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Gold Derby

Tom O'Neil has the inside track on Oscars, Emmys, Grammys and all the award shows.

Category: Charlize Theron

Gold Derby nuggets: 'Glee' gives back | Tonys a no-go for Conan O'Brien | 'Avatar' rules Empire awards | 'Lost' finale finds big bucks

March 30, 2010 |  7:00 am

Glee_logo • "Glee" fans who can't wait for the return of the freshman hit to Fox on April 13 can see the show a few days early at "Glee" charity screenings in nine cities nationwide. Monies raised from the preview of the 14th episode of the Golden Globe-winning musical comedy series will support the school music program run by the Grammys foundation.

• Oscars co-host Steve Martin told Sandy Cohen he wasn't nervous the second time around on the stage of the Kodak Theater because he has been performing live so much as of late. The musical Martin has been strumming the banjo out on tour with the Steep Canyon Rangers. AP

• Add comic-book star to the list of achievements for daytime and prime-time Emmy champ Ellen DeGeneres. The one-time Oscar host is featured in a series of comics from Bluewater Productions that salute women of power. Previous installments of the series have spotlighted politicos Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi as well as TV legends Barbara Walters and Oprah Winfrey.

• Reporting on Sunday's American Cinematheque fete for Matt Damon, Josh Duboff notes, "It was more like a Comedy Central roast than a stuffy Hollywood ceremony." Among those skewering Damon were his best bud and Oscar-winning screenplay collaborator Ben Affleck ("Good Will Hunting"), that film's acting Oscar champ,  Robin Williams, and Oscar winners George Clooney, Clint Eastwood and Charlize Theron. The ceremony will air on ABC sometime in the coming months. NEW YORK

Tony Award • CBS offered Conan O'Brien the hosting gig at the upcoming Tony Awards, but the onetime NBC star declined. Reports are that O'Brien had agreed to forego appearing on TV until Sept. 1 when the peacock net paid him nearly $45 million after he was yanked from "The Tonight Show" just seven months into his contract. However, O'Brien is still going legit as he hits the road beginning April 12 with the 30-city tour of the aptly titled "The Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour." GOSSIP COP

• Two contenders for this year's Tony Awards are shuttering on Sunday, well in advance of the June 13 ceremony. The first rialto revival of the 1960 Tony-winning play "The Miracle Worker," starring Oscar nominee Abigail Breslin ("Little Miss Sunshine") and Tony nominee Alison Pill ("The Lieutenant of Inishmore), opened to mixed reviews March 3. And the musical melange "All About Me" with Tony champ Dame Edna Everage ("The Royal Tour") and cabaret darling Michael Feinstein never found its footing after debuting March 18 to middling notices. These unexpected theater vacancies may well be filled by other shows rushing into town before the April 29 cutoff for Tony eligibility.

• Investing in a Broadway show is not for the fainthearted so the news that the musical "Next to Normal" has recouped its $4-million budget is indeed welcome. The tuner, about a woman battling bipolar disorder, won star Alice Ripley the lead actress award at last year's Tonys, bested "Billy Elliot" for score and tied with that show for orchestrations as well. Composer Tom Kitt credits the performance by the cast on the kudoscast with making the difference between profit and loss. "It seemed that our performance in a national forum that night created a new interest in the show." NEW YORK TIMES

Avatar Poster • On Sunday, "Avatar" picked up three awards, including best picture, from the U.K. film magazine Empire. James Cameron, who took the best director prize, attended the ceremony at London's Grosvenor House and said in his acceptance speech (with tongue firmly planted in cheek) that, "clearly the Empire magazine readership is more discerning than the British or American academies." No doubt Cameron was especially pleased that the film's performance-capture star Zoe Saldana won best actress. Supporting actor Oscar champ Christoph Waltz ("Inglourious Basterds") went home with the best actor award. EMPIRE

• 1996 supporting actress Oscar champ Juliette Binoche ("The English Patient") has a starring role on the official poster of the Cannes film festival, set to unspool for the 63rd time beginning May 12 for a dozen days along the Croisette.

