'Crushed' by emotion: Josh Lawson on Oscar nomination

a still from a film called The Eleven O'Clock starring Damon Herriman (left) and Josh Lawson. No photographer credit.
a still from a film called The Eleven O'Clock starring Damon Herriman (left) and Josh Lawson. No photographer credit.

Getting an Oscar nomination for the short film The Eleven O'Clock was an emotional experience for Josh Lawson, 13 years after he wrote the original script for Sydney's Short and Sweet theatre competition.

He and Damon Herriman star in a comedy about a patient who turns up for his 11 o'clock appointment convinced he is the psychiatrist. It started as a play that also had a season at Sydney's Old Fitz Theatre before director Derin Seale turned it into a short film.

Lawson watched the Academy's live stream of the nominations before work on the Netflix series Best Worst Weekend Ever in Los Angeles.

"I was a bit overwhelmed," he said. "I'd had that story with me for 13 years and I've seen some of my best friends perform some of those roles including one of my dear friends, Mark Priestley, who's no longer alive.

"To have so many memories involved in this script and to add an Academy Award nomination to it, I think I just got a bit crushed by the moment."

Lawson's comic career includes the US television series House of Lies, the mini-series Hoges and, as writer-director, the film The Little Death. Seale is the son of Australian cinematographer John Seale, a five-time Oscar nominee who won for The English Patient.

"We're just thrilled," Lawson said after processing the news. "I don't think you make a short film ever expecting it to go as far as this.

"Every festival we've ever been accepted into, every award we've ever won including this one, is crazy. Everything has been a surprise. It's a whirlwind and we're going to ride it out as long as we can."

Lawson sees The Eleven O'Clock as an homage to old "Who's on first?" style comedy routines that he loves.

"It's a happy accident that it's coming out now because for a short film about delusion and about someone who's desperate to convince other people that they're not crazy and to be respected and to crave power, which is what the film is about, I'd say look no further than the White House for parallels.

"So it's a timely piece that has accidently found resonance in the current political climate."

As well as Margot Robbie being nominated for best actress for I, Tonya, two Australians are up for best editing - Lee Smith for Dunkirk and Paul Machliss for Baby Driver.

It is Smith's third Oscar nomination after Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World and The Dark Knight. He has also worked with Dunkirk director Christopher Nolan on Batman Begins, The Prestige, Inception, The Dark Knight Rises and Interstellar.

Smith, who is editing X-Men: Dark Phoenix in Los Angeles, was woken by call from his agent.

"The phone rang and I sat bolt upright in bed and thought 'what could it be?'" he said. "Then I saw her name and I went 'only good news'. It's very, very exciting."

Having been acclaimed for an inventive film told in three different timeframes, Smith is hoping the nomination is "lucky number three".

"Nothing Chris Nolan does is ever simple," he said. "I normally read his scripts and I spend 15 minutes holding my head trying to stop my brain from falling out.

"This was no different. It was a very complicated film probably made more frightening by the fact that Warner Bros got behind it to release it as a large summer films. And it really didn't, as you were working on it, fit into that category other than that we thought it was an amazing story and they shot it so beautifully.

"It was just hoping we didn't mess it up in the editing. Once we started showing it to test audiences on the lot, we realised we had something pretty special."

This story 'Crushed' by emotion: Josh Lawson on Oscar nomination first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.