Cheers and applause for writer and actor at party in Belfast’s Grand Central Hotel
Ross White and his film’s star and man-of-the-moment James Martin breezed into the hotel’s observatory with their best live action short film Oscar for An Irish Goodbye.
Following them were family members and friends waiting to pop the champagne.
“It’s been wild. We are just having the best time,” Ross told this newspaper at the homecoming.
“We had an amazing time in Los Angeles, so to get an Oscar on top of it is pretty special.”
While they were tired after their flight home, they were happy to talk about the acceptance speech that turned into a star-studded singalong.
“We were told we had 45 seconds, and we had known for quite some time the Oscars fell on James’s birthday,” began Ross.
“We had joked about it before, saying, ‘Oh if we win, we’ll have to get up and sing Happy Birthday. That will be the deal’.
“Then it happened and we were in total shock. We knew we couldn’t go on for ages, so instead of thanking some people and not others, we thought, ‘We will dedicate it to James, the beating heart of our film’.”
Team behind An Irish Goodbye bring Oscar home for St Patrick’s Day weekend
The moment will go down as one of the most touching acceptance speeches seen at the Academy Awards, with the world watching on as some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, including Harrison Ford, Colin Farrell and Mindy Kaling, serenaded the Starbucks employee and wished him many happy returns.
“You know, it doesn’t matter how huge the stars are. It was just nice to have Happy Birthday sung to me,” said James, who was joined by father Ivan and close friends at the event.
“The timing was perfect. It’s been a fantastic ride. To make the film then win a Bafta and now an Oscar, it’s just been an amazing achievement.
“It’s safe to say it was all a really great birthday present.”
Ivan added: “I am so proud. The way he has conducted himself has been fabulous.
“Ever since James started in his drama group Babosh over 20 years, he has just come on leaps and bounds.
“We were fist-pumping the air when their names were called.”
Ivan sported a surprise outfit at tonight’s event, whipping off his brown coat to reveal a leopardskin blazer to match his son’s look.
Ross’s mother and father shared some touching words with the crowd, saying their son’s victory was “a win for Northern Ireland’s arts sector”.
“Ross has been involved in the arts since he was about 11, since he saw Blood Brothers in the Opera House,” added dad Tim.
“We were delighted when he won the Bafta, but to win the Oscar was just something else, especially when he was up against Disney films and these American films. It just shows that the best film can actually win the awards.”
Shortly after the awards ceremony ended, Ross and James, alongside director Tom Berkeley and cast member Seamus O’Hara, attended the Vanity Fair Oscars afterparty, something they described as “surreal”.
With James’s picture with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson having gone viral, he described the former WWE wrestler as a “really nice man”.
“He was me asking me about my life. [He’s] a really nice fella, so he is,” he said.
“I got to meet a lot of people — Jamie Lee Curtis, who also won an Oscar, James Norton and Billie Eilish.”
Asked if it had all sunk in yet, Ross said he was still in a state of disbelief.
He added: “It’s so strange. I keep hearing about these clubs of famous filmmakers who haven’t won Oscars, like Hitchcock.
“It makes you think about how ridiculous it all is because these are people I look up to.
“Myself and Tom just hope the Oscar helps our progress and makes us still be able to work and connect with audiences.”
When asked what was next, Ross said he and Tom wanted to keep doing what they love.
He explained: “We love telling stories through the medium of film, and if this [the Oscars victory] can expedite that process maybe even to feature films, that’s the goal.
“We just need to lock ourselves in and get writing.”