Rachel Weisz -- the 2005 supporting actress Oscar winner for "The Constant Gardener" -- may be battling James Bond in the 23rd installment of the long-running movie franchise. Weisz, who appears opposite Bond star Daniel Craig in the upcoming "Dream House," has joked in the past about being a Bond girl. But the plan is to have her star as the head of Quantum, the evil organization that has beset Bond in the last two movies. CINEMA BLEND

• Last year, Tim Allen reunited with the cast of "Home Improvement" to receive the Fan Favorite prize at the TV Land Awards. On April 17, he will host the eighth edition of these kudos at Sony Studios, with the festivities airing on the cable net on April 25. Among the already announced recipients are "Everybody Loves Raymond" (Impact award), "Glee" (Future Classic award) and, appropriately enough, the Legend award to both Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner. And Farrah Fawcett -- who was left out of the "In Memoriam" segment of the Oscars -- will be paid tribute by her "Charlie's Angels" costars.

Lost_Logo • The 2005 Emmy-winning best drama series "Lost" signs off for good on May 23, and the alphabet net is reportedly looking for $900,000 -- that is four times the usual rate -- for a 30-second spot on the two-hour finale. Although that would make it the most expensive ad buy for a series this season, it is a real bargain next to the $2.3 million that some advertisers paid to NBC for spots on the finale of "Friends" in 2004. No word yet on what Fox will charge for the two-hour series finale of the 2006 Emmy-winning best drama series -- "24" -- when it airs the following night. AD AGE

• Add Adam Lambert to the list of bold-faced names topped by Tom Ford appearing at the L.A. celebration of the 21st annual GLAAD Media Awards on April 17. Constance McMillen, the Mississippi teenager whose high school canceled the prom rather than allow Constance and her girlfriend to attend, will present the Stephen F. Kolzak Award to Wanda Sykes. GLAAD


Shocker: 'Squeakquel' beats 'Twilight: New Moon' at Kids' Choice Awards

Gold Derby nuggets: Megan Mullally exits stage left | Chloe Sevigny: No love for 'Big Love' | Simon Cowell Int'l Emmy honoree

Why will the Emmys be telecast in August instead of September?

Robert Culp never cracked Emmy's secret code

Do early awards foretell Emmy luck for 'Glee'?

Tony Awards battle for best musical: 'American Idiot' vs. 'Fela'?

Gold Derby nuggets: Honors for Stephen Sondheim and Matt Damon | Good debut for 'Breaking Bad'

Can Rosie O'Donnell grab her old Emmy crown from Ellen DeGeneres?

Upcoming Emmy diva smackdown: 'Nurse Jackie' vs. 'United States of Tara'

Emmy predix for best drama series: 'Breaking Bad,' 'Damages,' 'Dexter,' 'Mad Men' and ...?

First photo: "Glee" logo. Credit: Fox

Second photo: Tony Award statue. Credit: American Theater Wing

Third photo: "Avatar" poster. Credit: Fox

Fourth photo: "Lost" logo. Credit: ABC

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Sean Penn goes gay — dying for another Oscar?

November 29, 2008 | 10:33 am

Good news for Sean Penn fans: At the end of "Milk" — SPOILER ALERT — you get to watch your hero get blown away by gunfire.

Sorry, but that seems to be the price Penn must pay if he wants to win another Oscar to match the chunk of academy gold he nabbed for 2003's "Mystic River." That's because gay roles that win Academy Awards for actors almost always must suffer ghastly deaths.


No star has ever won an Oscar for portraying a gay, lesbian or transgender person who lives happily ever after. The character of Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman) gets to live, yes, at the end of "Capote," but we know that he'll end up croaking from booze and pills someday while stumbling around Joanne Carson's house in Beverly Hills.

The five other roles that paid off with Oscars have horrible ends on screen: Tom Hanks dies of AIDS in "Philadelphia," Hilary Swank gets beaten to death in "Boys Don't Cry," Nicole Kidman commits suicide in "The Hours," Charlize Theron is executed in "Monster," and William Hurt gets shot — much like Sean Penn — in "Kiss of the Spider Woman."

If you don't count roles that just hint at a character's homosexuality (Paul Newman in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" or Tom Courtenay in "The Dresser"), I've tallied up 28 gay, lesbian and transgender roles that have been nominated for Oscars. (Have I missed any? If so, click the comments link below.)

Nine get killed off. Some snuff themselves: Kathy Bates uses a pistol in "Primary Colors," Ian McKellen drowns himself in "Gods and Monsters," Ed Harris jumps out a window in "The Hours, " Javier Bardem dies of AIDS in "Before Night Falls."

