Canadian sound mixer competes in 7th Oscar bash for work on 'The Martian'

TORONTO -- Sound mixer Paul Massey hopes it's lucky number seven on Sunday night.

The Canadian is up for his seventh Oscar nomination, for his work on "The Martian" this time, and says attending the star-studded bash never gets old.

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He's learned over the years to not take the competition too seriously.

"It's an honour to be nominated by your peers, because it is your peers in the sound branch," says Massey when reached by phone at his home in Ojai, Calif.

"Then once it gets to the general membership voting on the overall (nominations), it's really up in the air. There's a lot of factors that could influence the decision."

"The Martian" stars Matt Damon as an astronaut who is accidentally left behind on Mars and must figure out a way to survive until a rescue team returns.

Massey's job centred on handling the sci-fi film's dialogue and music.

The dialogue demanded a variety of treatments depending on whether astronauts were communicating with each other in their helmets, transmitting their voices back to Earth, or having their voices broadcast to NASA or an outdoor audience in New York's Times Square.

For long-distance transmissions between the spaceship and Earth, Massey and his team captured the crackle and squeal of an analogue AM transmitter to mimic distortion.

"There were over 50 different treatments that needed to be achieved throughout the film, apart from just straight dialogue," says Massey, who was born in England and moved to Toronto at age 19 to work in the music business. He moved to Los Angeles to work in film 13 years later.

"Part of that challenge was also just to not only keep it interesting and realistic, but also to keep it legible. And make sure people were not losing the plot and misunderstanding dialogue, or not understanding dialogue."

"The Martian" is Massey's fifth film with director Ridley Scott. He calls him "a fireball of ideas" and very personable.

"He was looking for a definite sense of isolation, claustrophobia, (a focus on) Matt Damon's breath -- whether he was in the helmet or in the rover or the (habitation module), the environment where he was living -- he wanted the constant sense of the outside that was there ready to kill him at any time," says Massey, who most recently work on "Deadpool," and next tackles the new "X-Men" film.

Massey faces off against another Canuck in his category: Vancouver-based Chris Duesterdiek for "The Revenant."

Massey's previous nominations cover the gamut: "3:10 to Yuma," "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," "Walk the Line," "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World," "Air Force One," and "Legends of the Fall."

But he says "The Martian" holds a special place for him.

"I have to say it's one of the few films that I still really enjoy watching," he says.

"When you've finished mixing (a film), you've watched it hundreds of times and typically I don't really want to see it again for a few months. But 'The Martian' I've always enjoyed."

The Oscars air Sunday on ABC and CTV.


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