Kevin O'Connell has the singular distinction of earning the most Academy Award nominations without a win, but on Sunday night, that streak ended. On his 21st nomination — 33 years after his first nomination, for James L. Brooks' "Terms of Endearment" — O'Connor, along with his "Hacksaw Ridge" collaborators Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie and Peter Grace, took home the Academy Award for sound mixing.
O'Connell thanked his late mother, who 39 years ago got him a job in the sound department at 20th Century Fox. A former Los Angeles County firefighter, O'Connell has worked on more 200 films, including "Grease," "Animal House," "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "The Empire Strikes Back."
His mother told him, "Someday, you go win yourself an Oscar, and you can thank me in front of the whole world!" And he did.
Backstage, O'Connell said that as much as he thought he'd know what it would feel like to win, he didn't.
"It's the greatest feeling in my entire life," he said in the press room.
He gave kudos to his director, Mel Gibson, as well as cast and crew, adding, "I'm eternally grateful it happened, specifically because of the project it was."
His most difficult project over a long career?
"1986 'Top Gun,'" O'Connell said. "It was an incredible amount of work, a huge undertaking."