The fact that Sean Penn is heterosexual in real life hikes his Oscar hopes significantly. No gay person has ever won an Academy Award for playing gay, and only two openly homosexual actors have been nominated for portraying someone with a lavender lilt: James Coco and Ian McKellen. Coco wasn't officially and fully "out" of the closet, but he was candid about his private life to friends and colleagues and frequently flaunted a flamboyant nature in public.

(X = Winner)
Estelle Parsons ("Rachel, Rachel") (1968)
Peter Finch, "Sunday Bloody Sunday" (1971)
Al Pacino, "Dog Day Afternoon" (1975)
Chris Sarandon, "Dog Day Afternoon" (1975)
John Lithgow, "World According to Garp" (1982)
Marcello Mastroianni, "A Special Day" (1977)
James Coco, "Only When I Laugh" (1981)
Robert Preston, "Victor, Victoria" (1982)
Cher, "Silkwood" (1983)
X - William Hurt, "Kiss of the Spider Woman" (1985)
Bruce Davison, "Longtime Companion" (1990)
Tommy Lee Jones, "JFK" (1991)
Jaye Davidson, "The Crying Game" (1992)
X - Tom Hanks, "Philadelphia" (1993)
Greg Kinnear, "As Good as It Gets" (1997)
Ian McKellen, "Gods and Monsters" (1998)
Kathy Bates, "Primary Colors" (1998)
X - Hilary Swank, "Boys Don't Cry" (1999)
Javier Bardem, "Before Night Falls" (2000)
Ed Harris, "The Hours" (2002)
X - Nicole Kidman, "The Hours" (2002)
Julianne Moore, "The Hours" (2002)
X - Charlize Theron, "Monster" (2003)
X - Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Capote" (2005)
Felicity Huffman, "Transamerica" (2005)
Heath Ledger, "Brokeback Mountain" (2005)
Jake Gyllenhaal, "Brokeback Mountain" (2005)
Judi Dench, "Notes on a Scandal" (2006)

Photos: TriStar, Island Alive, Miramax, Fox Searchlight

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Don't bet on Nicole Kidman winning an Oscar for 'The Danish Girl'

November 10, 2008 |  5:15 pm

It's not smart to wager too much money that Nicole Kidman will grab another Oscar for her flashy upcoming role in "The Danish Girl" as the transgender husband of Charlize Theron.

Sure, it may look like Oscar bait: the radical physical transformation, the heroic back story based upon real life. (Read more about the book it's based on — HERE!) Kidman may even give the best performance of 2009. All that means nothing if academy members won't watch the film.


That was the big, ugly secret about Oscar voting we learned three years ago when faced with a similar movie in the best-actress derby. Very few academy members bothered to watch their DVD screener of "Transamerica." They never saw Felicity Huffman's dazzling, heart-breaking turn as a misfit man, dressed as a woman, who encounters his long-lost son on the eve of dad having a sex-change operation.

Amazing movie. Knock-out performance that haunts you for years afterward. But very few Oscar voters bothered to watch it. Heck, two academy members who are among the hottest Oscar campaigners in the biz -- who both had major ponies in the 2005 derby -- recently confessed to me that they didn't watch their "Transamerica" screeners! Top Oscar campaigners who are supposed to have exceptional interest in all this!

"It's true — nobody watched that screener," studio chief Harvey Weinstein sighed last year as we recalled that 2005 Oscar race. "What a shame. There's no question that Felicity gave the best performance that year. Unbelievable. But, like you, I had trouble finding anyone who saw the movie."

Worse, Oscar voters gave the best-actress gold to Reese Witherspoon for a lightweight, ho-hum perf as June Carter Cash in "Walk the Line." Reese didn't belong in the lead category — it was supporting role and certainly not deserving of any special notice. But we Oscarologists know that stuff doesn't matter. For some crazy reason that year all Hollywood suddenly got all swept up in a frenzy over how fab Reese is — in everything she does, so — what the heck? — let's give her the Oscar for "Walk the Line"!

Next up: What hope do you think there is that academy fuddy-duddies will actually watch Nicole Kidman's film about the world's first post-op transsexual?

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Can 'Rachel Getting Married' star Anne Hathaway get hitched to Oscar?

