Irish director Lenny Abrahamson is the rank outsider for Best Director at the 2016 Oscars for his movie Room. Oddsmakers Paddy Power are offering odds of 40/1 for Abrahamson, 49, to take home the award. The website has The Revenant director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu as the favorite at 1/14. Though both director’s boast the heavy favorites to take the acting awards, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brie Larsson, respectively. Abrahamson’s nomination comes after a career of working in indie movies and commercials. He will be relishing every moment on February 28.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. His Family Background Is Polish Jewish & His Wife Was Born in Poland
Abrahamson was born in Dublin in 1966 to noted lawyer Max Abrahamson and Edna nee Walzman. His ancestral background is Polish Jewish, making him a part of Ireland’s dwindling Jewish community. In a 2016 interview, Abrahamson estimated there were around 1,500 Jewish people living in Ireland. He was raised religious and had a Bar Mitzvah. His wife his Polish-born film academic Monika Pamula. They have two children together. He said in 2016 that he met his wife when he was invited to the Warsaw Film Festival in 2005. Abrahamson says both of his kids speak Polish and English.
2. He Cut His Directing Teeth Making a Series of Very Well Received Beer Commercials
After returning from a period spent studying in the U.S., Abrahamson began directing commercials in Ireland. The most famous of which were his series of ads for Carlsberg beer which showed the Republic of Ireland winning the soccer World Cup in 2002. Abrahamson said about his ads, “Commercials helped me into a genuine creative life, much more than if I’d stayed in the uncompromising zone of my bedsit.” Earlier, in 2013, he told the Guardian, “It was a chance for me to test whether I could pull off this filmmaking thing after all.”
3. Of His Other Work, 2007’s ‘Adam & Paul’ Is His Most Highly Regarded
His time making commericals ended in 2007 when Abrahamson was put in contact with Irish writer Mark O’Halloran. The collaborated on much of Abrahamson’s early successes, including Adam & Paul in 2006 and Garage in 2007. Both were winners of the Irish Film and Television Award for Best Film. Then, in 2013, he directed the movie Frank with Michael Fassbender and Maggie Gyllenhall. From there, he was named as the director of Room in 2014. The film deals with a mother and her son, Jack, who are held captive in a room. It opened to rave reviews worldwide in 2015. Upon receiving his Oscar nomination, he told the Irish Times, “You have to mark an event like this, you can’t let it pass.” He added:
The absolute best thing we were hoping for was that Brie Larson would be nominated but to have four major nominations was so unexpected and amazing.
It’s an amazing day for the Irish film industry with nine nominations for Irish people or people connected to Irish productions which is more than any other nationality apart from the states.
In order to secure the rights to direct the movie, which based off of Emma Donoghue’s bestselling novel, he wrote her a long letter which you can read here.
4. He Dropped Out of Stanford University in 1991
He lived in a trailer while studying at Stanford University. Abrahamson told the Irishman Abroad podcast that he studied for a PhD in Philosophy at the school but dropped. He said in the interview that the plan had been for him to take up filmmaking for a year but to eventually return to his studies. Abrahamson left the U.S. for Ireland and began making short movies in 1991.
5. His Next Project Will Be an Adaptation of the Civil War Novel ‘Neverhome’
After completing Room, Abrahamson was announced as the director of Laird Hunt’s novel Neverhome. The book is set during the American Civil War. When asked if he saw Room as a stepping stone, Abrahamson said, “I am ambitious. I am drawn to small, difficult films but other things also excite me that are bigger and demand resources…This is tricky, because you can come across badly. I am savvy enough to know that to make the kinds of film I’m toying with, my profile needs to be higher. And Room could be important for that. That’s not why I made it, but I’m aware of it.”