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Oscars 2017: this year’s most relieved winner might be the guy who took 21 times to win

Kevin O’Connell was the living human with the most nominations without a win. Not anymore.

Emily St. James was a senior correspondent for Vox, covering American identities. Before she joined Vox in 2014, she was the first TV editor of the A.V. Club.

Heading into Oscar night, Kevin O’Connell, sound mixer extraordinaire, was the living human being with the most Oscar nominations without a win. He had been nominated for “best sound mixing” or its predecessor “best sound” 21 times, first in 1984 for Terms of Endearment and this year for Hacksaw Ridge.

And yet he had never won. Through Top Gun and Transformers and Spider-Man 2. Through movies that had won the other sound category — sound editing — but not sound mixing, even though the two often go hand in hand.

And honestly, as Chris Evans and Sofia Boutella read off the nominees for sound mixing, things didn’t look great for ol’ Kevin O’Connell. Arrival had (justifiably) won sound editing and had a great argument for winning sound mixing. And, yeah, Hacksaw Ridge was a war film, but if there’s one thing that often beats war films in this category, it’s musicals — and La La Land was right there.

But no! 2017 was Kevin O’Connell’s year. Hacksaw Ridge won, and he and his fellow nominees (Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie, and Peter Grace) took the stage as he launched into an emotional speech in which he could barely restrain his tears. “I can’t even tell you what this means to me,” he began, before thanking director Mel Gibson and others who worked on the film.

He concluded with a tribute to his mother Skippy O’Connell, who worked in the sound department of 20th Century Fox and introduced her son to the work after she decided she didn’t want him to be a firefighter because the job was too dangerous.

What thanks did Skippy want from her son? Kevin concluded his speech by remembering what she requested: “Someday, you go win yourself an Oscar, and you can thank me in front of the whole world.”

It took a while, but tonight, Skippy got her wish.

Correction: This post originally implied Kevin O’Connell had 20 nominations, not 21. It also misidentified Chris Evans as another generically handsome Chris: Chris Pine.