Oscars 2022: 11 great Irish moments at the Academy Awards

Daniel Day-Lewis, Brenda Fricker and many others have taken home an Oscar to Ireland

There has been plenty of under-celebrated domestic Irish talent at the Oscars. Tomm Moore, co-founder of Cartoon Saloon, has been nominated three times in best feature animation. Geraldine Fitzgerald and Dan O'Herlihy were among the acting nominees. Louis Marcus, the great documentarian, was nominated as long ago as 1973. Richard Baneham shared the Academy Award for visual effects for his work on Avatar. So apologies to all those who haven't made this somewhat arbitrary list.

George Bernard Shaw wins best screenplay (1939)

You will find the answer to two durable trivia questions in this list. When Shaw won for the film version of Pygmalion in 1939 he became the first person to take both an Oscar and a Nobel Prize. He held the record alone until Bob Dylan won the Nobel in 2016 (no, Al Gore did not actually win an Oscar). He apparently regarded any prize from base Hollywood as an insult, but this did not stop him from displaying the Oscar on his mantelpiece.

Barry Fitzgerald wins best supporting actor (1945)

Here’s the other top trivia question. Fitzgerald, nominated as best actor and best supporting actor for his twinkly priest in Going My Way, remains the only person shortlisted for two acting awards for the same film in the same year. He ultimately won best supporting actor and the academy changed the rules to stop such an anomaly ever occurring again. The performance still triggers blubbing to this day.

Michèle Burke wins best makeup for Quest for Fire (1982)

There was still much golden age royalty around when Kildare's Michèle Burke shared the best makeup and hairstyling Oscar for Jean-Jacques Annaud's prehistoric drama. Sadly, Burke could not be there to get the award from Jane Russell and Cornel Wilde. She later explained that, when she picked it up from the post office, she got the man at the desk to present it to her. "Everyone in the post office crowded around and applauded," she said. "I thought: this is perfect."


Josie McAvin wins best art direction for Out of Africa (1986)

McAvin should be as much an Irish legend as Richard Harris or Barry Fitzgerald. Born in 1919, the Dubliner was already a veteran by the time she picked up her Oscar in person from – how gloriously 1986! – Rebecca De Mornay and Michael J Fox. She had been nominated twice before, for The Spy Who Came in from the Cold in 1965 and Tom Jones in 1963, and appeared visibly moved at the podium. Her Oscar is on display in the foyer of the Irish Film Institute in Dublin.
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Brenda Fricker wins best supporting actress (1990)

One could reasonably argue that the Oscar success of My Left Foot in 1990 signalled the beginning of a cultural and social renaissance that would transform the nation over the succeeding decade. First award of the evening went to Fricker for her turn as the determined mother of writer and artist Christy Brown. "I'd like to thank Mrs Brown, his mother," Fricker said from the podium. "Anyone who gives birth 22 times deserves one of these."
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Daniel Day-Lewis wins best actor for My Left Foot (1990)

Later in the same evening, Day-Lewis won the first of his ultimately record-breaking three best actor trophies. He had, at this stage, not taken Irish citizenship, but he made sure to identify himself with his heritage in his amusing, hairy speech. "You have just provided me with the makings of one hell of a weekend in Dublin," he said. He beat Tom Cruise, Robin Williams, Morgan Freeman and Kenneth Branagh to the prize. Not bad for a young one.
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Neil Jordan wins best original screenplay for The Crying Game (1992)

Jordan's twisty IRA drama was the very definition of a slow burner. The film opened quietly and, ruthlessly promoted by Harvey Weinstein, gradually became a word-of-mouth hit. Jordan was typically befuddled at the podium. "I didn't know these nominations were coming up and I was in the bathroom," he said. "I think the way the audiences have embraced this film tells me audiences can embrace any range of characters or points of view." He did not thank the now-disgraced Weinstein.
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Peter O’Toole wins the honorary Oscar in 2003

We have never quite settled the question of whether the great man was born in Leeds or Connemara, but he always called himself Irish. So who are we to disagree? O'Toole shared the bittersweet record for most acting nominations without a win – he and Glenn Close scored eight – and was initially reluctant to accept the honorary Oscar (though several recipients, including Ennio Morricone and Paul Newman, have subsequently gone to win a competitive prize). "Always the bridesmaid, never the bride, my foot!" he declared.
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Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova win best original song for Falling Slowly (2008)

One of the most unlikely stories in Irish Oscar history. John Carney's Once, tale of a couple falling in love about the streets of Dublin, was made on a shoestring and initially released quietly before building up a committed following that propelled its stars all the way to the Academy Awards. Hansard and Irglova's performance was memorable. So was the presentation. Jon Stewart brought Marketa back to the stage after her initial thanks were truncated. Still makes the head spin.
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Nomination morning 2016

This one is a bit of a cheat, but one could argue that the greatest moment for Irish film at the Oscars came on January 12th, 2016 when two Irish films, Room and Brooklyn, picked up seven nominations between them. Benjamin Cleary was also nominated in the best live action short film category for the lovely Stutterer. The Irish Film Board scored more nominations that year than giants Paramount and Universal Studios combined. "It is the most extraordinary, exciting moment in Irish film," James Hickey, then Film Board CEO, said on the day.
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Benjamin Cleary wins best short in 2016 (and the other shorts winners)

Come the evening of that famous Irish Oscars, there was only one actual domestic winner at the podium – though Brie Larson won best actress for Lenny Abrahamson's Room. This writer was there to see Cleary, whose debut feature scored a Bafta nomination this year, stagger into the press room as if emerging from a thunder storm. Kudos also to Martin McDonagh, who won for Six Shooter in 2004 and Oorlagh and Terry George, who took the same prize for The Shore in 2011.
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