Humphrey Bogart, AFI’s #1 Greatest Male Star in the History of Cinema, said, on learning of his Best Actor nom for Casablanca, “Awards are meaningless for actors, unless they all play the same part.”
Pondering Bogey’s statement, plus the possiblity this year of True Grit‘s Jeff Bridges Oscar nomination against actual True Grit Oscar-winner John Wayne, we’d have two actors playing the same role. Bogey might’ve loved that but, short of such an interesting event, it’s not likely we’ll see two different actors nominated for playing the same role.
For fun, what about former Best Actor Oscar winners competing with each another in different roles in just the last 10 years? Imagine the following Best Actor/Actress Oscar winners competing against each other:
- Russell Crowe, Gladiator, 2000
- Denzel Washington, Training Day, 2001
- Adrien Brody, The Pianist, 2002
- Sean Penn, Mystic River, 2003
- Jamie Foxx, Ray, 2004
- Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote, 2005
- Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland, 2006
- Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood, 2007
- Sean Penn, Milk, 2008
- Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart, 2009
If these ten actors were pitted against each other, I wouldn’t have any problem in choosing Daniel Day-Lewis, even though Jeff Bridges and Philip Seyour Hoffman are two of my favorites. When I look back at winners of the past, some of them defy understanding and their wins should probably be chalked up to politics rather than exceptional performances. So sue me.
In the Best Actress category, most but not all of these Oscar winners gave memorable performances:
- Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich, 2000
- Halle Berry, Monster’s Ball, 2001
- Nicole Kidman, The Hours, 2002
- Charlize Theron, Monster, 2003
- Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby, 2004
- Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line, 2005
- Helen Mirren, The Queen, 2006
- Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose, 2007
- Kate Winslet, The Reader, 2008
- Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side, 2009
In my opinion, there are only three actresses here who gave an Oscar-worthy performance: Helen Mirren, Hilary Swank, and Kate Winslet. If just those three were nominees, difficult a choice as that would be, I’d end up voting for Hilary Swank. And it’s not because (spoiler alert!) she died in the end, it’s just that her performance was arguably greater than the other two.
As far as I know, the only actor who played the same role in the same movie 20-odd years later was Clark Gable (Red Dust and Mogambo). In the first, he played opposite Jean Harlow and Mary Astor and in the second, it was Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly. It might’ve made Bogey (given that nickname by Spencer Tracy) laugh if Gable had ever been nominated against himself in a “Best Actor Playing the Same Role in the Same Century” category.