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Kirk Francis gets his due

Best Sound Mixing winners Kirk Francis Scott Millan and David Parker display their Oscars during the 80th Annual Academy Awards. - Matt Petit photo / AMPAS
Best Sound Mixing winners Kirk Francis Scott Millan and David Parker display their Oscars during the 80th Annual Academy Awards.
— image credit: Matt Petit photo / AMPAS

Langley resident Kirk Francis made his way to the podium Sunday night to accept an Oscar for his work on “The Bourne Ultimatum” during the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ 80th celebration of the movies.

Francis and co-winners Scott Millan and David Parker won for best sound mixing. Overall the action-packed thriller won three Oscars, for best sound editing, best film editing and best sound mixing.

Reached on location during filming of the movie “Eagle Eye,” Francis recalled how he felt on Sunday.

“That’s not necessarily my crowd but it was nice they finally, after 40 years, gave me the equivalent of a gold watch,” he said.

Francis, who was nominated for an Academy Award in sound in 1998 for “L.A. Confidential,” was accompanied to the awards ceremony by his wife, Leslie.

“I tried to put myself in a Zen-like state just before they announced the winner,” he said.

After the winners in his category were announced, Francis walked to the stage at the Kodak Theatre to give his “thank you” speech with Millan and Parker.

At the podium, Millan and Parker made brief remarks but the awards show cut to a commercial as Francis made his way to the microphone.

“My wife was fraught with irony that when a sound man is going to give a speech, they cut him off,” Francis said. “All the audience missed was me saying a simple thank you.”

Francis and wife attended the Governor’s Ball after the ceremony.

“She wore her mother’s wedding dress updated for modern times,” Francis noted. “She looked gorgeous.”

A few hours later, he was back on the job.

“We work Dickensian hours in this business and I put in 14 on Monday,” he said. “But no sacrifice is too great to bring entertainment to the American people.”

Francis is a seasoned veteran of the film industry.

He began his film career in 1973 as a sound recordist on the film “Executive Action,” starring Burt Lancaster and Robert Ryan. Since then he has worked on almost

60 movies, from forgettable flicks such as “I Dismember Mama” and “Naughty Stewardesses” to highly respected films such as “Bull Durham,” “Sleepless in Seattle” and “Mr. Holland’s Opus.”

Along the way, he worked on television projects like “Remington Steele” and even wrote a song, “Mukilteo Hula,” which he performed for the film “Eight Below” in 2006.

Sound editors and mixers integrate a motion picture’s total sound content, from music and dialogue to a wide range of sound effects.

Even so, Francis prefers being on location to working in a studio, he said.

“For ‘Bourne’ I traveled to Madrid, Tangiers, Berlin, London and New York from September to July of the next year,” he said. “In Waterloo Station I had all the actors wearing mikes so they could be heard over the crowds and mixed the sounds on-site.”

Francis, who worked on “The Bourne Supremacy” in 2004, received kudos earlier this year for the third film in the “Bourne” line of spy movies.

He was awarded a BAFTA from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts for “The Bourne Ultimatum” this year.

“The Bourne Ultimatum” raked in a worldwide gross of $442 million at the box office last year — the two previous films in the trilogy together grossed over one-half billion dollars.

Francis has a unique perspective on his chosen profession.

“To maintain my sanity, I regard myself as sound man who works in the movies, not the other way around,” he said.

Francis noted that being nominated for an Oscar by his peers was the true honor.

“But the entire membership votes on the winners — how much do you think Goldie Hawn knows about the differences from one film to another in sound mixing?” Francis asked.

He added that he personally was impressed by “No Country for Old Men.”

“That film used vast silences as a sound component, different than ‘Bourne’ but just as effective,” he said.

Francis’ good friend and fellow Academy member Artie Kane said winning an Oscar is a major accomplishment.

“We all complain about going to awards banquets, getting dressed up and having to go on stage because that’s not what we do,” Kane said.

“But everyone is pleased when they win and will put them on display over the mantle. It’s a real honor for Kirk to win an Oscar,” Kane said.

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or jvanderford@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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