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Will Brad Pitt lose best actor due to Oscars' Slap the Stud Syndrome?

February 18, 2009 |  3:36 pm

Brad_pitt_curious_case_of_benjamin_

What's really curious about "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" is that most Oscar pundits give the lead star of the film with the most nominations virtually no hope of winning best actor. Among the five contenders in that category, Brad Pitt is usually ranked fourth or fifth by prognosticators. Why?

Most likely it's punishment for his good looks. Look at other top male stars who haven't won Oscars despite working in Hollywood for years: Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Richard Gere. They're all heartthrobs — just like previous matinee stars who got snubbed in years past: James Dean, Steve McQueen, Tyrone Power and Robert Taylor.

Now consider the parade of young lovelies who dominated the actress awards in recent years. Best-actress champs over the last decade, for example, include Julia Roberts, Halle Berry, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron and Reese Witherspoon. Read more about that phenomenon in Gold Derby's separate blog piece about the Babe Factor.

Studs

The male counterpart to that female factor is the Slap the Stud Syndrome. While a few handsome male stars have managed to win now and then in the past, most have been denied. There's a clear pattern of it.

Consider the case of Tom Cruise, who lost the 1989 best actor Oscar to Daniel Day-Lewis. Both men played wheelchair-bound real-life heroes in "Born on the Fourth of July" and "My Left Foot," respectively. Cruise had won the Golden Globe while Day-Lewis had taken most of the critics prizes. When the British born Day-Lewis prevailed over the all-American Cruise many Oscarologists attributed this to another instance of the Slap the Stud Syndrome.

The theory goes that many of the academy voters are geezer guys who love the younger fillies but resent the handsome bucks. Their message to these Hollywood heartthrobs: "You already have it all –- fame, fortune and females aplenty. So, sorry pal, no Oscar for you, just yet."

However, just like the pretty women who de-glamorize themselves (Charlize Theron, "Monster"; Nicole Kidman, "The Hours") to win an Oscar so too can the handsome hunks who pack on a few pounds, a la George Clooney in 2005's "Syriana." Last year, Javier Bardem was the hunk du jour whose unflattering Buster Brown bowl cut in "No Country for Old Men" won him the supporting actor Oscar.

Studs3

And speaking of Clooney, as he was back to his usual movie-star-handsome-self last year in "Michael Clayton," the Slap the Stud Syndrome helped put Day-Lewis back in the winner's circle for "There Will Be Blood." That win also came at the expense of two-time loser Johnny Depp. He and Pitt, both 45, should take comfort in the fact that other studs won a best-actor Oscar later in their career when they were less of a threat to get the babes that the older academy guys can't.

While Tom Cruise lost his 1996 best actor bid for "Jerry Maguire" to respected stage star Geoffrey Rush ("Shine"), he lost the 1999 supporting actor race when nomm'd for "Magnolia" to one-time stud Michael Caine ("The Cider House Rules"). Caine did not win his first three best actor races and only won his first supporting Oscar ("Hannah and Her Sisters," 1986) when he was on other side of 50.

Al Pacino was 52 when nomination No. 7 for "Scent of a Woman" turned out to be the lucky one in 1992. However, by the time Oscar voters finally rewarded Paul Newman, he didn't care anymore. Even though he was widely favored to win best actor for the 1986 film, "The Color of Money," the 62-year-old actor skipped the ceremony. At that point he'd lost seven times and was tied with Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole as Oscar's biggest loser. Disgusted by the whole game, Newman told the Associated Press that his pursuit of the statuette had been "like chasing a beautiful woman for 80 years. Finally, she relents and you say, 'I am terribly sorry. I'm tired.' "

And while there are the usual exceptions to the rule — both Clark Gable ("It Happened One Night," 1934) and Marlon Brando ("On the Waterfront," 1954) won Oscars at the height of their careers — many more leading men have been slapped through the years, never winning Oscars for acting:

Warren Beatty (four lead nominations)

Charles Boyer (four lead nominations)

Montgomery Clift (three lead and one supporting nominations)

James Dean (two lead nominations)

Leonardo DiCaprio (two lead and one supporting nominations)

Kirk Douglas (three lead nominations)

Clint Eastwood (two lead nominations)

Albert Finney (four lead and one supporting nominations)

Peter Fonda (one lead nomination)

Harrison Ford (one lead nomination)

Cary Grant (two lead nominations)

Rock Hudson (one lead nomination)

Jude Law (two lead nominations)

Marcello Mastroianni (three lead nominations)

Steve McQueen (one lead nomination)

Robert Mitchum (one supporting nomination)

Nick Nolte (two lead nominations)

Robert Redford (one lead nomination)

Burt Reynolds (one supporting nomination)

Will Smith (two lead nominations); and

John Travolta (two lead nominations).

