Countdown to Oscar Highlights: Best Actor
Most Surprising Winner: F. Murray Abraham – Amadeus – 1984
Total Nominations: 1
Total Wins:1 – as Salieri in Amadeus
Abraham’s brilliant and subtle performance was richly deserved, but a surprise nonetheless. Many expected his co-star Tom Hulce, nominated in the same category for the titlular character, would walk away with the statue on Oscar night. Voters wisely choose to honor Abraham as opposed to Hulce’s over-the-top mania.
Unfortunately, Abraham’s career hasn’t been the same since winning the statue. He’s faded into a series of minor supporting roles, none of which has equalled his performance as the sad, vengeful Salieri.
The Icon: Spencer Tracy – Captains Courageous (1937), Boys Town (1938):
Total Nominations: 9
Total Wins: 2
Spencer Tracy was Hollywood’s tough talking, tough drinking everyman, and while not traditionally handsome, he was every studio’s dream – raking in money consistently on his films until the end of his too-short life. He won his two statuettes in consecutive years for two films still considered classics today – Captains Courageous and Boys Town.
Tracy’s life would sadly end shortly after completing work on his last film – Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Katharine Hepburn remarked later that all the tears she shed on set were the all-too-real results of Tracy’s declining health. Hepburn would walk away with the Best Actress award for the film, but sadly, Tracy failed to win in the Best Actor category posthumously.
The Thoroughbred: Henry Fonda – On Golden Pond (1982)
Total Nominations: 2
Total Wins: 1
Why the throroughbred? Think Meryl Streep in terms of talent, but more like Peter O’Toole in terms of recognition. Fonda’s career nominations are over 50 years apart. First nomiated for The Grapes of Wrath in a seminal performance as Steinbeck’s patriarch Tom Joad, Fonda wouldn’t take home the golden statue until his curmedgeonly role in On Golden Pond in the early 80s.
Fonda produced Twelve Angry Men in 1957, which would become one of the greatest roles of his career. Unfortunately, his rough personal life (including five wives, one of whom, the mother of Jane Fonda, would commit suicide) tended to overshadow his outstanding talent and love for the movies.
Fonda would sadly pass away in 1982, less than a year after finally capturing Oscar gold.
The Record-Breaker: Peter O’Toole (never won).
Total Nominations – 9 total.
O’Toole is a living legend – his role in Lawrence of Arabia is one of cinema’s greatest accomplishments. Unfortunately, in 1962, he had to face Gregory Peck in an equally amazing performance as Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird. It should have been a tie.
The poor guy even lost to Marlon Brando, nominated for The Godfather – and Brando REFUSED the darn award!
Peter O’Toole holds the dubious honor of being one of three men ever nominated eight times for the award, and the ONLY one to have NEVER won! For the record, the other two actors with 8 or more nominations are Spencer Tracy and Laurence Olivier.
His nominations include:
1962 – Lawrence of Arabia
1964 – Beckett
1968 – The Lion in Winter
1969 – Goodbye, Mr.Chips
1972 – The Ruling Class
1980 – The Stunt Man
1982- My Favorite Year
2006 – Venus
O’Toole is still kicking (and no doubt kicking himself) today, actively seen last season in The Tudors, and on film in Venus.
BEST ACTOR TRIVIA:
* Two actors have won an Academy Award (Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor) for portraying the same character – that of Don Vito Corleone. Marlon Brando won Best Actor for The Godfather, and Robert DeNiro Best Supporting Actor for playing a younger version of the same character in The Godfather Part II.
* Peter Finch is the only posthumous winner of the award, for Network. He was, however, still alive when the nominations were announced.
* Michael Douglas , in 1988 for Wall Street and Laurence Olivier, in 1949 for Hamlet, are the only two actors to win the Academy Award for BOTH Best Actor and Best Picture in their careers. The Best Picture award goes to the producers of a film, not the director (a common misconception). Douglas won as a producer of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 1976, and Olivier as producer of Hamlet the same year he won for Best Actor.
* The youngest winner of the award was Adrien Brody (29) for The Pianist in 2002. The oldest winner was Henry Fonda (76) for On Golden Pond.
* Robert Downey, Jr. is the only actor nominated for playing a previous Academy Award nominee – Charlie Chaplin in Chaplin.
* Nine men have won the Best Actor award twice in their careers. They are: Spencer Tracy (1937, 1938), Fredric March (1932, 1946), Gary Cooper (1941, 1952), Marlon Brando (1954, 1972), Dustin Hoffman (1979, 1988), Tom Hanks (1993, 1994), Jack Nicholson (1975, 1997), Daniel Day-Lewis (1989, 2007), and Sean Penn (2003, 2008). All are or were Americans except for Daniel Day-Lewis.