|Kevin O’Connell has been nominated for 16 sound Oscars:
Whether he’s mixing sound for big studio films such as “Top Gun,” “Pearl Harbor” and “Spider-Man 2” or smaller pics such as “The Passion of the Christ,” Kevin O’Connell can do it all — except win an Oscar.
After working on 138 films, the 47-year-old O’Connell is considered the Susan Lucci of the Oscars, having earned a record 16 Academy Award noms without ever taking home the golden statuette.
“I can’t imagine that record ever being broken,” O’Connell says. “It has been just a real unfortunate set of events that has led to that.”
O’Connell began working in the industry in 1977 as a projectionist. A year later, he nabbed a job as a sound machine operator on “Animal House.” However, it wasn’t until 1982, when O’Connell got his first sound-mixing job on “Poltergeist,” that he first became eligible for an Oscar. Since then O’Connell has worked with helmers such as James L. Brooks, Tony Scott, Tim Burton, Barbra Streisand and Brian De Palma.
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But it is producer Jerry Bruckheimer whom O’Connell credits with making him a better sound editor. “I learn things (from him) every single day. He makes movies for the audience,” he says. “I used to get hung up on what my peers would think (of my work). Now I do what’s right for the movie.”
After adding six films to his resume in 2004, including “Spider-Man 2,” “The Passion of the Christ” and “King Arthur,” O’Connell is likely to nab yet another Oscar nom on Jan. 25. If he does, O’Connell is hoping that 17 is his lucky number, but he is well prepared if it turns out not to be.
“I get over it now in less than 30 seconds,” O’Connell says about his past few experiences as a nominee. “In the old days it would take me days or weeks (to digest).”
Only once was he surprised by not winning: “In 1986, I thought we were going to win for ‘Top Gun,’ ” O’Connell says. “But besides that, there has been no year that I thought I was going to win.”
Although he doesn’t enjoy losing, O’Connell is not opposed to being just a nominee again.
“Going through that nomination process and getting a phone call that morning when the Oscars nominations are announced is still one of the most exciting things that happens to me,”
O’Connell says. “For 30 days or so you are on top of the world. You are an Academy Award nominee. You are the elite, the best of the best. You are still a winner at that point and it is just a walking on air feeling that is great.”
O’Connell says one possible reason he has not won is that sound mixing is a category where the picture gets the attention instead of the talent.
“When actors or directors get nominated multiple times there is so much more publicity about it so that they can get a sentimental vote where people in sound can’t because our names are not on the ballot,” O’Connell explains. “Nobody really publicizes it or nobody knows that it is my 16th time. If somebody was willing to say, ‘Hey I will give this guy my vote because he has been nominated so many times’ but nobody really knows except for the sound community and that is not enough to turn the award in your direction.”