James Martin Wins Oscar, Marking the First for an Actor with Down Syndrome

The short film, ‘An Irish Goodbye,’ creates history as actor James Martin wins Oscar to become the first actor with Down’s Syndrome to achieve this honor.

James Martin wins oscar
YouTube screenshot of Martin receiving the honor

History was created at the 95th Academy Awards when “An Irish Goodbye” won an award in the Best Live Action Short Film category. Wondering why?

The film features actor James Martin, in the leading role who has Down’s Syndrome.

Martin’s mother cried tears of joy as he stood wearing his father’s leopard print suit jacket on the Dolby Theatre stage in Los Angeles when he accepted the award. 

Surprisingly, it was also his 31st birthday on the day of the award ceremony and the audience sang along to wish him along with fellow actor Colin Farrell. 

The short film “An Irish Goodbye,” has been written and directed by Ross White and Tom Berkeley.

The film is a story of two estranged brothers who reunite following their mother’s death on their rural farm, and it was shot on a budget of around $31,000 during the lockdown over five days. 

The Belfast native from Northern Ireland is a Starbucks barista and chef at an Italian restaurant by day.

SIMILAR: Read about another woman with Down’s syndrome who has created history in Spain.

Martin told the Irish Times he considers himself lucky that he was able to go to America to receive the award. 

After his birth, doctors had advised his parents that their son might never be able to speak. He faced a lot of bullying in his early childhood years, but he had a keen interest in acting.

James Martin wins oscar
Screenshot of Martin from his short film “An Irish Goodbye”

So, he joined a Belfast drama group, Babosh, which he attended for more than 20 years. He attributes his success to his drama group and advises others with Down’s Syndrome to join a drama group if they wish to pursue acting. 

As a child, Martin would accompany his father, Ivan, for Irish League soccer matches and other sporting events since he was a sports journalist and broadcaster.

Apart from acting, Martin is an enthusiastic runner and participates in community “park runs”, while being an ambassador for the North’s learning disability charity, Mencap. He is passionate about sports and still loves to play tag rugby. 

Long after receiving the award, people still queue up outside the Starbucks, his workplace, for a post-Oscar selfie with him. 

The talented actor was also seen in the lead role of the BBC drama Ups and Downs and played a part in the ITV and Netflix drama Marcella.

Martin has also made it to the Guinness World Record for someone with Down’s syndrome to have won the prestigious Bafta, Ifta, and Oscar awards. 

Despite winning so many accolades and his second short film, “Fairview Park,” being shown at several film festivals, he continues to be the same “humble and good” person. 

Maya Bennett