Oscars 2024: Cillian Murphy now a ‘favourite’ for the next James Bond, plus other things we learned from the 96th Academy Awards

Amid the kerfuffle, it was somewhat lost that the second-biggest winner of the evening was Poor Things – a remarkable feat for an Irish production

So that finally happened. Cillian Murphy had been runaway favourite for only two weeks – since the Screen Actors Guild awards – and it still felt as if one word out of place might have scuppered his chances with the voters of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. That didn’t happen, and Murphy became, after Daniel Day-Lewis, the second Irish citizen to take the Academy Award for best actor – let’s park that “first Irish-born” – for his performance in Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer.

An Oscar win means different things for different people on different rungs of the ladder. Some years ago Marion Cotillard told me that her victory for La Vie en Rose had altered everything. “Of course, it changed life for me,” she said. “I started to work in the US, which was something I never expected. I began to share my life between France, the US and England.”

But, largely unknown in the biggest anglophone territory, she was starting in a different place from where the Corkman currently sits. Though Murphy has been appearing in American movies for close to 20 years, he had not yet achieved the fizziest class of stardom. The actors who do best out of an Oscar win are, perhaps, steady character performers who, though busy throughout their careers, have to that point rarely stopped traffic on Santa Monica Boulevard.

Geoffrey Rush and Christoph Waltz were happy journeymen before winning for Shine and Inglourious Basterds. They have since been unavoidable. Murphy, though much more visible on TV and film than Rush or Waltz at the time of their wins, can claim to be among those characters actors who have the face and presence of a lead. Handsome but quirky.


Precedent suggests he could profit, perhaps literally. A study published a decade ago argued that male actors who win Oscars see their fees rise by an average of 81 per cent. (Grimly, there was almost no change for women.) Of course, to grab the big sums you need to be in the bigger movies. Murphy, who we will see next in Small Things Like These, an already acclaimed adaptation of a Claire Keegan story, is as likely to pick a smart indie as a thumping blockbuster. We can certainly snort at the resurfaced gossip that, soon to be 48, he is now a favourite for the next James Bond. A villain maybe, if he wants it.

Dublin’s Element Pictures, whose Poor Things took four Oscars, will certainly profit from the evening. It has been somewhat lost in the Murphy kerfuffle that Yorgos Lanthimos’s film was the second-biggest winner of the evening – a remarkable feat for an Irish production. The company will find its already sturdy credibility further bolstered.

What else was of note in a zippy ceremony? Social media has already been abuzz with reactions to Jonathan Glazer’s speech after winning best international film for The Zone of Interest. The British film-maker was the only winner to explicitly refer to the conflict in Gaza at the podium. It is worth quoting the relevant section in full. “We stand here as men who refute their Jewishness and the Holocaust being hijacked by an occupation which has led to conflict for so many innocent people, whether the victims of October 7th in Israel or the ongoing attack in Gaza,” he said.

Within hours, X, formerly Twitter, was awash with supporters of Israel furious that he had refuted (by which they seemed to mean “renounced”) his Jewishness. Which is plainly a misreading. Glazer could have used a less ambiguous phrase than “refute” – “object to” would be clearer – but, however he phrased it, the speech would have been twisted and turned. By all sides. At time of writing there have been 24,000 likes and nearly 6,000 retweets for a supportive text claiming that he “called the genocide of Palestinians a Holocaust”. He plainly did not say that either. No wonder film professionals have been treading so gingerly around this subject at awards season.

Elsewhere, in a lighter hue, Oscar boffins found plenty to scribble in their sad journals. With Killers of the Flower Moon whiffing out, Martin Scorsese films have now clocked up 26 nominations in 11 years with not a single win. John Cena’s nude presentation (half a century after David Niven’s streaker) of the best-costumes award was a hoot. Despite hilarious accusations of canine favouritism earlier in the week, Messi, the dog from Anatomy of a Fall, was there in a bow tie. Al Pacino was amiably chaotic as he spluttered his way through his announcement of the best-picture prize. And Godzilla won an Oscar. Seventy years after the giant lizard first emerged from the ocean, Godzilla Minus One grabbed best visual effects. Sadly, the distinguished fire breather was not in the auditorium to acknowledge belated respectability.

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