The father of one of the stars of An Irish Goodbye has spoken of his pride in his son’s achievement, saying he “made the film”.
Belfast actor James Martin stars in An Irish Goodbye, which won the Oscar for Best Live-Action Short.
The film follows the story of two estranged brothers who come together after the death of their mother to fulfill their wish list.
Martin is the first star with Down Syndrome to win at the Academy Awards.
Martin’s family and Starbucks co-workers have expressed pride in his accomplishments.
His father, Ivan Martin, praised him, saying: “James did the film. He showed a great performance. The proof of the pudding is in the Oscar.
“You all have the right to be proud of yourself. It won an Oscar not because James has Down’s Syndrome – it’s a damn good movie and everyone kicked their socks off in it. It was rightly recognised.”
Mr Martin revealed his son wasn’t feeling the nerves ahead of the Oscars.
“It was getting closer and James said to me, ‘Dad, don’t worry, I just have a feeling we’re going to be nominated. It’s a brilliant story, the Oscars are on my birthday and he’s not that slow, he was right,” he said.
James has been a member of the Babosh drama company at the Belvoir Studio Theater in Belfast for a number of years.
“He joined when he was about 10 years old and has been with us ever since,” said Mr. Martin.
“He always enjoyed it and he loved the Christmas show and the graduation show.”
Mr Martin admitted he felt some apprehension when his son started taking bigger and more demanding acting roles.
“Initially, people think, ‘Will he make it?’ – even me,” he said.
“When the final script came in, James was 59 pages and I said, ‘That’s a big question here, I don’t know if James can study 59 pages.’
“We went on vacation and we always took time to read on vacation, but on this occasion James didn’t. He brought his script with him and every day he sat and went through it.
“After the first day[of filming]I asked, ‘How was James with his script?’ and he was literally perfect. He has to get it by osmosis – he reads it and reads it and once it’s in, it sticks.
“He just fit in like someone with a favorite jacket. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.”
Mr. Martin said that despite all the obstacles, his son was always confident in his abilities.
“James went to the Oscars with quite a belief that he was going to win,” he said.
“He wasn’t big-headed or arrogant, that’s not him. But he just had that belief and he always had. This belief that he can do it.
“He wanted to act and he did.
“If you have Down syndrome, there is no doubt that you have it.
“These guys have shown they can do it, they can bring home the bacon, they can do the business. This is important and inspires others.”
Mr Martin spoke about the impact of his son’s casting in An Irish Goodbye, which has now garnered worldwide acclaim.
“You’ll think, ‘James Martin was on TV… maybe I can do that,'” he said.
“That’s wonderful, and he’s very aware of that and aware that he might be paving the way for some other people.”
Mr. Martin spoke briefly to his son, who is still enjoying the celebrations in Los Angeles.
“What he said is that he was broken,” he said.
“He said, ‘I have a lot to tell you, but I’ll tell you when I get back so we have more time to go through it.’
“I said, ‘You go and enjoy yourself. Are you going to bed now?’ He said: “No, nobody seems interested in going to bed, so maybe we’ll stay up a little bit longer.”
The celebrations are set to continue when the cast and crew return to Belfast, Mr Martin said.
“We want him to come back, settle down and then show the film to family and friends.”
He added: “It’s just crazy. But there were a few tears, but what an achievement, I’m just thrilled.”
James Martin worked at Starbucks in Belfast for ten years before his Oscar success.
His Starbucks store manager, Barbara Hortavh, has described her store’s reaction to his win.
“The news came first thing in the morning for everyone, we just woke up to Oscar-holding James Martin. It’s absolutely fabulous,” she said.
“I don’t think we expected it, but whenever we saw the Baftas and they read ‘The Winner is An Irish Goodbye,’ it was out of this world. We all bet they would get the Oscar.”
Ms Hortavh spoke about Martin’s rise to stardom.
“It’s a dream come true for him. Who could imagine working at a Starbucks and then the next moment walking the red carpet with all the famous people you see on TV and actually being one of them,” she said.
Ms Hortavh described the love that colleagues and clients in Belfast have for Martin. She added: “We hope he comes back. He definitely misses us. We’ll keep in touch so we know what’s happening in LA.
“He tells us he’s been over there at Starbucks, we know he’s been to a few parties, they had a birthday surprise for him and we sent him pictures of the snow in Belfast.”
Martin works between two shops in Belfast adorned with posters and decorations wishing him well.
“When we found out James had been nominated for the Bafta, everyone in the store wanted to do something special for him,” Ms Hortavh said.
“When he arrived after the Baftas with his trophy, we had birthday cake, we sang happy birthday, we had balloons, we had baskets with a lot of his favorite treats.”
Starbucks supervisor Orla McManus is a supervisor who has worked with Martin for two years.
“On my first shift with him, he said to me behind the bar, ‘I’m not just a barista, you know, I’m a famous actor,’ so I knew him from there and he told me about his plays and what he filmed,” she said.
Martin was characteristically confident in the film’s success.
“The way he talked about it, we knew it wasn’t like things he’d done before, we knew it was getting bigger and he himself felt like it was going to get bigger,” Ms McManus said.
“As time went on we found out that he was nominated for the Baftas and the Oscars and it was just amazing.
“We can’t wait to see him again and catch up with him.”