Oscars 2024: ‘Very proud Irishman’ Cillian Murphy wins best actor, one of seven awards for Oppenheimer

Emma Stone named best actress as Irish-produced Poor Things wins four Academy Awards

Cillian Murphy has been named best actor at the 96th Academy Awards for his performance as the eponymous father of the atomic bomb in Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer. He becomes, after Daniel Day-Lewis, the second Irish citizen to win an Oscar for lead performance.

Poor Things, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos and produced by Dublin’s Element Pictures, converted four of its 11 nominations into wins, including a second best actress Oscar for lead Emma Stone. Oppenheimer, as expected, had a good night at a ceremony that delivered few enormous surprises. The huge biopic topped the nomination table with seven wins including best picture and, for Nolan, best director.

“Chris Nolan and Emma Thomas – it’s been the wildest, most exhilarating, most creatively satisfying journey you’ve taken me on over the last 20 years. I owe you more than I can say,” Murphy said to his director and producer from the stage.

“Yvonne McGuinness, my partner in life and art. My two boys, Malachy and Aran, who are sitting up there, I love you so much. I am a very proud Irishman standing here tonight. We made a film about the man who created the atomic bomb, and for better or for worse, we’re all living in Oppenheimer’s world – so I’d really like to dedicate this to the peacemakers everywhere. Go raibh míle maith agaibh.”


The Cork man is only the fourth Irish person to win an acting Oscar. He is the first born in the country to take best actor. The award comes after three decades of celebrated performances for a performer who has never sought attention. He will now find himself in enormous demand.

The only one of the biggest prizes that seemed in doubt going into the evening was that for best actress, with Lily Gladstone, star of Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, seen as being a nose ahead of Stone for Poor Things. Stone, who won here in 2017 for La La Land, seemed genuinely surprised when her name was read out. Her performance as Bella Baxter, a woman reanimated after taking her own life, first attracted raves at the Venice Film Festival last autumn.

“The other night I was panicking that this could happen, and Yorgos said: ‘Take yourself out of it’. And he’s right,” she said. “This is about a team that came together to make something bigger than the sum of its parts. I’m so deeply honoured to share this with every person who poured their love and brilliance into this film.”

Robert Downey Jnr, who plays J Robert Oppenheimer’s tormentor, had been vacuuming up precursor awards throughout the winter. As expected, he walked away with the best supporting actor prize. His speech had the suave assurance of a man who has been thinking about this moment for four decades. “I’d like to thank my terrible childhood and the academy in that order,” Downey, who survived substance abuse issues early in his career, said. “I’d like to thank my veterinarian – I meant wife, Susan Downey. She found me a snarling rescue pet and loved me back to life. Here’s my little secret: I needed this job more than it needed me.”

Perhaps the most expected result in an evening of dead certs was Da’Vine Joy Randolph’s win in best supporting actress for The Holdovers. Receiving, as is traditional for that category, the first award of the evening, Randolph was in tears even before her name was read out. “I wasn’t supposed to be doing this as a career,” she said. “For so long I’ve always wanted to be different. And now I realise I just needed to be myself. I think you for seeing me.”

The Barbenheimer rivalry that dominated last summer was less of a factor on Oscar evening. While Oppenheimer romped through big awards, Barbie, directed by Greta Gerwig, managed only a win for best original song. Billie Eilish delivered a touching performance of What Was I Made For?, the winning tune, early in the evening, but it was another song from the same film that got the most lavish production.

It was reported that 65 dancers accompanied Ryan Gosling as he belted out I’m Just Ken. It was a stirring, funny performance of the old school.

Eilish, who became the first Oscar winner born in the 21st century when she took the same award for No Time to Die in 2022, now has two Oscars at the tender age of 22. “I had a nightmare about this last night. I was not expecting this,” she said, apparently unfazed. “Thank you Greta – I’m grateful for this song, and this movie, and the way it made me feel.”

Poor Things grabbed a fistful of craft awards that might have gone Barbie’s way, triumphing in production design, costume design and in make-up and hairstyling.

There was much speculation as to whether winners would, after relative silence so far on the awards circuit, address the ongoing conflict in Gaza. Only British director Jonathan Glazer, winner of best international film for Holocaust drama The Zone of Interest, made explicit reference. “Right now we stand here as men who refute their Jewishness and the Holocaust being hijacked by an occupation which has led to conflict for so many innocent people, whether the victims of October 7th in Israel or the ongoing attack in Gaza,” he said. The speech was greeted with warm, if not thundering, applause.

Some attendees, including Mark Ruffalo, Ramy Youssef and Billie Eilish, wore red pins in support of a ceasefire. “We’re all calling for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza,” Youssef, a star of Poor Things, said on the red carpet. “We’re calling for the safety of everyone involved. We really want lasting justice and peace for the Palestinian people,”

That win for The Zone of Interest brought the United Kingdom its first ever win in that category (formerly best foreign language film). The Zone of Interest also, against the odds, beat Oppenheimer to best sound for its extraordinary evocation of a largely unseen Auschwitz.

The show was efficient rather than electrifying. Returning for his third crack as host, Jimmy Kimmel, seen as a safe pair of hands, was hit and miss with his quips. Gags about Downey’s troubled past seemed to go down indifferently with that actor. His best moment came right at the end when he read out a Truth Social post from a mysterious critic. “Has there ever been a worse host than Jimmy Kimmel at the Oscars?” Kimmel quoted. “His opening was that of a less than average person trying too hard to be something which he is not.” The punchline was unsurprising. “See if you can guess which former president just posted that on Truth Social. Thank you for watching, President Trump. Isn’t it past your jail time?”

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Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist