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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 February 2007, 00:22 GMT
Still waiting for sound of Oscar cheers
By Victoria Lindrea
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Kevin O'Connell
Spider-Man 2 earned him a Bafta nomination - he failed to win
Kevin O'Connell is the Martin Scorsese of the sound mixing world.

The 49-year-old sound technician has never won on his previous 18 Oscar nominations - marking a record in the history of the Academy Awards.

But Mr O'Connell, now enjoying his 19th nomination, is not bitter.

"I love my job, I love what I do - and if you do it well, you get nominated for an Oscar. It's like the icing on the cake for me," he told the BBC News website.

A former LA County firefighter, at the age of 19 O'Connell was persuaded by his mother to join her for a week in the sound department at 20th Century Fox after returning badly scarred from a difficult firefighting experience.

"After just a week I was hooked. I said to my mum: 'How can I ever thank you?' She thought about it for a minute and said, 'Work hard and some day go win yourself an Oscar - then you can thank me in front of the whole world.'"

She was joking, but four years later, in 1983, O'Connell landed his first Oscar nomination for the Jack Nicholson weepy Terms of Endearment.

'Best date'

"I started getting nominated when I was 24 years old and single, and it was the best date in the world," says O'Connell.

He went on to amass 18 nominations for his work on movies including The Rock, Pearl Harbor and Spider-Man, frequently collaborating with film-makers Jerry Bruckheimer, Tony Scott and Michael Bay.

Scene from Apocalypto
Apocalypto is told entirely in the Yucatec Maya language
"The only time I ever felt like I should have won and I didn't, was in 1986 for Top Gun. I thought it was the best-sounding movie that year, but we lost to Platoon.

"It's true to say if your movie is up for best picture, as well as best sound, you stand a much better chance of winning the Oscar because there is a huge campaign behind you."

This year sees O'Connell nominated for the Mel Gibson Mayan-language epic Apocalypto.

"The only thing I can hope for is that the Academy members will be able to set aside their differences with Mel Gibson's off-camera actions and vote on how the movie looks and sounds," says Mr O'Connell, alluding to Gibson's racist outburst last summer.

But he adds: "I'm not really anticipating a win this year."

Musical rivals

"Whenever you are up against a big musical, it's really hard because everyone associates musicals with sound.

"Dreamgirls is a great sounding movie, and deserves to win, but I don't like the fact that people stereotype musicals. Each movie should be judged on its own merits."

Sound mixing board
A sound mixer combines all three elements of the film's soundtrack, the dialogue, the music and the sound effects, "to create the voice of the film"
A sound editor creates or compiles the film's sound effects
The sound mixer has been a member of the Academy for more than 20 years, and has sat on the board of governors for the past six.

But he remains sceptical as to whether colleagues in the acting world - by far the largest and therefore most influential branch in the Academy - can actually distinguish the finer detail of a film soundtrack.

"One thing that I am grateful for, with this 19th nomination, is that I have been getting a lot of press," says Mr O'Connell, who has featured on Good Morning America and The Oprah Winfrey Show in recent weeks.

"And if nothing else, that means people are becoming aware of what we do. If I had to fall on the sword and not win for a 19th time, then maybe there is a purpose to it all.

"The reality is that it's The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, not just the Academy of good-looking movie stars."

Backing Scorsese

Unsurprisingly Mr O'Connell is championing Scorsese for the best director award, although he is not allowed to reveal exactly how he voted.

"The fact is people shouldn't vote for Martin Scorsese because he hasn't won, they should vote on his work.

"But I think it's going to be Scorsese's year, because his work on The Departed was amazing."

I'd say it's 20% technical and 80% artistic
Kevin O'Connell on the art of sound mixing
And, in a situation where one vote could make all the difference, did O'Connell vote for himself?

"I would love to be coy and say I don't vote for myself, but I do. Anything else would be mad!"

Despite having a wife and two children, a victory would still be for his mother.

"My mum is in the hospital at the moment, so if I won I would walk off that stage, get in the car and go to the hospital so I could share the moment with her.

"Every year I have been working towards that 'Thank you, mum.' And if there is a message in it, it's that you should never give up.

"Anything worth having is worth fighting for."

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