Karen O’Hara, a Chicago native, received an Oscar for best art direction for the movie Alice in Wonderland. O’Hara is a set decorator whose work includes Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia (Tom Hanks, who starred in Philadelphia, presented her with her award) and more recently Disney’s A Christmas Carol (2009). This was O’Hara second Academy Award nomination, her first was nearly 25 years ago for her work on Martin Scorsese’s The Color of Money.
One of seven children of Pat and Mary Ann O’Hara, Karen grew up in Morton Grove, Chicago. Pat was an adman who did commercials, and Karen started her career working on commercials. She told her local mortongrove.patch.com that growing up with four brothers and two sisters helped her prepare for working on a film set. “With seven of us, we were always trying to get along and make things work,” O’Hara said. “Film is a collaborative process that requires you to rely on other people, communicate and to ask for help when you need it.”