Japanese makeup artist Kazuhiro Tsuji and two of his colleagues won this year's Academy Award for best makeup and hairstyling on Sunday.

Tsuji, the first Japanese to receive the award, shared the prize with Britons David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick.

The trio was recognized for their work transforming actor Gary Oldman into British wartime leader Winston Churchill for the film "Darkest Hour."

"Firstly we would like to give our heartfelt thanks to Gary Oldman. It was a real honor to be on this incredible journey with you. And we would not be standing here today if it wasn't for you," Tsuji said in his acceptance speech.

Calling Oldman a "wonderful actor, a dedicated artist and a true friend," Tsuji said, "This is a dream come true for all of us."

Tsuji, who has been working as an artist since 2012, made a comeback to the movie industry following a request by Oldman, who was impressed by seeing his portrait sculptures, including one of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln.

"I think it's really important, timing-wise because I left the film industry and Gary asked me to design this," Tsuji said at a press conference held after the ceremony. "We made an amazing film and I think we made history. So it's really meaningful to me."

The 48-year-old artist, who hails from Kyoto but resides in Los Angeles, was nominated for the same award in 2007 for a science-fiction comedy "Click" and in 2008 for a romantic comedy "Norbit."

Etsuko Egawa, a Japanese makeup artist under whom Tsuji worked for three years soon after graduating from high school, said his work always had an ingenuity that was beyond her expectations.

"It is important (for makeup artists) to seek levels (of work) that let audiences believe the character really exists. Mr. Tsuji can do that," Egawa said.

Hiroyuki Sanjoba, who taught Tsuji at Heian Senior High School in Kyoto, remembers him as skillful with his hands and interested in the specialized makeup techniques required in Hollywood.

"He used to surprise us by making a little finger or doing special makeup of burn injuries on his hand," Sanjoba said.

Toshiki Nakamori, the school's vice principal, said, "If there is a chance, we would like him to come over and speak to our students about what drove him."

Japanese filmmaker Ru Kuwahata was nominated for the animated short film category with Max Porter for their work "Negative Space" but the award was won by now-retired Los Angeles Lakers basketball superstar Kobe Bryant for his film "Dear Basketball."

Related story by The Kyoto Shimbun:

Kyoto makeup artist nominated for Oscar