Can winning a best supporting actress Oscar ruin your career?

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Clem, Feb 25, 2004.

  1. Clem

    Clem Agent

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    I found this an interesting article and thought others might too. Comments?



    The Curse of the Supporting Class

    By Christopher Bahn
    MSNBC contributor

    2004When the Oscars are handed out at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles on February 29, there’s one group of nomninees who might be just as happy not to win: The five women up for best supporting actress. That’s because “Pirates of the Caribbean” isn’t the only thing with a curse attached to it. There’s a longstanding Hollywood superstition that a supporting actress win, rather than heralding that a new star has been born, means career oblivion.

    This seems to make no sense, but looking over the careers of recent winners, it’s remarkable how many winning actresses fade away. In recent years, actresses like Mira Sorvino and Kim Basinger have all struggled to maintain their post-award prominence and to make movies that are even watchable, let alone worthy follow-ups. And I’ll bet many people don’t even remember Brenda Fricker and Mercedes Ruehl are, let alone that they won a decade ago for “My Left Foot” and “The Fisher King.”

    It would be nice if the “curse” were, like the one in “Pirates,” just an evil spell that could be broken and magically overcome. But it really seems to be symptomatic of the way the film industry: First, Oscar winners are often just as boneheaded as you or me about their life choices, and sometimes either can’t or don’t know how to find good work. In Hollywood, you’re only as good as your next role. And second, ageism and sexism continues to limit the number of good roles available for women.

    Career-damaging award?

    Marcia Gay Harden, who won in 2000 for “Pollock,” recently told Premiere magazine that the award was one of the worst things that ever happened to her career. “The Oscar is disastrous on a professional level,” she said. “Suddenly the parts you’re offered become smaller and the money less. There’s no logic to it.” Still, she’s fared better than most, with a solid, if small, role in “Mona Lisa Smile”and another supporting-actress nomination for “Mystic River.”

    Tomei in particular was the poster girl for the curse after her win for 1992’s “My Cousin Vinny,” when she not only was unable to find good roles that would provide her with another breakthrough hit, but had to endure scurrilous and untrue rumors that the only reason she’d been given the Oscar was that Jack Palance had announced the wrong name during the live broadcast. Her 2001 nomination for “In the Bedroom” helped prove her detractors wrong, but she has yet to find a solid role to follow that one.

    The jury’s still out on whether the curse will affect Catherine Zeta-Jones, who spent much of the year after winning for “Chicago” at the last Oscars with her newborn baby, and only recently returned to cinemas in the underperforming Coen Brothers comedy “Intolerable Cruelty.” But she’s co-starring with Tom Hanks in the upcoming “The Terminal” and also has “Ocean’s Twelve” and the “Zorro”sequel on deck, all likely hits.

    For Sorvino and Basinger, the problem seems to be that they simply chose to star in bad films. After success in “Mighty Aphrodite,” Sorvino moved on to the dumb horror flick “Mimic,” dumb action flick “The Replacement Killers,” dumb comedy “Romy & Michelle's High School Reunion,” dumb sex film “Tales of Erotica,” and a prominent role in the very dumb box-office bomb “Gods & Generals,” the worst film of 2003. On the positive side are stints in the critically divisive “Summer of Sam” and “The Grey Zone.”

    Basinger made mistake after mistake after “L.A. Confidential” that allowed her post-Oscar hotness cool to ice. First, she waited three years to make another movie. When she did, it was “I Dreamed of Africa,” which could have been retitled “I Dream Of Getting Out Of This Theater.” The boring supernatural thriller “Bless the Child” followed, a pathetic next try at a comeback that made fellow supporting-actress winner Whoopi Goldberg’s center-square spot on “Hollywood Squares”seem like Shakespeare.

