MORPETH can bask in a little Hollywood stardust as one of its former residents has claimed both an Oscar and a Bafta.
Former King Edward VI School pupil Robin Johnson has been honoured with the prestigious film awards as part of the seven-strong sound team for Les Miserables.
He said: “We have been working hard for a lot of years and there is some luck around the awards because it depends on the film you are working on.
“We have never been nominated before for anything –– this was the first time we were nominated for a Bafta and an Oscar and we won both.
“It is great to have been nominated for this film in particular because we worked really hard on it and it was very technical and physically quite challenging. We have done some of our best work on this film so it was great to have been nominated in the first place and it was just brilliant to win.”
The 38-year-old, whose family still live in Morpeth, had initially not intended to go into the movie business and after leaving school he studied chemical engineering at Sheffield University.
However, he later decided it was not for him and began working in a music studio and helping out with sound for a film studio next door.
In 1998, when production sound mixer Simon Hayes turned up in Yorkshire to film romantic comedy Fanny and Elvis, starring Ray Winston, he needed an assistant with local knowledge and chose Mr Johnson.
The partnership was such a success that Mr Johnson was offered a permanent position with the team in London.
He now has some 40 films under his belt, including Prometheus, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, 28 Weeks Later and Layer Cake.
“I think, like what happens for a lot of people, it was just serendipity. I just fell into it,” he said.
“I enjoy the work, but it is not as glamorous as people think. The Oscars and Baftas are the glamorous side, but the day-to-day reality is long hours and hard work. You don’t get to see your family much, which is why it is good to get the Oscar and see the hard work pay off.”
Mr Johnson is no stranger to musicals, having worked on Mamma Mia!, but Les Miserables presented entirely new challenges.
He said: “We do have a bit of a history with musicals, but Mamma Mia! was more like a classical film where all the actors go in and record their parts in the studio months before filming.
“Les Miserables was completely different because the director Tom Hooper wanted high emotion in the music and to film the singing live and record it all properly on the day.
“There was no additional dialogue recording afterwards.
“The only bit that wasn’t sung live is at the very beginning of the film because we couldn’t get the microphones in the water. Other than that, it was all done live on the day.
“Maybe we will be the guys for musicals now, but I’m sure that other people will try that technique now they have seen how it can be done that way.”
Les Miserables won the Bafta for Sound and the Oscar for Sound Mixing.
But despite the success, Mr Johnson does not plan to move to Hollywood any time soon.
“Hollywood is great and it is certainly an eye-opener to see the way they do things over there, but we are pretty well set in London at the moment and there are a lot of films coming over here now. The film industry is doing pretty well over here considering the state of the world economy at the moment,” he said.
“I don’t get back to Morpeth as much as I would like, but I do like coming up and meeting up with friends to go for a drink at The Waterford.
“I am away on location a lot, which is one of the perks of the job, but whenever I do get a break I try to get up North.”
Mr Johnson is currently working on Before I Go To Sleep, starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman.
He will be joining colleagues for a celebratory dinner this weekend when Mr Hayes, who collected the gongs, will show them off to the team.
But he has already had a sneak preview after visiting Mr Hayes when he returned from the Oscar’s ceremony.
“I have been round to Simon’s house and held the awards. They are very heavy, the Bafta especially,” he said.