Steve Morrison recalls winning two Oscars with ‘My Left Foot’

So there is a story I must tell you about My Left Foot. By the time the Oscars came around, we had completed the film, and I had been promoted again – which is a whole different story – from the head of Granada Film to the Director of Programmes at Granada, which meant that every fortnight you had to go down to what was called the controllers’ group, which were all the major ITV companies, bargaining with each other about selling and buying each others’ programmes, which was quite an evil experience, because everybody was trying to outdo the other and get their programmes sold but not have to buy the others, which is pretty difficult.

Anyway, the Oscars were on a Monday night in those days, and the controllers’ group meeting was on Monday morning. So I said to my wife Gayle, “We can’t just fly to Hollywood; I’ve got to go to this controllers’ group meeting in central London – why don’t you go to the airport, the plane is at 1pm, I’ve asked David Liddiment to stand by at the meeting behind me, and when I’ve won the things that I need to win, I’ll dart off and he’ll take over, and I’ll be at the airport by 1pm. Hold the plane!” So she smiled, and off she went to Heathrow, I went to the controllers’ group… anyway, the two things I wanted to sell were worth millions of pounds – one was a very famous drama called Prime Suspect, which is a whole other story in itself, very famous modern drama, and the other one was another drama series set in Spain called El C.I.D . And it turned out that both Thames and London Weekend, who ran different parts of the London franchise, had both read the script of Prime Suspect and they both wanted it, so it became a relatively easy job for me, and we managed to persuade them to play it Sunday/Monday, which meant that they would each get half. The series would go out on a Sunday/Monday, but it would be in two different franchise periods, and somehow or other I managed to get El C.I.D sold as well.

So I had come out of this, drenched in perspiration but having sold the two big dramas, and I rush off to the airport, and I get there and Gayle says, “It’s closed. The doors have closed.” I said, “For goodness’ sake, Gayle, you knew I was coming,” and she said, “Well, I’ve held it for as long as possible, but they’ve closed the door.” And I said, “Well, let’s bang on the door – we’ve got to get on this plane because the Oscars are tonight!” And of course, Gayle being Gayle, she managed to persuade them to open the door much better than I could, and we get on the plane. Well, we had no time when we landed to change, so half way through the flight we went to different toilets to get changed into a dinner suit and a ballgown, and as we came out of these toilets, the cabin we were in all started to clap and cheer, and the pilot came on over the tannoy saying, “We’ve got two people on the plane who are flying to the Oscars tonight, they’re from British television and they’ve made a film called My Left Foot, and it’s up for two Oscars!” Everybody cheered again, we get off the plane, we’re standing like idiots in the queue for immigration, dressed in our funny outfits, we get through immigration, we get into a rather truncated limo, like a squashed limo, which is all that Granada could afford, and the driver said, “There is no way I’m going to get you there in time, it will be tail to tail for three miles.” I said, “You’ve got to get us there! We’ve come 6,000 miles and we’ve got to be there by 6pm.” Five to six we arrive, and we’re immediately interviewed on the red carpet by Good Morning TV, or TV-am, whichever it was, “Hi, Steve, have you got a chance of winning?”

We’re into the hall, and in America the film was regarded as an Irish film rather than a British film because we had a lot of Irish cast, and it was an Irish story from an Irish book. And Daniel Day-Lewis and the director and the producer and other actors were all out of their seats in the bar, having a great time, and I’m sitting in the hall, and it comes up Best Supporting Actress, Brenda Fricker, who of course nobody had heard of in Hollywood, who was the mother in My Left Foot. And of course, she went up to collect her Oscar, and I whipped up to the bar and I said, “Listen everybody, we’re on a roll here, I don’t know what else is going to happen – you’ve all got to come back to your seats immediately.” And of course, we won one of the top awards, which was the Best Actor, which was won by Daniel Day-Lewis. So we’ve now won two Oscars for this tiny film. We all come out of the awards, and the procedure is you go into the Governor’s Ball, which is a ball and a dinner, but nobody balls, and nobody dines – it’s just a kind of networking affair where everybody talks to everybody, then they all go off to different parties. But as we came in, the President of the Academy at that time, I think it was Gregory Peck, (It was actually Karl Malden) stopped us and said, because we were like a bunch of Irish hooligans, stopped us and said, “Well done, you Brits, you Irish, for winning those Oscars – didn’t you do amazingly?” And I said, “Well, actually, I thought we could have done better.” And he said, “What do you mean?” And I said, “Well, surely we should have won best film,” which had been won by Driving Miss Daisy, which I didn’t think was that great a film, and we had been nominated for best picture. And he sort of… he was wearing a sort of Western outfit with that kind of, you know, liquorice tie, and a waistcoat, and he sort of grabbed me by the lapels, and he said something like, “Listen here, son – you’re very lucky you’ve won two Oscar Academy Awards,” – that’s what they call them – “And if you think that we’re going to give away Best Picture easily to the limeys, you’ve got another thing coming. Be satisfied.” Which actually, was a wonderful moment.

And then the next day I was offered various deals at various studios, but much to their amazement I said, “Look, we’ve got to fly back immediately, I’m the director of programmes at a small television station on the north west coast of a small island, and that’s my job.” And what was very interesting about that was, why wouldn’t I have gone to Hollywood and done six-picture deals, or whatever it was on offer, of course they were only development deals, and the answer was that you were very, very proud to be the director of programmes at Granada Television – you felt it was the best company you could possibly be working in in those days, and it was your job and your responsibility to get back to the day job, and so off we went. And we got to the airport and we went up to the desk at the BA terminal, and they said, “We’ve heard about your Oscar success, that’s absolutely wonderful, sir. We’d like to upgrade you to First from where you are,” which was club. “Unfortunately we’ve only got one spare seat in First, so would you mind if you were upgraded and your wife remained in the front row of club?” And I said, “Don’t be silly. My wife and I hardly see each other, and we’re travelling together for thousands of miles – we’re not going to separate.” So this guy, he leaned forward into a microphone and he said to the entire hanger,” The Morrisons will not split.” And we stayed in club. But as we got on the plane, a very elegant young Italian came out of First, and he said, “Would you like to come forward to First Class?” I said, “We can’t, because there’s only one seat and we can’t split.” And he said, “No, my father has asked me to take your wife’s seat. There will now be two seats available, and Senor Armani would be delighted if you joined them.” So when we got up there, we find that the whole Armani family is in First Class, except us – and we were entertained by the family for the rest of the flight. So it was an amazing experience, but it was down to earth in Manchester the next day.


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