October 12, 2008 | 11:18 am

Sure, critics are cheering Anne Hathaway in "Rachel Getting Married," but can she really nab an Oscar nomination in a crowded category?


Already competing for the five slots are nine front-runners with 10 roles: Cate Blanchett ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"), Sally Hawkins ("Happy-Go-Lucky"), Angelina Jolie ("Changeling"), Nicole Kidman ("Australia"), Keira Knightley ("The Duchess"), Melissa Leo ("Frozen River"), Meryl Streep ("Doubt"), Kristin Scott Thomas ("I’ve Loved You So Long") and Kate Winslet ("Revolutionary Road" and "The Reader"). Plus lots of other gals angling to get in, like Michelle Williams ("Wendy and Lucy") and Emma Thompson ("Last Chance Harvey").

However, Hathaway has a few strong factors in her favor. She may be known chiefly as the star of popcorn pix such as "The Princess Diaries" and "Get Smart," but Oscar has doled out nominations to other stars like her who've made the crossover to "serious" films. Before being nominated for "Leaving Las Vegas," Elisabeth Shue was known mostly for commercial fare such as "Cocktail," "Adventures in Babysitting" and "Back to the Future II and III." Before she won for "Monster," the standout films of Charlize Theron's career were "The Devil's Advocate," "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion" and "The Italian Job." Nicole Kidman's Oscar-winning turn in "The Hours" was a radical departure from previous pix like "Dead Calm," "To Die For" and "Days of Thunder."


Another thing Anne Hathaway has going for her is the randy nature of Hollywood's naked Golden Boy. He loves actresses with goody-goody reputations who dare to take on naughty roles.

Just a few years after she portrayed a wholesome housewife in "It's a Wonderful Life," Oscar gave Donna Reed a generous tip for turning to prostitution in "From Here to Eternity" — a trophy as best supporting actress. Julia Roberts got a nomination in the lead race for taking up the same job in "Pretty Woman." The original "America's Sweetheart," Mary Pickford, didn't become so risqué to win her best-actress prize, but "Coquette" ended up causing a national uproar — not for her role as a reckless socialite, but for revealing a new hairdo: a bob. The news was so shocking that it made the front page of the New York Times.


(United Artists, Buena Vista, Columbia Pictures, Miramax, Sony Pictures Classics)

Can Lindsay Lohan be Emmy-nominated for 'Ugly Betty'?

May 4, 2008 |  3:48 pm

News that Lindsay Lohan will be on "Ugly Betty" on May 22 means that her appearance will fall before the Emmy eligibility cut-off date of May 31. Technically, she could be nominated for a guest role just like another sexy, tabloid star was in 2002: Brad Pitt — remember? — was a contender for "Friends."


Heck, theoretically, it's possible Lindsay Lohan could be nominated against the pop tart whose TV career move she's copying: Britney Spears ("How I Met Your Mother"). (Read more about Britney's shot at Emmy glory HERE! ) Egads, she could also be nommed against another tabloid sis, Mary-Kate Olsen (read more — CLICK HERE!) But first, we must ask: Will Lindsay Lohan really be nommed? I put this urgent kudos question to our forum posters. Here are some choice responses below. See more — CLICK HERE.

Backstabbing Girlfriend: We don't even know if she'll stay sober enough to show up to work to shoot all her scenes. Sure, she showed up yesterday on the set, but that's one day.

Tallulah's Cocaine: When did "Ugly Betty" become "Will & Grace" (i.e. the show that gets overrun with guest star stunt casting weekly)?

Taloson: She's definitely a better actress than Britney, but with her reputation, I highly doubt she's getting in.


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Oscar has always welcomed the world

February 28, 2008 | 10:58 am

This year marked only the second time in Oscar history in which all four acting winners have hailed from outside the United States. The first was back in 1964 when the winners were three Brits -- Rex Harrison ("My Fair Lady"), Julie Andrews ("Mary Poppins") and Peter Ustinov ("Topkapi"), as well as Russian born Lila Kedrova ("Zorba the Greek").


But Oscar has had the welcome mat out from its very first ceremony in 1929 when Swiss-born Emil Jannings won best actor for his performances in "The Last Command" and "The Way of All Flesh. And three of the first four best actresses hailed from Canada: Mary Pickford ("Coquette"); Norma Shearer ("The Divorcee"); and Marie Dressler ("Min and Bill").

