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Troy Kotsur, who took home his statue in the second hour of the 94th Academy Awards, was widely expected to become the first deaf actor since Marlee Matlin in 1987 to win an Oscar.
“This is amazing to be here on this journey,” Kotsur said in his acceptance speech Sunday night. “I cannot believe that I am here.”
In his speech, Kotsur thanked the deaf theater companies who fostered him as an actor, and President Joe Biden, who invited the “CODA” cast for a tour of the White House last Tuesday. “CODA” is an acronym for “children of deaf adults.”
Presented with the award by “Minari” star Youn Yuh-jung, who took home an Oscar in 2021 for best supporting actress, Kotsur was received by his peers, who silently signed their applause as he made his way to the stage.
Choking back tears, writer-director Sian Heder signed “I love you” to her family and before the world, as she chronicled “CODA’s” journey from script to screen.
“This was an independent film and it was incredibly hard to get made,” Heder said during her acceptance speech for best adapted screenplay. “Writing and making this movie was truly life-changing as an artist and as a human being.”
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“I feel like I have dust that’s been on my back that finally is starting to become clean. I feel a bit lighter,” Kotsur told On The Red Carpet after his nomination. “This chip is off my shoulder and yes, it is a historic moment. It just really, it’ll be documented. Even after I leave this planet, it’ll still be documented in the history books. And so it’s truly a blessing.”
The coming-of-age film follows Ruby, the only hearing person in her New England family of four, as she contemplates leaving their struggling fishing business — and her role as their interpreter — to pursue her own dreams at the Berklee College of Music. The family is forced to figure out how they’ll survive without her.
The family drama won best ensemble at the Screen Actors Guild Awards and beat out bigger contenders, including “The Power of the Dog,” “Dune” and “West Side Story” at the Producers Guild Awards. The top PGA award winner has gone on to win the top Oscar in three of the past four years and 10 of the past 13.
The film’s deep-pocketed backer, Apple TV+, has spent big to push a feel-good underdog indie to the front of the pack. If “CODA” wins, it will be the first time since 1932’s “Grand Hotel” that a film with fewer than four nominations took best picture.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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