‘You couldn’t top this year’

“It’s been a hell of a nine months,” laughs James Martin sitting beside the Christmas tree in his family’s holiday home in Ballycastle, Co Antrim.

This is where the Oscar winning actor goes to relax and unwind.

The views are stunning. To the left is the north coast of Co Antrim, straight ahead is Rathlin Island and to the right on the day we visited we could see the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland.

“I come here to spend time with family and friends and have the best of fun, I love that to bits,” he says.

The past year was as spectacular as the views for the Belfast-based actor, who won an Oscar, a Bafta and many other awards, as well as the hearts of many. The star of the short film ‘An Irish Goodbye’ became the first person with Down syndrome to win an Oscar.

James Martin stared in the film ‘An Irish Goodbye’

He was at a showbiz ceremony to collect the Bafta when his brother texted to tell him his next stop could be a night with Oscar.

“I was on the red carpet and the next minute my brother texts me to say your movie is down to the final five for the Oscars.

“I’m thinking to myself is this like a dream, a dream come true.”

The Oscars night was on his birthday and his proud mum Suzanne was in the star studded audience as Hollywood’s finest made it a very special night when they sang Happy Birthday.

Proud dad Ivan watched from home with a smile and a tear in his eye.

“If you take any memories, you couldn’t top that memory,” he says.

“Everything about it was really lovely. You couldn’t plan a birthday like that one that you couldn’t top when you have 5,000 actors singing Happy Birthday to you.”

He was given the presidential seal of approval when he met Joe Biden during his visit to Belfast in April, with the US President saying he would boast to his daughter about having his photograph taken with the award winning actor.

James Martin with US President Joe Biden in Belfast

Ulster University, where the meeting took place, awarded him an honorary doctorate for outstanding contribution to the arts.

A long standing member of Babosh, a Belfast drama group for people with learning difficulties, he is proud to be the first person with Down syndrome to win an Academy Award.

The success has made him a role model and mentor for many others with disabilities and he regularly visits groups working with people with disabilities to give talks and advice.

“That’s very important to me,” he says.

“If you take any disabilities, if it’s autism or CP or physical, they all say to me that you’ve inspired me and that’s really lovely. I tell them their dreams can come true too.”

While he enjoys being a role model, he is keen to stress that the awards have not gone to his head.

“You get people who might say do you think acting is easy, I’m thinking it’s not that easy,” he says with a smile.

“You know you get people who say to you have you got a big head on you. The answer is I don’t because, I’m not just being humble, but I’m just being me, just doing my job of being an actor.”

So what is next for the Co Antrim man whose parents were told shortly before he was born that he would probably never speak?

“It’s nice to be busy, it’s better than being quiet,” he says.

“You couldn’t top this year, but there are a couple of things coming on line.

“There’s more to come, hopefully finger’s crossed, there’s a lot more to come.”

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