lucky Country, Galore, Cockleshell, The Turning, Return to Nim’s Island and Never Tear Us Apart: the Untold Story of INXS.
Todd Phillips’ Joker, a Warner Bros/DC studio production, won the Golden Lion Award for best film – Venice’s highest prize, with the runner-up award going to controversial inclusion Roman Polanski’s J’Accuse (An Officer and a Spy).
Full list of awards:
Golden Lion: Joker, Todd Phillips
Grand Jury Prize: An Officer and a Spy, Roman Polanski
Silver Lion for Best Director: Roy Andersson, About Endlessness
Volpi Cup for Best Actress: Ariane Ascaride, Gloria Mundi
Volpi Cup for Best Actor: Luca Marinelli, Martin Eden
Best Screenplay: No. 7 Cherry Lane, Yonfan
Special Jury Prize: The Mafia Is No Longer What It Used to Be, Franco Maresco
Marcello Mastroianni Award for Young Actor: Toby Wallace, Babyteeth
HORIZONS COMPETITION (ORIZZONTI)
Best Film: Atlantis, Valentyn Vasyanovych
Best Director: Théo Court, White on White
Special Jury Prize: Verdict, Raymund Ribas Gutierrez
Best Actress: Marta Nieto, Madre
Best Actor: Sami Bouajila, A Son
Best Screenplay: Back Home, Jessica Palud, Philippe Lioret and Diastème
Best Short Film: Darling, Saim Sadiq
LION OF THE FUTURE
Luigi de Laurentiis Award for Best Debut Feature: You Will Die at Twenty, Amjad Abu Alala
Best Restored Film: Ecstasy, Gustav Machatý
Best Documentary on Cinema: Babenco – Alguém Tem Que Ouvir O Coração E Dizer: Parou, Bárbara Paz
VIRTUAL REALITY COMPETITION
Best Virtual Reality: Céline Tricart, The Key
Best Virtual Reality Experience: A Linha, Ricardo Laganaro
Best Virtual Reality Story: Daughters of Chibok, Joel Kachi Benson