While Daniel Day-Lewis ("There Will Be Blood") and Tilda Swinton ("Michael Clayton") are just two of the 36 English actors to win Academy Awards, Marion Cotillard ("La Vie en Rose") made Oscar history by giving the first French language performance to be so honored while Javier Bardem is the first Spanish actor to win an Oscar.

One of our most prolific forum posters, the aptly named Academy Awards Guru, has compiled a list of the nationalities of all 265 Oscar winners for acting. During the course of 80 ceremonies, they have won 306 Oscars (there has been one tie in each of best actor and best actress). Of these, 76 winners came from outside the USA to take home 85 Oscars. While 21 other countries have produced Oscar winners, it is not surprising that England leads with 36 of her citizens winning 42 Oscars.

Over the past 80 years, best actor has gone to a non-American 24 times and best actress 25 times while in the 72-year history of the supporting awards, non-Americans won supporting actor 19 times and supporting actress 17 times.

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Oscar buzz builds for an upset by Marion Cotillard

February 24, 2008 |  9:54 am

Our Buzzmeter gurus Pete Hammond and Dave Karger are getting nervous, I hear. Really nervous. They're among the vast majority of our pundits (29 out of 32) on the Julie Christie train in the best-actress race now fretting that it might suddenly get derailed when a winner crosses the finish line tonight.

That's because they're hearing more and more of what I've been hearing for the last few weeks too, causing me to jump off and switch to Marion Cotillard in our final Buzzmeter logged earlier this week. When you talk to actual voters, you find out that gads aren't voting with the Christie pack, as widely presumed. Cotillard is ahead in the private count I've been keeping but only narrowly. The few dozen academy members I've polled isn't a scientific sampling, but it's enough to convince me of an upset ahead.


The reason: Voters, contrary to general belief, love to crown ingenues. Gone are the days when they automatically gave it to icons like Bette Davis or Katharine Hepburn. Over the last 10 years, six of the winners were first-time nominees, such as Hilary Swank and Charlize Theron.

Next, there's the reality factor. Four of the five past best-actress champs re-created the role of a real person, like last year's champ, Helen Mirren, as Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. Cotillard portrays French chanteuse Edith Piaf in "La Vie en Rose," of course. Christie's role is fictitious.

Another major consideration: The Babe Factor. Read my detailed description of it HERE. In brief: Voters are old guys who lust after the chicks. (Opposite of the Slap the Stud Syndrome — read HERE — in which they punish the pretty boys for their looks, no doubt out of jealousy.) Only two women older than 50 have won any acting role in the last 15 years: Judi Dench ("Shakespeare in Love") and Helen Mirren ("The Queen"). While on the campaign trail last year, Mirren blatantly flirted with voters by cranking up her still-got-it charms. Christie, age 66, is still a babe, but she hasn't been selling it like a Joan Collins. Perhaps that's OK, though. Most voters are old enough to remember fondly when they gave her an Oscar 42 years ago for shedding skimpy miniskirts while bed-hopping her way through "Darling."

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Oscars theory No. 2: The babe factor

February 21, 2008 |  2:38 pm

When Oscar is not comforting the long-suffering wife, he can often be found in the arms of a young beauty.

Last year's best actress winner, Helen Mirren ("The Queen") was the first leading woman older than 40 to take home an Oscar in a decade. Up until then, the list of recent winners looked like the lineup at a beauty pageant: Reese Witherspoon, Hilary Swank, Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Halle Berry, Julia Roberts and Gwyneth Paltrow. Personally, I think Mirren was able to overcome that trend by embracing it. At age 62, she's still quite sexy (remember her nude scene in "Calendar Girls"?) and she was brazenly frisky while out on the Oscar campaign trail last year, even appearing on the cover of Los Angeles magazine tugging at her bra.


Granted, the younger screen lovelies would often win acclaim and awards by deglamourizing themselves to show Hollywood that they were more than just pretty faces. But during Oscar campaign season, off came the false noses, boxing gloves and trailer-trash outfits, to be replaced by designer gowns and comely coifs.

This year, classic Gallic beauty Marion Cotillard turns from ugly duckling to swan and back playing tragic chanteuse Edith Piaf. With her head shaved and her eyebrows plucked, the French actress, 32, is transformed into the "little sparrow" at the end of her troubled life.

