Actors Oscar Loves to Hate (Relax, He’s Cool with Leonardo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp!)

Tis the season for the 2011 Oscar hopefuls to slowly begin trickling into multiplexes, art houses, and those coming-soon previews, so the naked little guy is on my mind.

One thing I’ve noticed about him over the years is that he’s quite the ladies man. Most actresses with any notable skill get their year in the circle of nominees at some point (though, sadly, not Lillian Gish, who didn’t mind missing her last opportunity for The Whales of August because it spared her the ignominy of “losing to Cher”). He eventually got around to Barbara Hershey, Ruby Dee and Tilda Swinton, and he’s still got time to make the careers of Cameron Diaz, Ashley Judd, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Robin Wright Penn (who’s already collecting a little buzz for The Conspirator — more on that below).

In fact, offhand, I can think of only one living, working, deserving female film star over 50 who acts primarily in English and has yet to score a single nomination: Mia Farrow. Maybe her slightly kooky off-screen persona and all that unpleasantness with Woody Allen soured Oscar on her — or mabye the Rosemary’s Baby star will pull a Lauren Bacall in about 10 years and finally get her due.

Oscar is less kind to the guys. He generally doesn’t warm up to them until they are well into their 30s and 40s, but some, like Jim Carrey, Steve Martin, Jerry Lewis, Martin Sheen, Gary Oldman, Kevin Bacon, Dennis Quaid, John Cusack, Hugh Jackman, and Tobey Maguire, who probably just missed for last year’s Brothers, can’t seem to get on his good side. Fred MacMurray and Edward G. Robinson, who costarred in Double Indemnity, perhaps one of the greatest film noirs ever made, opposite nominee Barbara Stanwyck, never did.

But there is some consolation for the guys. Unlike with actresses, whose chances with Oscar plummet significantly after they hit 40, the supporting actor category seems to have been created for the late-in-the-game recognition of never-nominated old coots like James Coburn, Hal Holbrook and Christopher Plummer, so Christian Bale, who, according to Entertainment Weekly, is one of Hollywood’s most overdue stars, could still get his due in five years or 30 if his offscreen attitude improves, or if the constant losing and gaining weight for roles in movies like American PsychoThe Machinist and The Fighter (his upcoming Oscar hopeful) doesn’t kill him.

The snubbed males who confuse me most are the ones who are overlooked despite giving multiple deserving performances opposite nominated costars. The most head-scratching of all perennial omissions has got to be Donald Sutherland, who has starred in such Best Picture nominees as M*A*S*H and Ordinary People (for which he was the only principal cast member not to get Oscar’s approval). Over the course of a career that has spanned nearly 50 years, Sutherland’s films have earned some dozen acting nominations, not one of them for Sutherland.

Oscar must really hate him, but I’m not sure how he feels about James McAvoy. He’s only 31 years old, which is the age when actors generally begin to catch Oscar’s attention. But then, in the last four years, he’s costarred opposite four Oscar nominees, including Forest Whitaker, who won best actor for 2006’s The Last King Of Scotland. If director Robert Redford weren’t so hit and miss with the Academy, I’d call McAvoy a shoo-in nominee for The Conspirator, a period film based around the plot to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln that will be released later this year.

Of course, that’s what I said last year when Peter Sarsgaard was generating his semi-annual Oscar buzz for An Education. In the end, as he had done the years Boys Don’t Cry and Kinsey were released, he watched his costar get all the glory (two of them, in the case of Boys Don’t Cry). He still got to attend the ceremony as the escort of his wife, Maggie Gyllenhaal, a first-time nominee forCrazy Heart, but that was probably a small consolation after years of being overlooked, most shamefully for 2003’s Shattered Glass, which Oscar ignored completely.

Sarsgaard’s An Education costar, Alfred Molina, has appeared in five other movies — Enchanted AprilBoogie NightsMagnoliaChocolat and Frida — that produced acting nominees, and his film debut was in the 1981 Best Picture nominee Raiders of the Lost Ark, yet Oscar doesn’t seem to know he’s alive.

Finally, there’s Richard Gere. Poor Richard Gere. He’s been a top star for more than 30 years, but I think it’s safe to say that Oscar loathes him. Consider his list of nominated costars: Tuesday Weld in Looking for Mr. Goodbar; Debra Winger in An Officer and a Gentleman; Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman; Edward Norton in Primal Fear; Cate Blanchett in I’m Not There; and in one year, Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Queen Latifah and John C. Reilly in Chicago, and Diane Lane in Unfaithful.

Mull that over for a moment: At the 2003 Oscars, 20 per cent of the nominees were Richard Gere costars. Gere even won the Golden Globe for Best Actor — Motion Picture Musical or Comedy that year. But Oscar still didn’t give him the time of day. I don’t know if Gere is the type of actor to get worked up over such things (though I suspect that they all do), but if he does, that’s got to hurt more than those scathing reviews for last year’s Amelia, a film for which he was second-billed to Hilary Swank, a two-time Oscar winner. TC mark

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  • Terry

    I hope that Jackman or Cusack will still get their chance. Jackman has few upcoming projects that could mean a nomination (I heard something about Butter) and Cusack is doing interesting projects. But still, I can´t take Oscars seriously since they overlooked Jackman for The Fountain or The Prestige (and in The Prestige was also Bale, Caine, Johansson).

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