Lots of stars almost pulled off a full sweep of the key early awards during derby season, then went on to win the Oscar. But only 15 stars, according to my count, actually accomplished a total romp in modern times. Many others were like Robert De Niro ("Raging Bull"). He won most of the major kudos of 1980 except one. At the National Society of Film Critics, he lost best actor to Peter O'Toole ("The Stunt Man"). Or Heath Ledger ("The Dark Knight"), who almost swept the board last year, but also got tripped up by the national society (losing to Eddie Marsden, "Happy-Go-Lucky") plus New York Film Critics Circle (lost to Josh Brolin, "Milk").
It sure looks like Christoph Waltz ("Inglourious Basterds") and Mo'Nique ("Precious") are juggernauts that can't be stopped this year. They both won all four major critics' awards (National Society of Film Critics, New York Film Critics Circle, Los Angeles Film Critics Assn., Broadcast Film Critics Assn.) plus the Golden Globe and Screen Actors' Guild Awards. It's important to note that SAG has only been bestowing awards since 1994, BFCA (Critics' Choice Award) since 1995. After that, four actors claimed all six prizes: Nicolas Cage ("Leaving Las Vegas"), Daniel Day-Lewis ("There Will Be Blood"), Helen Mirren ("The Queen") and Forest Whitaker ("Last King of Scotland").
In 1994, Martin Landau ("Ed Wood") and Dianne Wiest ("Bullets Over Broadway") pulled off full sweeps of the precursor prizes that included the SAG Award. Before that, a sweep was defined as snagging laurels from the three leading groups of print journos (New York, L.A. and national society) plus the Golden Globe. Actors who accomplished that: Sally Field ("Norma Rae"), Gene Hackman ("Unforgiven"), Dustin Hoffman and Mery Streep ("Kramer vs. Kramer"), Holly Hunter ("The Piano"), Jack Nicholson ("Terms of Endearment"), Michelle Pfeiffer ("The Fabulous Baker Boys"), Sissy Spacek ("Coal Miner's Daughter"), Mary Steenburgen ("Melvin and Howard"), Meryl Streep ("Sophie's Choice") and Emma Thompson ("Howards End"). All of the stars mentioned above went on to win the Oscar with one exception. Pfeiffer was stopped by Jessica Tandy ("Driving Miss Daisy").
The New York Film Critics Circle began doling out trophies in 1935, the national society in 1966. To give our awards analysis in this blog article some context, I'm beginning our scrutiny at 1976, the year the L.A. critics joined the kudos game.
Of the above-named champs, these also won National Board of Review: Cage, Field, Hunter, Mirren, Nicholson, Pfeiffer, Spacek, Streep, Thompson, Whitaker. I don't consider that to be a crucial part of the definition of a full sweep, however, since it's not an industry award – not bestowed by journalists or industry insiders. NBR is really like a People's Choice Award bestowed by sophisticated New Yorkers. Since we don't count the nationwide People's Choice Award, maybe we shouldn't count NBR either.
So, as I count things, 15 stars have pulled off full sweeps of the chief precursor awards plus the Oscar since 1976. One of them did so twice: Meryl Streep. Am I leaving anyone out? (Many thanks to Gold Derby readers (especially Gustavo) for helping me to sort those the confusing lists.
So it sure looks like Mo'Nique and Waltz are locks to follow, eh?
Photos: "Norma Rae" (20th Century Fox), "Ed Wood" (Buena Vista), "The Queen" (Miramax)