UPDATE: Hollywood sound man Kevin O’Connell ends record drought - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Hollywood sound man Kevin O’Connell ends record drought

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Kevin O'Connell (at left, speaking) and Andy Wright accept their Oscars. AP photo Kevin O'Connell (at left, speaking) and Andy Wright accept their Oscars. AP photo
Movie sound mixer Kevin O’Connell. AP photo Movie sound mixer Kevin O’Connell. AP photo

UPDATE: BY CORKY SIEMASZKO, NBC News

(NBC News) - The 21st time was the charm for Hollywood sound mixer extraordinaire Kevin O'Connell who finally made his first trip to the stage at the Academy Awards.

O'Connell held the record for the most number of Oscar nominations without a win, his first coming in 1984 for the tear-jerker "Terms of Endearment." He subsequently worked on films ranging from "Top Gun" to "Transformers."

O'Connell, 59, was recognized for his work on the Mel Gibson war movie "Hacksaw Ridge."

"I can't even tell you the experience it was for me," O'Connell said backstage after the victory in the best sound/sound mixing category. "As much as I thought I knew what it would feel like [to win an Oscar] I didn't. It was the greatest feeling in my entire life."

O'Connell admitted he had grown accustomed to his losing streak. "I wasn't expecting it to happen," he said.

Speaking to NBC News in the run-up to Sunday's awards, O'Connell admitted that he had "been called the Susan Lucci of the Academy Awards," referring to the actress who played the devious Erica Kane on the long-running soap opera "All My Children" and needed 19 tries before she finally took home an Emmy.

His win was a modest upset, as many pundits had pegged musical "La La Land" to waltz off with the prize.

O'Connell will share the Oscar win with Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie, and Peter Grace. It's the first Oscar for all four men.

Born on Long Island and raised in Los Angeles, O'Connell's dream as a child was to be a firefighter — not a sound mixer, whose job is to record all the sound recorded on the set while a movie is being made.

Starting off as an apprentice, O'Connell learned the craft and got his first credit as a recording technician in 1980 for "Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back." He earned his first credit as sound mixer on the 1982 Steve Martin comedy "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid."

From then on, O'Connell worked on some of the biggest movies to come out of Tinseltown, including all three "Spider-Man" movies (two of which earned him Oscar nominations).

When asked which of his 21 nominated films was the most difficult, O'Connell said: "I'm gonna go back to 1986 with 'Top Gun.' It was an incredible amount of work, a huge undertaking, we didn't have automation that we do now that helps us do our job. [That was] by far the most difficult film I've worked on."


PREVIOUS STORY: BY CORKY SIEMASZKO, NBC News

(NBC News) - Maybe the 21st time will be the charm for Hollywood sound mixer extraordinaire Kevin O'Connell.

That's how many times O'Connell, who has worked on movies ranging from "Top Gun" to "Transformers," has been nominated for an Oscar in the Best Sound/Sound Mixing category.

In fact O'Connell holds the record for the most number of Academy Award nominations without a win, his first coming in 1984 for the tear-jerker "Terms of Endearment."

"Yes, I have been called the Susan Lucci of the Academy Awards," O'Connell said with a chuckle, referring to the actress who played the devious Erica Kane on the long-running soap opera "All My Children" and needed 19 tries before she finally took home an Emmy.

But O'Connell, 59, who is in the running again on Sunday for his work on the Mel Gibson war movie "Hacksaw Ridge," told NBC News he feels this could be the year his winless streak ends.

READ MORE | Hacksaw Ridge: The story of WWII veteran Desmond Doss

"I think we have a better shot in years past," he said. "It's a difficult category because there are so many really good movies. But we've also been nominated for best picture, best actor, best director and that means the Academy folks in general like the movie."

One of his more recent Oscar nominations was in 2007 for his work on another Gibson movie call "Apocalypto" "and that didn't get as many high-profile nominations," O'Connell said. "So I'm hopeful this year."

O'Connell said he keeps the 20 Oscar-winning acceptance speeches he never got to deliver in a drawer and has a 21st ready to go on Sunday — if he wins.

"The acceptance speech always changes over the years, but the one constant would be thanking my mother for getting me into this business 40 years ago," he said of his mom, Skippy O'Connell. "She died in 2007 on the night of the Academy Awards when I lost for the 19th time. She was in the hospital and insisted I go to the ceremony because she would never want me not to go."

READ MORE | The Desmond Doss story comes to the big screen

O'Connell said he raced to the hospital after he lost to see his mom, and deliver the bad news. "She died in my arms," he said.

Born on Long Island and raised in Los Angeles, O'Connell's burning passion as a child was to be a firefighter — not a sound mixer, whose job is to record all the sound recorded on the set while a movie is being made.

"I was a LA County firefighter when I was 19, riding in trucks and putting out brush fires," he said. "It was very exciting but I would come home from fires battered and beat up and my mother started crying."

O'Connell said his mom worked in the sound department at 20th Century Fox and begged him to come by the studio and try to get a job there.

"Once I got started there, I never looked back," he said.

Starting off as an apprentice, O'Connell learned the craft and got his first credit as a recording technician in 1980 for "Star Wars: Episode V-The Empire Strikes Back." He earned his first credit as sound mixer on the 1982 Steve Martin comedy "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid."

From then on, O'Connell worked on some of the biggest movies to come out of Tinseltown, including all three "Spider-Man" movies (two of which earned him Oscar nominations).

While O'Connell hopes to take home the Oscar, Hollywood insiders say the statue is likely to go to "La La Land," the retro romantic musical that is the movie to beat this year at the Academy Awards with 14 nominations — including one for sound mixing.

It's a category that tends to reward musicals like "Chicago" or "Les Miserables," both of which won Oscars for best sound mixing, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

But the war movie "Black Hawk Down" beat out another big musical, "Moulin Rouge," in this category in 2002. And O'Connell said the sounds they came up with for the Battle of Okinawa scenes are jarring and memorable.

"It makes you feel like you're on that battlefield," he said.

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