Canadian talent competing in big Oscar categories

TORONTO -- The Oscars red carpet will be Maple Leaf red this Sunday with Canadian talent competing in big categories including best song, best adapted screenplay and best picture.

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This year's bash is rife with homegrown talent, including high-profile nominations for actress Rachel McAdams, chart-topper the Weeknd and author Emma Donoghue.

At least one of those contenders was trying to not take Hollywood's biggest night too seriously.

London, Ont.-based author Donoghue, up for adapting her own book "Room" into a screenplay, said her children had already decided what to do with the Oscar if she won.

"They want to use it as a toilet roll holder," Donoghue quipped when reached in Nice, France earlier this year.

"We've decided that that would be the most unpretentious way to display it in our home."

The Canadian film industry has much to be proud of this year.

The best picture race features a rare appearance of not one, but two homegrown co-productions -- "Brooklyn" and "Room" -- while leading nominee "The Revenant" includes several craft nominations for Canadian talent in makeup, production design and visual effects.

"Brooklyn" heads into the bash with the distinction of being the highest grossing Canadian film released in 2015.

Its star, Saoirse Ronan, also competes for best actress, while scribe Nick Hornby faces off against Donoghue for best adapted screenplay.

It's a remarkable showing from the Great White North, beamed Pierre Even, one of "Brooklyn"'s Montreal-based producers.

"We're very, very thrilled," he said of the period romance, a Canada-U.K.-Ireland co-production about a young woman who finds love when she emigrates to New York.

"We have worked a lot, we wanted to make sure that (director) John Crowley had the best team possible in Montreal, the best conditions to shoot here, the best actors, the best crew. I think we delivered that and we're extremely proud to be part of it."

Toronto-bred "Room" producer David Gross noted that his Irish-Canadian co-production hits the Oscars as a late-blooming contender that struggled to find audiences.

"We didn't catch on in the same way," he said, comparing the slow burn of "Room" to the steady climb of "Brooklyn."

"It's a challenging film that people, before they see it, they think it's going to be a tough fit."

Based on Donoghue's 2010 novel of the same name, the Toronto-shot drama centres on a five-year-old boy who gradually learns he's spent his entire life in captivity.

The film's U.S. star, Brie Larson, is considered a front-runner in the best actress category for her turn as a resilient mother who was abducted as a teen. Vancouver's nine-year-old Jacob Tremblay, who plays the precocious Jack, wasn't nominated but has emerged as a media darling and is set to appear as an Oscar presenter.

Other races feature plenty of Canucks to root for: McAdams for best supporting actress for playing a journalist in "Spotlight;" animator Richard Williams and producer/director Imogen Sutton for their animated short "Prologue;" and the Weeknd for best song for the "Fifty Shades of Grey" track "Earned It," a nomination he shares with Stephan Moccio, Ahmad Balshe and Jason Quenneville.

Then there's Pakistani-Canadian filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy for "A Girl In the River: The Price of Forgiveness," which competes for a best short doc trophy against Toronto-based journalist Adam Benzine and his film "Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah."

"The Revenant" can thank several Canucks for helping it collect a leading 12 nominations: Cameron Waldbauer is up for best visual effects, Robert Pandini for best makeup and hairstyling, Chris Duesterdiek for sound mixing, and set decorator Hamish Purdy is up for best production design.

Waldbauer noted that filming conditions were far from ideal when tackling "The Revenant," a brutal survival tale starring Leonardo DiCaprio as a 19th century frontiersman.

"It was crazy. We were in minus 40 degree Celsius trying to make a movie and not have all the equipment freeze and people freeze and all that stuff, so it was a very difficult movie to make," said the B.C.-based effects guru.

"But in the end it was really good."

Sound mixer Paul Massey will compete with his seventh nomination, this time for work on the Matt Damon outer space thriller "The Martian."

The 58-year-old said he expected to plan a speech with his co-nominees -- just in case -- since winners only get 45 seconds at the podium.

He lauded an Oscar plan to rein in over-long acceptance speeches with a ticker-type scroll that will appear on TV screens this year, listing all the people the winner would like to thank.

"You can say something a little more interesting in your acceptance speech rather than just a list of names," said Massey, who left England at age 19 and spent 13 years in Toronto before moving to Hollywood.

Massey said there's no question that Canadian talent has made deep inroads in Hollywood.

"I think in L.A. on all levels, executive levels all the way down, it's certainly obvious that there's an awful lot of talent coming through the border to L.A. and there's a lot of work staying in Canada also," said the veteran sound master, whose other nominations included work on "3:10 To Yuma," "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," "Walk the Line" and "Legends of the Fall."

"I'm very proud to have been a part of it."

"Room"'s Irish director Lenny Abrahamson, up for a directing trophy, credited Canadian actors, facilities and infrastructure with securing "Room"'s success.

"When you're looking at making a film-set somewhere in North America, it is hard to argue against Canada."

The Oscars take place Sunday and air live on CTV and ABC.



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