It finally happened for Kevin O’Connell.
At Sunday night’s 89th annual Academy Awards, the veteran sound mixer won Best Sound Mixing for Hacksaw Ridge alongside Peter Grace, Robert Mackenzie, and Andy Wright. The victory is O’Connell’s first after 21 total nominations; until Sunday, O’Connell was the most-nominated person in Oscars history without a victory.
“Thank you so much! I can’t even tell you what this means to me,” O’Connell said in his acceptance speech, going on to thank his colleagues, Hacksaw Ridge director Mel Gibson, and his family, including his late mother.
“A special thank you tonight to my mother, Skippy O’Connell, who 39 years ago got me a job in sound,” O’Connell said. “And when I asked her how I could thank her, she told me, ‘You can work hard. You can work really hard, and someday you can win yourself an Oscar, and you can stand on the stage, and you can think me in front of the whole world.’ Mom, I know you’re looking down on me tonight, so thank you.”
Born in New York on Long Island, the 59-year-old scored his first sound mixing nomination for Terms of Endearment. He’s earned multiple nominations for Tom Cruise films (Top Gun, Days of Thunder, A Few Good Men) as well as Michael Bay blockbusters (The Rock, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, Transformers). O’Connell was nominated for a Mel Gibson movie before, too, earning a citation for the director’s Apocalypto, Gibson’s last film before Hacksaw Ridge.
In an interview with NPR last week, O’Connell said he had stopped paying attention to his mounting nominations and losses. “I almost feel like this is like a rebirth for me at this point, you know?”
Backstage after his win, O’Connell reflected on his big moment.
“I can’t even tell you the experience that it was for me,” he said. As much as I thought I was going to know what it felt like, I didn’t. And I have to tell you it was the greatest feeling in my entire life, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity, especially working with these guys. And I’m so grateful. It’s an amazing blessing.”
Best Sound Mixing is one of two sound categories at the Academy Awards, along with Best Sound Editing. Sound mixing focuses on creating the audio mix of a film by using sounds recorded both on set and in post-production; sound editing involves the creation of sound elements (like the explosions in Hacksaw Ridge). More on both categories can be found here.
— Reporting by Marc Snetiker