No help from Kidman required as Hollywood beckons for rising star

There’s no question Nicole Kidman’s imprimatur carries some serious clout in Hollywood, but Australia’s latest success story in Tinseltown has more to do with a footy injury than it does with a showbiz “godmother”.

During the mayhem of the “champagne” carpet at this week’s 95th Academy Awards, Seven Network correspondent Sonia Kruger managed to hook a few minutes with Kidman, who was sparkling in her Armani gown.

Keith Urban, Nicole Kidman and Sam Rechner at the Oscars.Credit:Getty

When Kruger asked where her husband Keith Urban was, it appeared the country crooner had suddenly dropped 30 years when a handsome young man with similar looking lustrous locks came into shot: 21-year-old actor Sam Rechner.

Rechner has had a meteoric rise in Hollywood thanks to his starring role in Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans, which was in the best picture category at this year’s Oscars.

Of course, Keith and his highlights were just off-camera fighting his way through the crowd as Kidman proceeded to explain that young Sam was also the son of her “best friend since I was four years old”.

Enter stage right Channel Nine newsreader Peter Overton, who grew up living next door to the Kidmans. He was able to shed some light on the backstory, telling PS that young Sam is the son of his sister Annette Rechner, who had been Kidman’s bestie since the pair were littlies as neighbours in Longueville. They all attended Lane Cove Public school together.

The cast and crew of The Fabelmans at the Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards. Sam Rechner is third from left.Credit:AP

But Sam, who has a twin brother studying at university in Sydney, only has himself to credit for his fast-moving acting career.

“He auditioned for the role online, then he got a call back saying Steven Spielberg would like to audition him over Zoom. He so impressed him that a few minutes later during the same Zoom call, Spielberg came back on the screen and told him he had the part,” a proud Uncle Pete explained, adding that he speaks with his nephew once a week.

“He is the humblest, most gracious young man you could hope to meet.

“He only really got into acting after an injury and surgery meant his rugby union ambitions were not going to happen. I know we are biased, but he really deserves all the success. I just know great things are going to happen for him down the track.”

Judy and Stan Sarris in 2006. The couple is believed to have quit Sydney for Portugal.Credit:Janie Barrett

Sarris’ ASIC referral

Years after PS first revealed Sydney’s once-feted “food sultan” Stan Sarris’ prestige wine publishing business was on financial life support, crippled by millions of dollars worth of bad debt, things could soon get a whole lot worse.

On Wednesday, the liquidator attempting to salvage anything of realisable value from the ashes of Sarris’ now collapsed GT Wine Magazine Pty Ltd alerted creditors owed more than $3 million in a report that Sarris had been referred to corporate watchdog the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, to investigate allegations of white-collar crime, including illegal phoenixing.

Sarris denied the allegations, telling PS in a short statement on Friday the liquidator’s claims were “not an accurate description”, refuting the report’s claims that anything “illegal” had transpired.

The report also informed creditors, who had previously supported a plan to be paid 10 cents in the dollar as part of an ill-fated Deed of Company Arrangement proposed by Sarris, that following his investigation “there is not expected to be sufficient funds to pay a dividend to any class of creditor”.

Chef Colin Fassnidge was a protege of Stan Sarris.Credit:Janie Barrett

Over decades, Sarris, 64, pioneered some of Sydney’s most celebrated, multi-million dollar fine dining empires, from GPO to Banc. He joined forces in the 1990s with the likes of millionaire businessman Rodney Adler, and nurtured top foodie talent including chefs Justin North, Liam Tomlin, Matthew Kemp, Colin Fassnidge, Brett Graham and Warren Turnbull.

However, according to a sworn statutory declaration, today Sarris’ assets total just $5500, while he has liabilities of $20,000.

Actor Sam Neill was a friend of the Sarrises.

Sarris, who plans to return to Sydney “soon”, is currently living in Portugal with wife Judy Sarris, former long-time editor-in-chief of the glossy lifestyle magazine Gourmet Traveller Wine. The magazine, once owned by the Packer family, was bought in 2015 by the husband and wife team when they set up GT Wine Magazine Pty Ltd.

The couple’s daughter, Bella Sarris, is also listed among the failed company’s creditors after lodging a claim of $486 owed from her days as a contributor to the magazine. She is now an international DJ based in Europe.

For years the magazine showcased the glamorous side of the wine industry to a purported readership of 100,000 people each month. The Sarrises enjoyed the good life, posed on red carpets, wined and dined at the best restaurants, travelled the world visiting acclaimed wine regions and made friends with celebrity wine lovers and makers, including actor Sam Neill.

This week Cameron Gray of DW Advisory, who was appointed liquidator on December 16 by the Federal Court, in his report to beleaguered creditors, many of them loyal, long-term staff owed tens of thousands of dollars in lost wages and superannuation, said Sarris had allegedly breached his duties as a company director, including not keeping adequate books and records.