While 1960s siren Julie Christie, star of "Away From Her," still sizzles in real-life, like Mirren, for this 66-year-old to win would be to buck the trend. Though this age bias is less blatant in the category for supporting actresses, older gals still triumph there only now and then: Judi Dench once, Dianne Wiest twice in recent years, for example.

Pace University proved the obvious a few years ago when it conducted an Oscar study spanning the 25 years before 2000 and discovered that best actor winners were, on average, five years older than their female equivalents. And seven years separated male and female nominees.

In the last 15 years only two actresses older than 50 have won an Oscar in the lead or supporting races: Dames Mirren and Dench. Meantime, consider all of these chaps north of the half-century mark who've triumphed during the same years: lead actors Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, and Anthony Hopkins as well as supporting players Alan Arkin, Morgan Freeman, Chris Cooper, Jim Broadbent, Michael Caine, James Coburn, Martin Landau, Gene Hackman, and Jack Palance.

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Multiple Oscar Noms = 1 Win Theory: Is it really true?

January 24, 2008 |  9:10 pm

Some Oscar fans assume that Cate Blanchett has the supporting Oscar in the bag for her Golden Globe-winning role in "I'm Not There" since she's also nominated in the lead race for the widely ridiculed film "Elizabeth: The Golden Age." Having two bids in one year helps a star win one, so goes a popular theory, if there's a consensus that the one nom is strongly favored over another.


Jamie Foxx won best actor for "Ray" three years ago when he also had a hopeless nomination in supporting for "Collateral." Nobody bet on Jessica Lange winning in the lead race for "Frances" in 1982 (Meryl Streep was invincible for "Sophie's Choice") when she prevailed in supporting for "Tootsie." In 1993, Holly Hunter swept the early critics' awards for "The Piano," so it was clear that the best-actress Oscar was next even though she also had a little-noted side nom in supporting for "The Firm." In 1992, when Al Pacino was nominated in lead for "Scent of a Woman" and in supporting for "Glengarry Glen Ross," it was obvious that his best shot was in lead — he had a physical handicap (blindness).

Sometimes, this same Oscar logic seems to work even if a star's two nominations are split between acting and something else — like George Clooney being nommed for directing "Good Night, and Good Luck" in 2005 (he didn't have a prayer to beat Ang Lee's inevitable Oscar for "Brokeback Mountain") when he won best supporting actor for "Syriana."

But is this Oscar theory really true?

There sure is lots of additional evidence to support it. Emma Thompson, Billy Bob Thornton, and Matt Damon lost acting races the same years they won Oscars for screenplay writing.

Most stars who have been nommed for the triple crown — writing, director and acting — have reaped at least one win. Orson Welles proved victorious for his "Citizen Kane" screenplay. Woody Allen won laurels for writing and directing "Annie Hall." Warren Beatty was honored for directing "Reds."

But, beware . . .


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OSCARS THEORY: Does the sole Yankee always beat 4 foreigners?

November 29, 2007 |  6:56 am

With so many foreigners competing in the Oscars race for best actress this year — Helena Bonham Carter ("Sweeney Todd"), Julie Christie ("Away from Her"), Marion Cotillard ("La Vie en Rose"), Keira Knightley ("Atonement") and Ellen Page ("Juno"), among others — it's possible that we may again see a sole Yankee in the race. Perhaps only Angelina Jolie ("A Might Heart") or Laura Linney ("The Savages")?

If so, we'll hear lots of chatter among Oscarologists about that ole chestnut that a sole Yankee always prevails against a foreign invasion. But is the theory really true?


Believers use this theory to explain the seemingly unexplainable, including Marisa Tomei's 1992 supporting-actress win for "My Cousin Vinny." While Helen Hunt ("As Good As It Gets") beat four foreign lasses, she had won several awards leading up to the Oscars. Tomei had not. On Oscar night, the frontrunner in that supporting race figured to be Aussie Judy Davis who had picked up several critics prizes for her work in Woody Allen's domestic drama "Husbands and Wives." Nipping at her heels were thought to be the three Brits — Dame Joan Plowright, Laurence Olivier's widow, who had won the Globe for "Enchanted April", New York critics choice Miranda Richardson ("Damage"), and Vanessa Redgrave ("Howards End").

