Does Winning An Oscar Hurt An Actor’s Career?

does_winning_an_oscar_hurt_an_actors_career_01_theactorsfactory.jpgJim Broadbent. Photo courtesy of The Actors Factory.

HOLLYWOOD—It’s the highest honor that an actor or actress in the entertainment industry can receive: an Academy Award. While many describe it as the pinnacle of all awards, others are smitten just by being nominated for an Oscar—at least that’s what those who’ve been nominated say. Many industry insiders believe winning an Oscar has a huge impact on an individual’s career. They receive more scripts and bigger movie roles, but in my opinion winning an Oscar can have a downward spiral on an actor or actress’ career.  Can you name one actor who’s benefited heavily from winning an Oscar?

It’s difficult to say. The only actress that comes to mind is Meryl Streep who scored her record 16th nomination this year for her role as Chef Julia Child in “Julie and Julia.” She has scored more nominations than any other actor in Oscar history, but something many would be surprised to discover is that Streep has won only two awards: Best Supporting Actress in 1979 for “Kramer vs. Kramer” and Best Actress in 1983 for “Sophie’s Choice.” Since then she’s been nominated a bevy of times, recently for Best Actress for her wicked turn as Miranda Priestly in “The Devil Wear Prada” and as Sister Aloysius Beauvier in “Doubt,” a performance I believe Streep should have won over actress Kate Winslet. As for an actor, the only person who comes close to Streep is Jack Nicholson who has been nominated 12 times, including three wins for Best Supporting Actor in 1983 for “Terms of Endearment” and two Best Actor wins in 1975 for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and in 1997 for “As Good as It Gets.”

It appears those who are never nominated or receive multiple nominations whether it is for Lead Actor, Lead Actress, Supporting Actor or Supporting Actress have a more fulfilling career. Just a few actors who have delivered exceptional performances and never won an Academy Award include Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Viola Davis, Peter O’Toole, Julianne Moore, Naomi Watts, Angela Bassett and Johnny Depp. DiCaprio and Moore have been nominated countless times for Academy Awards with no wins, and yet their acting skills continue to evolve each time; so it’s as if being nominated really is better than winning. Damon, Depp and Davis are those who have been overlooked at times by the Academy for their performances in films like, “The Departed,” “Doubt,” “Edward Scissorhands” and “The Bourne Ultimatum.”

does_winning_an_oscar_hurt_an_actors_career_02_cbc.jpgMira Sorvino.Photo courtesy of cbc.

For those who have been so lucky to win an Oscar, their careers seem to either excel or wander, or even worse you never hear about them again. Does anyone remember Jim Broadbent who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for “Iris,” or perhaps Mira Sorvino who won Best Supporting Actress for “Mighty Aphrodite”? For those actors lucky enough to win Best Actor or Actress (Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, Hilary Swank, Nicole Kidman) it becomes difficult for many to ever top the performance that garnered them that golden statute. Some go on to films like “Inside Man,” “Valentine’s Day,” “Catwoman,” “The Invasion,” “The Core,” films that have had some commercial success at the box-office, while others failed to strike a chord with critics and moviegoers.

A lesson to be learned is to be choosy in the roles that you pick. Just because a film is offered to you and you might receive a big paycheck for starring in it, doesn’t mean you have to do it. Being passionate about a film can carry a thespian a long way. It’s better to pick a project that as an actor or actress shows your range.  Yes, we live in a world where money is everything, but remember this is Hollywood—one minute you’re hot, the next you’re not. Jodie Foster is an actor who is smart about the roles she chooses. Her performance in the films “Panic Room” and “The Brave One” kept audiences talking.

The argument can be made that winning an Oscar does wonders for an actor or actress’ career if he or she continues to garner more Oscar nominations after they initially win. Otherwise they are put on a pedestal where they are unable to topple their previous work. So a nomination truly is the height of an actor’s career because it solidifies them as a force to be reckoned with and the respect that comes with a nomination is the appreciation of others in the entertainment industry. While winning an Oscar is a “moment” for most actors or an actress, who’s to say it’s better to be acknowledged than to win?