His heart-wrenching performance as a dying man who discovers life in Last Cab to Darwin was too exceptional for the AACTA judges to overlook this year.
The production was based on the true story of Aussie cab driver Max Bell who was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer in the early 1990s.
As expected, Kate Winslet won the best lead actress prize for her stunning turn as a dressmaker who returns home to right some wrongs in The Dressmaker.
It was a big night for The Dressmaker with Hugo Weaving and Judy Davis both winning their respective best supporting actor categories.
But at a time when Screen Australia is encouraging women filmmakers telling female-centric stories, it wasn’t enough to win best film – that honour went to Mad Max: Fury Road.
In a star-studded night that also celebrates Australia’s best TV talent, Pamela Rabe won the best lead actress in a television drama award for her role in Wentworth.
It was long time between drinks for Pamela – she won her first gong in the same category 18 years earlier for The Well.
In other early awards announced on Australia’s biggest night for TV and film, Joel Jackson won for best lead actor in a television drama for Peter Allen: Not The Boy Next Door.
The same show also won best screenplay in television, best costume design, and an overdue accolade for Sigrid Thornton. Her win for best guest or supporting actress was her first after five nominations at the event.
In the competitive best reality TV series category, MasterChef Australia came out on top over The Voice, X-Factor, My Kitchen Rules and Real Housewives of Australia.
The other highlight of the night was the presentation of the Longford Lyell Award to Cate Blanchett in recognition for her outstanding work on stage and screen. Click here for more detail.
She received touching tributes from Martin Scorsese, Robert Redford, Sam Raimi, Ridley Scott and Todd Haynes, among others.
“I’m incredibly proud to work in this industry for no other reason than it’s great,” said Cate.
“Thank you all, this is an extraordinary industry and this means so much.”