RELATED POSTS:

Will the Babe Factor help Kate Winslet in a close Oscars contest with Meryl Streep?

Gold Derby odds on the top Oscars races

Photos: Paramount, Warner Bros., RKO Pictures

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Comments

Could this be the case with Roy Scheider?

To say DDL won over Tom Cruise simply because of Cruise's looks is ludicrous. Perhaps the fact that DDL gave a bravura performance might have something to do with it.

To say DDL won over Tom Cruise simply because of Cruise's looks is ludicrous. Perhaps the fact that DDL gave what many consider a bravura performance might have something to do with it.

Who wins in BEST PICTURE, BEST ACTOR, BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR, BEST ACTRESS, BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS?
On my blog you can find 2009 Oscar awards live streaming video.
Watch and you can be the first to see everything. Enjoy!
2009 OSCAR - NOMINEES AND WINNERS: http://www.playlist.com/blog/entry/12409931011

Daniel Day-Lewis is extremely good looking and a brilliant actor. he's won an oscar twice. so has denzel washington, another handsome man. this stupid 'slap the stud' theory is baseless, so stop trying to sell it! maybe awards are given to great performances and aren't based on looks. did that ever occur to you, oh oscar guru?

"Oh, and a question to the girl who claims that Pitt and Depp are the "Best actors of their respective generations." How exactly are they in two different generations when they are both born in 1963? Just wondering...."

That was me. Re-read my post. I didn't say Pitt and Depp...I said Leonardo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp. They are about 10 years apart...and maybe that's not a generation, but I do think they are the best in their age group.

Mr. Pitt simply doesn't have it. He is always too aware of himself, in every role he plays.

Define stud. Didn't Denzel Washington win an Oscar for a lead role?

Brad Pitt gave a good performance in an okay film.

Most of the other examples cited in this post are also good performances, but still weaker than the performances which won. I do think Depp, Cruise, and DiCaprio will eventually get their due. Pitt? As much as I enjoy him (and enjoy looking at him), he has yet to give the kind of intense performance as what most Oscar performances are made of.

Brad was really good in some of his early work like Thelma and Louise and Legends of the Fall, but once he became a huge movie star he put up the facade and stopped showing emotion. He'll never win an Oscar until he can show vulnerability like Rourke, Penn and actors of that caliber do. Pitt is a very pleasant performer to watch but he hasn't become a great actor because of his limited emotional range. It's a real shame because he's talented and apparently very smart.

Might the fact that certain actors never won an Oscar have something to do with the simple fact that there is only ONE Best Actor award each year? Meaning that there have been only about 70 winners, so its inevitable that many actors who might have deserved an Oscar never got one. It's pretty simple math and doesn't deserve a silly theory like this.

Oh, and a question to the girl who claims that Pitt and Depp are the "Best actors of their respective generations." How exactly are they in two different generations when they are both born in 1963? Just wondering....

No one on earth thinks Pitt gave a better perf than Penn or Rourke. Please, child.

You stated that Jude Law had two lead nominations, when in fact he only has one (for "Cold Mountain" 2003) his other nomination was for best supporting actor ("The Talented Mr. Riply" 1999)

The problem is the Toms and Brads of Hwy don't age. They have smoothe faces, from years of face lifts and they just don't age. I couldn't believe Tom C in Valkyrie because he didn't look "weathered". He looked like he came out of a Broadway audition. What are these guys going to look like when they're 50? 60? The same. That's where the problem lies.

As much as Mickey has ruined his face, at least it looks "normal" and aged, which a lot of critics like. It fits the characters he's playing.

(BTW, I don't think he's winning the Oscar because of the publicity following him)

Some of would say that giving Daniel Day-Lewis the Oscar *disproves* the Slap the Stud theory.

There are lots of factors outside of the actual performance that effects the Oscar winner. I don't agree that looks is one of them; age, however, is certainly one. Voters like younger woman & older men (who can still be handsome) but the media also helps in building up people for Oscar. The media loved Julia Roberts (Americans Pretty Woman/ sweetheart) and rewarded her. People with long lists of nominations & at the end of their careers - get Oscars. Not many people state Winslett gave the best performance of the year, but many argue she should win b/c she is due -- so if she does, then maybe the others will get in there someday also. Too bad performance isn't the top criteria.