    Immune to the curse

    The curse doesn’t affect everyone. Juliette Binoche, of 1996’s “The English Patient,” mostly works in Europe, where foreign-language films have a hard time breaking into the American public consciousness. But her star power is still obvious when she does make English-language movies, evidenced by her best actress nod for “Chocolat.” And Judi Dench, 1998’s “Shakespeare in Love” winner, has continued to have a strong career, including two more nominations for “Chocolat”and “Iris.” But then, she’s more like a best actress than a supporting actress, in that those awards tend to go to women who are already known quantities, with established bodies of work and the proven range and gravitas demanded of a leading lady. The supporting actress category has historically been the domain of the pretty young thing on the rise.

    Supporting actresses tend to be the year’s “It Girl” — a phenomenon that’s been going on at least since 1927, when actress Clara Bow’s nickname entered the English language to describe the season’s fresh face. Hollywood's constant need for young blood, like a vampire, is never satisfied. This constant focus on young talent thereby tends to reward actors — and especially actresses — when they are not necessarily yet at their artistic peak, and casts them aside for a few gray hairs just when they might have gained the strength of experience.

    A fall from fame can happen to any prominent actor, of course. Noel Coward punned devastatingly about the very brief stardom of the lead actor in “2001: A Space Odyssey”: “Keir Dullea, gone tomorrow.”

    Men not immune to curse

    Men certainly aren’t immune from the shameful slide into irrelevance that comes from following an Oscar win with flat-out awful roles (Cuba Gooding and Roberto Benigni, we’re looking at you). But it’s easier for a man to escape the oppressive focus on youth that dooms so many female actors. Only two of the supporting-actor winners since 1990 were younger than their late 40s at the time of their award. And although it’s an unfair symptom of cultural sexism, older actors like Jack Nicholson and Sean Connery are still able to maintain their virile and sexy persona in film roles well into their sixties and beyond. (Connery was 72 when he played the rakish Allan Quatermain in “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” last year.)

    The lack of prominent leading and supporting roles for women, especially older women, is not likely to go away anytime soon, but it is changing — even the glass ceiling of action films has been broken by films like “Tomb Raider” and “Aliens.”

    Harden’s warning aside, the 2003 set of nominees seems less likely than previous years to fall victim to the disappearing curse, since they’re collectively older and more established than is typical. If my guess is right that Renee Zellweger will win for her superb performance in “Cold Mountain,” she’ll probably sidestep it entirely, because she seems to have that too-rare knack for involving herself in films worthy of her talent, which means that award or not, she’ll be around for the long haul. And that’s the important thing anyway.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4285114/
     
  2. Haggai

    Haggai Producer

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    I don't think there's all that much to this, it's just that there were a few visible career downswings in this category of late, namely Tomei, Sorvino, and Basinger. Also, I'm looking at the all-time list of winners in this category in a separate window right now, and I don't see a lot of factual support for this statement from the article: "The supporting actress category has historically been the domain of the pretty young thing on the rise." Plenty of the winners over the years don't fit that description.

    Besides, there are plenty of exceptions to this supposed rule. Goldie Hawn had plenty of success over the years after winning for Cactus Flower in '69, Jessica Lange didn't go downhill after winning for Tootsie in '82, Geena Davis had a good run for a while after winning for Accidental Tourist in '88, Anna Paquin's had some successes since bursting onto the scene with her win for The Piano, and I think the '79 winner for Kramer Vs. Kramer had an OK career after winning that Oscar--Meryl something or other. And the article itself points out that "even the glass ceiling of action films [for women] has been broken by films like “Tomb Raider” and “Aliens.”" Well, guess who starred in Tomb Raider, none other than the '99 winner for Best Supporting Actress.

    I can't imagine anyone expects Catherine Zeta-Jones to fall from the ranks of stardom anytime in the near future, and the article admits this to be unlikely. I also don't think we're going to see anything but an upswing in Jennifer Connelly's career.
     