But just how parochial are the Academy Awards? Before 1997, the last time a lone American actress prevailed over four foreigners in the lead-actress race was back in 1971 when Jane Fonda won for "Klute." Her competition? South African Janet Suzman ("Nicholas and Alexandra"), and three Brits - Vanessa Redgrave ("Mary, Queen of Scots"), the previous year's winner Glenda Jackson ("Sunday Bloody Sunday"), and one Julie Christie ("McCabe and Mrs. Miller").

Interestingly, when Christie won in 1965, she beat two other Brits — the previous year's winner Julie Andrews ("The Sound of Music") and Samantha Eggar ("The Collector") as well as France's only best actress winner Simone Signoret ("Ship of Fools") and the sole American nominee, newcomer Elizabeth Hartman ("A Patch of Blue").

The following year, 1966, was the only one in Oscar history that all five lead actress nominees hailed from foreign lands. British born Elizabeth Taylor won her second Oscar for "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" beating out both British Redgrave sisters — Vanessa ("Morgan!") and Lynn ("Georgy Girl") as well as French beauty Anouk Aimee ("A Man and a Woman") and Ukrainian Ida Kaminska ("The Shop on Main Street").

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OSCARS POLL - VOTE: Who'll win best actress?

November 16, 2007 |  4:40 am

Let's pretend that I've nailed Oscars' best-actress rundown correctly (oh, come on — when have my predix ever been wrong?). Now you tell me who will win.

Keep in mind that, if I'm right about "Sweeney Todd" being the frontrunner to win the top Oscar, the best-picture champ often claims a lead-acting prize, too. (Russell Crowe in "Gladiator," Hilary Swank in "Million Dollar Baby.") Sure, Johnny Depp would be most likely to nab that trophy since he's got the title role, but on three occasions in the past both best actor and actress joined the top winner ("It Happened One Night," "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "The Silence of the Lambs").


Therefore, the odds may be remote that Helen Bonham Carter would get that companion Oscar, if only one is bestowed, but it's possible. Both male and female leads (Len Cariou, Angela Lansbury) won Tony Awards for the Broadway production, which won best musical in 1979, but director Tim Burton has trimmed back the role of Sweeney sweetheart wannabe Mrs. Lovett — yes, even though she's played on screen by Burton's own sweetheart in real life — so that must diminish her dramatic impact somewhat. Nonetheless, I'm assured by a source close to the film that she still "breaks your heart."

If not Helena Bonham Carter, then perhaps Marion Cotillard ("La Vie en Rose") has the lead in this race, given that she portrays a real-life character (Edith Piaf) like last year's champ Helen Mirren (Queenie Liz II, of course). Beware: Ellen Page ("Juno") is a knock-out and we know how much voters love ingenues (Charlize Theron, Hilary Swank the first time she won for "Boys Don't Cry"). And veterans — like Julie Christie, who triumphed in 1966 for "Darling." Christie was nominated most recently in 1998 for "Afterglow," which was touted as a big comeback for her then just like "Away from Her" now, but she lost to Helen Hunt ("As Good As It Gets").

If "Atonement" wins best picture, as many pundits predict, then that boosts the hopes of Keira Knightley, of course, but keep in mind that she's got limited screen time. She's only in about half of the film, but, heck, Nicole Kidman wasn't even in a third of "The Hours" and still prevailed.

Uh-oh! Maybe Helena should drop to supporting, after all?

October 27, 2007 |  3:40 pm


Come to think of it, considering Oscar history, Helena Bonham Carter might be better off pulling that sneaky ole trick successfully employed by other crafy divas: drop to supporting where lead roles — just because of sheer size — have a better chance to win. Carter is old academy news. She was nominated for best actress in 1997 for "Wings of the Dove," losing to Helen Hunt ("As Good As It Gets"), who is one of many dames who claimed that category upon her first nomination.

Oscar voters, remember, love ingénues. These are just some of the gals who won best actress their first time up: Charlize Theron, Reese Witherspoon, Halle Berry, Gwyneth Paltrow, Hilary Swank, Marlee Matlin, Sally Field, Louise Fletcher, Glenda Jackson, Julie Christie, Sophia Loren, Joanne Woodward, Anna Magnani, Shirley Booth, Judy Holliday, Bette Davis (after a failed write-in campaign for "Of Human Bondage" — that doesn't count as a nomination), Luise Rainer and Katharine Hepburn.



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