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Ireland’s intimate association with the Oscars’ statuette

Irish involvement in Academy Awards stems from Dubliner who designed the statuette

Glen Hansard who won the Best Song Oscar in 2007 with Marketa Irglova for ‘Falling Slowly’ from the film ‘Once’. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / The Irish Times

If you were under the impression that Ireland had little association with the Oscars beyond My Left Foot, Once and the quotes of one Mr Wilde, you’d be very much mistaken.

Ireland’s first and most lasting contribution to the Academy Awards is at the ceremony’s very heart: the Oscar statuette was designed by Dublin- born Cedric Gibbons, an art director with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, who also became Ireland’s first winner.

Although his first Oscar (for art direction on The Bridge of San Luis Rey) was the only award he received individually, Gibbons was nominated for 38 Academy Awards and received 11 Oscars.

By most yardsticks, this record makes Gibbons the most successful Irish Oscar winner in history.

George Bernard Shaw went one better. Having received a screenplay award for the 1938 film Pygmalion he became the only person to receive both an Oscar and a Nobel prize.

Fast forward to the early 1980s, when Kildare native Michèle Burke received her first of two Oscars for best make-up on Quest for Fire (she won for Bram Stoker’s Dracula a decade later).

A golden age for Irish cinema began when Jim Sheridan’s My Left Foot was nominated for five awards in 1989, with Daniel Day-Lewis taking Best Actor (his first of three) and Brenda Fricker winning Best Actress in a Supporting Role.

The following year Richard Harris was nominated for Best Actor for The Field (his second nomination).

In 1992, The Crying Game received six nominations, with Neil Jordan taking an Oscar for Best Writing. A year later, In The Name of the Father received seven nominations.

For many Irish people, the Oscars calls up the delicate opening notes of Falling Slowly from the film Once, for which Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova won Best Song in 2007.