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Father of An Irish Goodbye star hails son’s Oscar-winning performance

The father of one of the stars of An Irish Goodbye has spoken of his pride in his son’s performance, saying he “made the film”.

Belfast actor James Martin stars in An Irish Goodbye, which won the Oscar for best live action short film.

The film follows the story of two estranged brothers who come together after their mother’s death to fulfil her bucket list.

Martin is the first star with Down’s Syndrome to win at the Academy Awards.

Martin’s family and work colleagues from Starbucks have expressed their pride at his achievements.

His father, Ivan Martin, praised him, saying: “James made the film. He put on a terrific performance. The proof of the pudding is in the Oscar.

“They all have every right to be proud of themselves. It’s won an Oscar not because James has Down’s Syndrome – it’s a damn good film and they all acted their socks off in it. Deservedly, it’s been recognised.”

Mr Martin revealed that his son was not feeling the nerves in the run-up to the Oscars ceremony.

“It was getting closer and James says to me ‘Dad, don’t you worry, I just have a feeling we’re going to get nominated. It’s a brilliant story, the Oscars are on the day of my birthday’ and he’s not so slow, he was right,” he said.

James has been a member of the Babosh drama group at Belfast’s Belvoir Studio Theatre for a number of years.

“He joined when he was about 10 or so and he’s been there ever since,” said Mr Martin.

“He always enjoyed it and he loved the Christmas show and the end-of-term show.”

The 95th Academy Awards
James Martin with his brother Daniel, mother Suzanne and father Ivan with his Bafta for An Irish Goodbye (Family handout/PA)

Mr Martin admitted he felt some apprehension when his son started to take on bigger and more demanding acting roles.

“Initially people think ‘Will he be able to do this?’ – even me,” he said.

“When the final script came in, James had 59 pages and I said ‘This is a big ask here, I don’t know if James will be able to learn 59 pages’.

“We were going away on holiday and we always set aside time to read on holiday, but on this occasion James didn’t. He brought his script and every day he was sitting going through it.

“After the first day (of filming) I said ‘How was James with his script?’, and he was word perfect. He must get it by osmosis – he reads it and reads it and once it’s in it sticks.

“He just fitted into that like someone with a favourite jacket. The rest, as they say, is history.”

Irish Goodbye
An Irish Goodbye star James Martin has been a member of the Babosh drama group in Belfast for a number of years (Arts Council Northern Ireland/Brian Morrison/PA)

Mr Martin said that, despite obstacles, his son has always been confident in his abilities.

“James went to the Oscars quite convinced he was going to win,” he said.

“He wasn’t being big-headed or arrogant about it, that’s not him. But he just had this belief and he’s always had that. This belief that he can do this.

“He wanted to act and he did it.

“If you happen to have Down’s Syndrome there’s no doubt that you have it.

“These folk have shown that they can do it, they can bring home the bacon, they can do the business. That’s important and it does inspire others.”

Mr Martin spoke about the impact of his son being cast in An Irish Goodbye, which has now been globally recognised.

“They’ll think ‘James Martin was on the TV… maybe I can do that’,” he said.

“That’s marvellous, and he’s very conscious of that and conscious that he’s perhaps making a pathway for some other people.”

Mr Martin has briefly spoken to his son, who is still enjoying the celebrations in Los Angeles.

“What he did say is that he was knackered,” he said.

“He said ‘I have loads to tell you but I’ll tell it to you when I come back, in order, 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 we’ll maybe stay up a wee bit longer’.”

The celebrations are set to continue when the cast and crew return to Belfast, Mr Martin said.

“We want him to get back, get settled and then we’ll have a family and friends showing of the film.”

He added: “It’s just crazy. But there were a few tears shed but what an achievement, just delighted.”

James Martin has worked at Starbucks in Belfast for ten years prior to Oscar success.

His store manager at Starbucks, Barbara Hortavh, has described their store’s response to his win.

“The news came up 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 thought that would happen, but whenever we seen the Baftas and they read ‘the winner is An Irish Goodbye’ it was out of this world. We were all betting they were going to get the Oscar.”

Ms Hortavh spoke of Martin’s rise to stardom.

“It’s like a dream come true for him. Who could imagine, working in a Starbucks and then next minute you’re on the red carpet with all the famous people who you watch on the TV and you’re actually one of them,” she said.

Ms Hortavh described the love the colleagues and customers in Belfast have for Martin. She added:  “We hope he’s coming back. He’s definitely missing us. We keep in touch so we know what’s happening in LA.

“He tells us that he was at Starbucks over there, we know that he was at a few parties, they had a birthday surprise for him, and we were sending him pictures of the snow in Belfast.”

Martin works between two stores in Belfast which have been decked out with posters and decorations wishing him well.

Barbara Hortavh and Orla McManus revelling in their colleague James Martin’s Oscar success.
Barbara Hortavh and Orla McManus revelling in their colleague James Martin’s Oscar success.

“When we found out James was being nominated for the Bafta, everyone in the store wanted to do something extra 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 hampers with lots of favourite treats of his.”

Starbucks supervisor Orla McManus is a supervisor has been working with Martin for two years.

“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 as well’ so I knew him from then and he would tell me about his plays and what he was filming,” she said.

Starbucks colleagues of actor James Martin, star of Oscar winning short film, an Irish Goodbye.
Starbucks colleagues of actor James Martin, star of Oscar winning short film, an Irish Goodbye.

Martin was characteristically confident of the film’s success.

“The way he was talking about it, we knew it wasn’t like the things he’s done before, we knew it was getting bigger and he had a feeling himself it was going to get bigger,” Ms McManus said.

“As things progressed, we found out he was nominated for the Baftas, the Oscars and it’s just been amazing.

“We can’t wait to see him again and catch up with him.”