Interesting theory. I think it's too simplified. Members of the academy are jealous and they like giving awards to crap films like slum doggie doo. So, this year they'll feel good that they can appear to be unbiased while they mostly vote for frivolous garbage.

Tom, I think the replies here totally prove your point. I think people see Brad as a pretty boy and are so sick of seeing him all over the tabloids that they can't be subjective about his performance. He was amazing in Benjamin Button, but most can't see it because they've already made up their mind to not like him.

I think the theor holds a lot of water. Not just when it comes to Brad Pitt, but Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio who I think are the best actors of their respective generations. But each year they are nominated, there always seems to be a performance that is more worthy in the eyes of the voters.

It's ok with me because in my eyes, I'd rather be like Peter O'Toole and be nominated a million times and never win knowing that I had many great performances in my life time instead of just one Oscar winning performance. And I do think all three, Brad, Leo, and Johnny will have those types of careers with many great performances.

It is a very subtle performance, quite John-Waynian. He put a lot of soul into the chacter, and he made it real. He made even human what it was not very apparently human. He was "Benjamin Button". He put a child heart and mind to an older looking man and a mature heart and mind to a boyish young man. He worked very well with the New Orleans' accent and the voiced-off narration of the story. His looks seem always to be the problem, but they were almost "necessary" on this role, in order to make Benjamin's transformation more grandiose on the entire spectrum of the audience, both female and male, no matter sexuality: lesbian, homosexual or male/female heterosexual, or age: young, middle-aged or old. For all these reasons, "Benjamin Button" will always remain as one of Brad Pitt's signature performances. Awards and nominations wise, he did not miss any of the precursors, so many people seem to think he was quite excellent on this movie.

Jack Nicholson must be so offended right now.

The handsome leading men are in Hollywood because of their looks not in spite of their looks. If you 've made it in Hollywood without good looks you must be one heck of an actor.

Paul Newman may have lost 7 times but he won once. Meryl Streep has lost 13 times. Does that make her a bigger loser?Peter O'Toole lost eight and never won once.

Brad Pitt is one of the best looking men in Hollywood, but he is no where near the best actor in Hollywood.

I read that it's the makeup and the computer experts who should get the credit for Pitt's "performance".

It's really a stretch to agree that some of those actors, are "hunks", imo. Of course, male beauty is also in the eye of the beholder.

BRAD PITT, IS A "CELEBRITY", JUST LIKE HIS COHORT CLOONEY"!! BOTH OVERRATED!!! NO, I DON'T THINK, IT HAS ANYTHING TO DO W/ LOOKS. IT'S THE IDIOTS THAT CHOSE THE WINNERS. I REALLY DON'T GET THIS MICKY ROURKE THING??? WHO THE HECK, AND WHERE HAS HE BEEN?? THE OSCARS, HAVE, FOR MANY YEARS NOW, PICKED, VERY BORING FLICKS, AND ACTORS, THAT HAVE WON. LAST YEAR WAS A HUGE YAWN, AND VERY PREDITABLE. WHY BOTHER WATCHING? WHEN YOU HAVE AWARDS, AFTER AWARDS, THAT END UP THE SAME?? THEY NEVER PICK THE RIGHT ACTOR! ANGIE JOLIE, IS UP FOR 2 YEARS IN A ROW? NO ONE WENT TO SEE THESE MOVIES! IT'S HER "SICKENING CELEBRITY", THAT PUTS HER IN THIS VERY ELITE GROUP. I DON'T BELIEVE SHE DESEVES IT!!! THE ACADEMY SHOULD START RECOGNIZING WHO PILLAGES THE BOX-OFFICE. DEPP, YEAH, HE'S A PRETTY BOY, WHO MAKES A FORTUNE FOR "HOLLYWOOD"! HOWEVER, HE FAILS TO PLAY THE HOLLYWOOD GAME LIKE BRADJELINA, THEREFORE, SUFFERS, AT THE MEDIAS HANDS. I'M SO SICK TO DEATH OF BRAD AND ANGIE, I WANT TO VOMIT. MEDIA-IT'S BEEN OVER 3 YEARS. WE DON'T CARE ANYMORE!!! WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO GET IT??IF THIS COUPLE, IS THE "MOST MAGNIFICENT THING", TO HIT THE CITY OF ANGELS, GOD HELP US!!! SHUT IT ABOUT THEM!!

This wasn't hisbest performance but I think people do hate him for his looks/personal life. He was fantastin in Jesse James, Fight Club, Babel, and 12 Monkeys.

Can't wait for the awards night! Thanks for sharing.

Jude Law one lead and
one supporting

 

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