Sarris’s company is also alleged to have engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct by selling subscriptions when it was incapable of fulfilling them, according to the report.

The liquidator’s report claimed the business had traded while insolvent “possibly” from as early as 2017 saying: “we would estimate an insolvent trading claim against the director [Stan Sarris] in excess of $2 million”.

The report also raised allegations of “phoenixing” when another of his companies, Winecraft Pty Ltd, started publishing an “almost the same” publication called The Wine Magazine after the licence agreement with Gourmet Traveller’s parent company was abruptly terminated.

Sarris denied it was the same business, but the liquidator informed creditors “based on the evidence in our possession, we do not agree with Mr Sarris’ position.”

Creative force

The creative force burns deep within the extended Perkins family.

On Tuesday night Arrernte and Kalkadoon artist Thea Anamara Perkins was guest of honour at the Art Gallery of NSW’s elegant black-tie gala dinner where she was named the 2023 La Prairie Art Award winner.

Family affair: Thea Anamara Perkins in red, flanked by her family at the Art Gallery of NSW on Tuesday. From left: Thea’s partner Adam Finney, grandmother Eileen Perkins, Charles Madden (grandfather), sister Madeleine Madden and brother Tyson Perkins.Credit:Esteban La Tessa

Inspired by family photos, Thea’s works include images of her late grandfather, Indigenous rights pioneer Charles Perkins, including one showing him graduating from Sydney University in 1966. He was the first Aboriginal man to graduate from a university in Australia.

His widow Eileen Perkins beamed with pride as her granddaughter basked in the spotlight, while Thea’s other grandfather, Charles “Chicka” Madden, revealed himself to be quite the raconteur, offering a heartfelt and eloquent Welcome to Country.

Thea’s sister, the acclaimed actor Madeleine Madden, took control of the family selfies under the watchful eye of brother Tyson Perkins, an emerging cinematographer who worked on the brilliant Mystery Road series.

Thea Anamara Perkins’ The Graduation 2023 is of Charles Perkins at his 1966 graduation with his daughter Hetti.Credit:Thea Anamara Perkins

And of course we can’t forget the siblings’ mother: respected Sydney art curator Hetti Perkins.

The Kingmaker has gone

Brian Walsh with close friends Sarah Murdoch and Ian Thorpe in 2007.Credit:Janie Barrett

Television executive Brian Walsh always returned a call. So, when he didn’t turn up to a meeting on Thursday with long-term associate, television producer Rudi McGregor, and didn’t respond to calls and text messages his best friend of 40 years, television producer Graham “Shadow” McNeice, knew something was up.

“We had dinner or lunch together once a week,” McNeice told PS yesterday as news of Walsh’s shock death, of a suspected but unconfirmed medical episode at 67, reverberated across town.

“When Rudi told me he hadn’t turned up to their meeting I suggested we go around to his Potts Point place and see if we could find him. We buzzed, but no response. I know the concierge, so we all went up, and I called out his name. Still no answer. We walked in and that’s when we found him … I still can’t believe he is gone. They talk about kingmakers, well, Brian was certainly one of them. He was the heart of Foxtel, a lot of people are hurting right now.”

Friends say Walsh was in good health, feeling upbeat about many projects, including going into business with impressario and close friend Paul Dainty nurturing showbiz talent, plus his work developing Australian drama at Foxtel.

Over the years he became close to many big names from Nicole Kidman to Kylie Minogue, and was a godfather to Lachlan and Sarah Murdoch’s daughter Aerin. He was a generous friend too, treating pals to lavish holidays, like the time he flew a group to Las Vegas to see Diana Ross for his 60th birthday. He will be greatly missed.

From friend to beau?

Last year Sydney social fixture, single mum and fashion marketing executive Alessandra Eddy told PS her date aboard James Packer’s superyacht, billionaire property developer Robert Whyte, was simply an “old family friend”.

Robert Whyte is in a relationship with a woman 40 years his junior.Credit:Dominic Lorrimer

It appears things have moved on. Eddy recently posted a photo of herself in a passionate embrace with Whyte, 40 years her senior, and has now moved into his harbour-front mansion.

Satisfyingly underestimated

Former Sydney fashion blogger turned Vogue China editor-in-chief Margaret Zhang’s eye-catching blue hair was hard to miss inside the post-Oscars Vanity Fair party this week, where she was mingling with best actress winner Michelle Yeoh and fashion icon Donatella Versace.

Hand-picked by Vogue high priestess Anna Wintour, her appointment was openly criticised in China where she was seen by some as a “foreigner”. Unperturbed, Zhang, 29, who was born to Chinese immigrant parents in Sydney, told The New York Times recently: “It’s actually better when people underestimate you. Then you can prove them wrong. It’s all the more satisfying.”

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