26th Jan2018

Culture Dump #23: 4 Actors who won Oscars for Roles that Weren’t their Best

by Simon Bland


2018’s Oscar nominations arrived earlier this week, offering a hopeful change of pace to shake up what most of us have come to expect from Academy voters. While an Oscar statuette is considered the highest praise an actor can receive, they’re not always awarded for the best performance on a star’s resume. Let’s take a look…

Gary Oldman

Let’s not bury the lead here – 2018 is shaping up to be Gary Oldman’s year, with the screen-vet and twice Academy nominated star looking likely to take home an Oscar for his immersive turn as UK Prime Minister and friendliest person you’re ever (not) likely to see on the tube, Winston Churchill. If he does win big, it’ll be no big surprise. Oldman’s made going to the cinema worthwhile for the better part of twenty-five years and while his take on Churchill is impressive, it’s hardly the role he’ll be remembered for. True Romance’s Dexyl Spivey or The Fifth Element’s Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg may not be welcome in the Academy’s Kodak Theatre but they’re more than welcome on the DVD shelves of die-hard fans. Will Oldman’s turn as a prickly PM be as fondly remembered? Don’t think so.

Leonardo DiCaprio

Is there anyone who so clearly wanted an Academy Award more than Leo DiCaprio? Pick a film at random from his IMDB resume. Go on. Take a look. No matter which title you land on, his performance in that movie could easily be considered as a contender for Best Actor. Here’s someone who not only seems to pick his roles based on their ability to blow socks off but who carefully curates his personal life off-screen to maintain the illusion and allow for easy immersion whenever we see him in a new character’s shoes. The guy even started strong; making his mainstream debut with a enviable performance in 1993’s What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. After missing out with classic turns in 2002’s Catch Me If You Can, 2004’s The Aviator and 2006’s The Departed, it took him literally crawling though the mud and putting himself through hell to get what he was after. Is it his best role? Nope. Did it do the job? You bet.

Jeff Bridges

You’d be forgiven for thinking Jeff Bridges had some sort of advantage when it comes to industry recognition. As the son of Lloyd Bridges and younger brother to Beau, acting was seemingly in his blood and while it never appeared that he was all that interested in awards, that didn’t stop him from turning in performances that were worthy of them. It was his role as grizzled country singer Bad Blake in 2009’s Crazy Heart that won him his Academy Award, melding two passions that are clearly close to Bridges’ heart: acting and music. However the film is almost forgettable when it comes to his extensive back catalogue. Crazy Heart better than Tron, The Fisher King or The Big Lebowski? That’s just, like, the Academy’s opinion, man.

Christian Bale

Sort-of-cockney-sort-of-American sounding actor Christian Bale is known for going to extreme lengths in the name of professional pretending AKA acting. Sometimes he’s losing an uncomfortable amount of weight, like when he appeared in 2004’s The Machinist. Sometimes he’s losing an uncomfortable amount of hair, like he did when he starred in (and won a Best Actor Oscar for) 2010’s The Fighter – and sometimes he’s just plain losing it and it’s uncomfortable, like when he got all mad at that lighting guy whilst shooting 2009’s meandering sequel Terminator Salvation. Either way, the guy’s committed, and the Academy clearly acknowledged that – even if it did take them almost 25 years. While it’s undeniable that Bale is an actor worthy of an Academy Award, it’s hard not to think his talents should have have appreciated straight off the bat in Spielberg’s 1987 epic Empire of the Sun or even 2000’s unnerving American Psycho. Perhaps, like Patrick Bateman, his early work was a little too new wave for their tastes.

Did I miss anyone from this list? Let me know in the comment section below!


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