Canada's Oscar contenders: Arcade Fire's Will Butler, Vallee's 'Dallas Buyers Club'
William Butler, a member of Arcade Fire, plays Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013 at the Little Haiti Cultural Center in Miami. (AP Photo/Eric Kayne)
Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, January 16, 2014 9:33AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 16, 2014 7:35PM EST
TORONTO -- The Quebec team behind the HIV drama "Dallas Buyers Club" was cheering a slew of big Oscar nominations Thursday, with nods for best film, best actor, best supporting actor -- and an apparent editing nomination for the film's director, Jean-Marc Vallee.
The editing nomination was shared by Montreal's Martin Pensa and John Mac McMurphy, which the CBC reported is a pseudonym for Vallee, who was shut out of the directing category. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences would not confirm the report.
Early Monday, Pensa said he could hardly believe the good news, and bemoaned a lack of recognition for Vallee.
"It's unreal, it feels very unreal," Pensa said soon after the morning announcement from Beverly Hills, Calif.
"But I'm super happy for sure. It's incredible."
"Dallas Buyers Club" also earned nods for best original screenplay, and makeup and hairstyling.
Even though he was overlooked in the directing category, Pensa said Vallee (whose previous films include "C.R.A.Z.Y." and "The Young Victoria") could take pride in the fact that star Matthew McConaughey and co-star Jared Leto scored high-profile acting nods.
"They didn't put him as best director unfortunately, but he got best picture and best actors so that's a big win for him," said Pensa, who first collaborated with Vallee on the filmmaker's acclaimed "Cafe de Flore."
Pensa said he spoke to Vallee as soon as he spotted multiple mentions for "Dallas Buyers Club," but initially didn't notice that he himself was up for editing.
"I didn't know about the editing part. I called (Vallee to offer) my congratulations for best picture and the actors and the screenplay," he said, not divulging any information about the identity of his co-editor McMurphy.
If McMurphy is indeed Vallee, this would be the Montrealer's first Oscar nomination.
And it wouldn't be the first time a fake name has been submitted to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The Coen brothers earned an Oscar nod for best editing for "No Country for Old Men" under the moniker Roderick Jaynes. At the time it was the second nod for "Jaynes," who also drew attention for "Fargo."
Vallee made reference to the name McMurphy in an interview with the Globe and Mail last year, saying he was partly drawn to "Dallas Buyers Club" -- a biopic of HIV activist Ron Woodroof -- because the flawed hero reminded him of "McMurphy in ('One Flew Over the) Cuckoo's Nest."'
Vallee said in a statement that the Oscar kudos were "a beautiful way" to conclude his adventure with the low-budget film, which stars an emaciated McConaughey as Woodroof and a slimmed-down Leto as his drag queen business partner.
"My collaborators and I have had an amazing time making this film," Vallee said in a statement issued minutes after the nominations came out.
"Today we all share a collective sense of pride as we have had the opportunity to spotlight a part of history that's both beautiful and sometimes painful to remember, and been able to tell a story which has touched the hearts of many."
In other categories, Toronto's Owen Pallett and Arcade Fire member Will Butler scored a nomination for best original score for their work on the futuristic romance "Her." Pallett is a frequent collaborator with the Montreal-based band.
"Her" centres on a recently divorced writer played by Joaquin Phoenix who finds love with an artificial intelligence computer operating system known as Samantha, voiced by Scarlett Johansson.
And Toronto-born Andy Koyama snagged a nomination for best sound mixing along with Beau Borders and David Brownlow for their work on the Navy SEALs tale "Lone Survivor."
Montreal-based computer graphics supervisor Chris Lawrence is up for best visual effects for his work on "Gravity." The London-bred Lawrence shares the nod with Tim Webber, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould.
Toronto-bred producer David Gerson, meanwhile, was celebrating a coveted best foreign-language film nomination for his Palestinian drama, "Omar."
If the film wins, Gerson notes the trophy would go to director Hany Abu-Assad, but as one of the producers the Canuck was revelling in the glory nonetheless.
"It's a huge validation for the movie," Gerson said by phone from his home in Berlin.
"There's a lot of big movies that weren't on the list and there's a lot of big movies that were on the list so we were very excited about getting noticed in that crowd. Because we're a small movie from a very small place and also it just gives it a shot for an audience (in) all these different countries and especially in the U.S."
"Omar" is pitted against Belgium's "The Broken Circle Breakdown," Italy's "The Great Beauty," Denmark's "The Hunt," and Cambodia's "The Missing Picture."
Meanwhile, Toronto-based actress-turned-director Sarah Polley was shut out of the best documentary category. She had been considered a strong contender for her intensely personal documentary, "Stories We Tell."
Pensa said he was completely caught off guard by his Oscar nomination.
"I didn't expect it, to be honest. So I wasn't, like, really looking for it like every second," he insisted.
"Usually, it's the big action films that are nominated and for such an independent film it seems incredible. It's good for us and the fact that it's such a good year for Hollywood films in general. That's why I didn't expect so much."
Pensa said he expected to see Vallee later in the day to continue their work on "Wild," a new film starring Reese Witherspoon as novice hiker Cheryl Strayed who embarked on foot to conquer the formidable Pacific Coast Trail.
He doubted there would be time for much celebration.
"It seems to be a crazy day right now," he said. "We've got a lot on our plates so we need to work."
The Academy Awards ceremony takes place March 2.