Every budding genius has imagined holding an Oscar statuette and thanking the Academy, their parents and their dog.
“It’s mind-blowing,” says Kildare-born, Oscar-winning makeup artist Michèle Burke.
“When they start introducing your category, your heart beats so loud that you start thinking, ‘I can’t hear what people are saying.’
“When they call you, it’s like, ‘Did I really hear that?’ I mean, that’s why you see people pushing [winners] from their chairs.”
Michèle has won two Academy Awards and been nominated six times for The Cell, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Cyrano De Bergerac, The Clan of the Cave Bear, Quest for Fire and Dram Stoker’s Dracula.
In 1993, Michèle won her category for her work on Dram Stoker’s Dracula with Gary Oldman.
She and two other prosthodontists, Greg Cannom and Matthew W. Mungle, accepted the award.
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Michèle vividly remembers staring around the auditorium.
“There’s all these faces, and they’re all big-eyed famous people… you’re like, ‘Oh my god… there’s Meryl Streep… and Faye Dunaway.’
Unfortunately for Michèle, fellow winner Cannom gave a lengthy speech, and as she stepped forward to speak, the Oscars music started playing and they were all ushered out.
“I just had to take a deep breath,” she says.
This year, the theme of the Oscars was the Year of the Woman, so the stance of not letting the only female makeup artist speak didn’t go down well with the press at the time. In fact, many criticized the Academy.
Michèle won her first Oscar ten years earlier in 1983 for her work on Jean-Jacques Annaud’s prehistoric drama Quest for Fire.
She keeps her Academy Awards, designed by Irishman Cedric Gibbons, on a bookshelf in her LA home.
Michèle grew up in Ireland and studied in France and Spain before moving to Montreal.
“Because in the 1970s Ireland was in such bad shape economically and there were no jobs,” she says.
She started out as a waitress in cocktail bars and soon made friends with people in the fashion industry. During a brief stint as a model, she met a make-up artist who sparked her passion.
Michèle completed a make-up artistry course and began working for Revlon as a demonstrator in department stores.
She also started cold calling makeup artists like Nikki Hamilton to see if she could gain experience and build her portfolio.
She says she got her chops from “the fit of my pants and studying at work.”
When she heard she’d received her first nomination for Quest for Fire, she was confused; she had never been to Hollywood then.
She couldn’t believe someone with no connection to Tinseltown had won the bid.
The category for the best MakeUp had only joined the year before, so it was new territory.
“The production manager called and said, ‘Michele, you know what? You were nominated for an Oscar. I was like, ‘What does that even mean?’” she says.
At that time, Michèle was working on a new project. Another prehistoric movie, Primitive Man – Iceman, was filmed in British Columbia. The cast and crew were flown to the set by helicopter, making it impossible to get to LA.
At the time, she wasn’t too worried as she was sure she wasn’t going to win. But she did. “When I won it was really strange.”
The prize was mailed to her and when she picked it up from the post office.
Michèle has worked on a number of critical and commercial hits; Mission Impossible, Minority Report, As Good As It Gets and Interview with the Vampire.
“It was never like trying to win an Oscar,” she says. “I enjoy what I do so much.”
While previous winners can attend the ceremony each year, Michele says there are advantages to staying at home.
“I can walk but it’s better to watch it on TV… it’s a long event and you have to dress smartly. I prefer to watch it in bed,” she says.
Element’s Ed Guiney attended the Oscars with Room, The Favorite and The Lobster.
According to Ed, there is a lot of movement in the auditorium at night; Nominees often head to the bar and professional placeholders take their places.
People come back in when their category comes up, but frolicking outside is often the most enjoyable part of the evening.
“With The Favourite, we were nominated for ten awards, we were hoping for Best Actress, but everyone said Glenn Close would win. So towards the end of the evening we were outside and having a good time. I remember Olivia Coleman saying, ‘Well, there’s little point in me going back in because we all know Glenn Close is going to get it’… and then Olivia won.”
Wins aside, one of the most memorable moments came when Faye Dunaway read out the wrong Best Picture in 2017.
“That was crazy… to see the car crash on stage, when they went on stage and started accepting… it was so crazy.”
Irish costume designer Consolata Boyle has been nominated for an Oscar three times for “Victoria & Abdul”, “The Queen” and “Florence Foster Jenkins”.
“It’s a tense evening, but really nice,” she says.
“Once the ceremony is over, you feel relieved and you can really just start enjoying yourself.”
Boyle says she never gets a star strike. “You’re all doing the same thing, so there’s a wonderful normalization because everyone’s literally in the thick of it.”
Cartoon Saloon’s Tomm Moore has been to the Oscars five times; He found the first and fifth participation most comfortable.
“The first time we got nominated, it was also one of my first times going to America,” he says. “It was like rabbits in the headlights.”
The fifth time, they attended remotely and he says being closer to home improved the experience – although there were fewer opportunities for celebrity spotting.
“They sent a camera crew and an Oscar and we did it all in front of Kilkenny Castle so that was really special for me.”
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/when-they-start-introducing-your-category-your-heart-is-beating-so-loud-what-its-like-to-be-an-oscar-nominee-41492568.html “When they start introducing your category, your heart beats so loud” — what it’s like to be an Oscar nominee