  3. Nick C.

    Nick C. Second Unit

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    why is this the case? Are filmmakers assuming an Oscar winner will command more money and just outright pass on even considering the actor for the role?

    anyhow, as the columnist notes, I agree it's just a case of bad roles being selected, and is certainly not limited to the supporting actress category, just look at Halle Berry, Hilary Swank, Kevin Spacey, Cuba Gooding. hell, the Oscars don't mean much anyway, and great performers (winners and unnominated alike) choose crappy roles sometime during their careers.
     
  4. Paul>Wh

    Paul>Wh Agent

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    I think the only true way for the curse to effect them is to put them on the cover of SI.
    Seriously though, I don't think it matters much. I think that people get lucky on one of their roles and the one's that pick odd and provacative roles instead of the easy money has more lasting power in general. Big Jack for instance doesn't pick every role that comes his way but the ones he does pick "About Schmidt", "A Few Good Men", "One Flew Over the Coo Coo's Nest", etc. were all complex roles. Then there are others that do a bunch of work like "Reindeer Games" and "Daredevil" but somehow someway in their career stumble on a "Goodwill Hunting". Some just strike oil sooner than others.
    Just my two cents, take it with a grain of salt.
    Paul
     
  5. Clem

    Clem Agent

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    Thanks for the input guys. I agree that actors continued work and success are largely a result of roll selection and a bit of luck. However while I haven't researched any of the claims made in this article I would be curious to see if in the supporting actress category there is a higher percentage effected by the "curse" than in the other major categories.
     
  6. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    Among its many shortcomings, the article suffers from a common myopia among movie critics -- namely, the belief that movie acting is the be-all and end-all. Many of the best actors and actresses come out of the theater, and it remains their first love. Mercedes Ruehl, for example, came out of the New York theater (her Oscar acceptance speech concluded with an extended thank-you to legendary producer Joe Papp) and has continued to work there since --e.g., playing the lead in the original Broadway production of Edward Albee's The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?.

    As I recall, Brenda Fricker also went back to the stage in her native Ireland.

    Marisa Tomei has continued to appear both on and off-Broadway, most recently in an acclaimed production of Oscar Wilde's Salomé with Al Pacino.

    Even Anna Paquin has taken to the stage. She's currently in an off-Broadway production called Roulette, which I'm seeing next week. It's her second theatrical production in the last year.

    These are off the top of my head. I'm sure there are other examples.

    Marcia Gay Harden's comments are interesting, because she too started on the New York stage and could almost certainly go back there if she wanted to.

    And it isn't just supporting actress winners. When was the last time you saw Helen Hunt in a major film role? Meanwhile I've seen her twice on Broadway since she won the Oscar.

    M.
     
  7. Garrett Lundy

    Garrett Lundy Producer

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    Looks like someone hasn't seen The House Of The Dead, not only the worst film of 2003, but the worst film ever released IMO (And yet to hear of any close second).
     
  8. Malcolm R

    Malcolm R Executive Producer

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    Sounds like it's on par with the "Best New Artist" Grammy. [​IMG]
     
  9. BarryRR

    BarryRR Agent

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    For what it's worth, I'm all but certain Noel Coward didn't make that remark about Keir Dullea--I believe it was originated by a film reviewer in THE NEW YORKER.
     
  10. Mikel_Cooperman

    Mikel_Cooperman Producer

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    I love Romy and Michelle. People just didnt see it.
     
  11. Ernest Rister

    Ernest Rister Producer

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    "...a prominent role in the very dumb box-office bomb Gods & Generals, the worst film of 2003"

    Gods and Generals was a mess, what with Duvall incapicated by a fall from his horse, weak action direction, weak direction in general, bad editing, and a terrible ending (the movie does not end, it just stops, with a title card promising a third installment of the Turner/Maxwell Civil War Trilogy...similar to the Bakshi "Lord of the Rings" disaster).

    Was it the worst film of 2003. Laughably, no, because it does have some merit. Stephen Lang was incredible as Stonewall. The Art Direction and Set Design were fantastic. Duvall's brief appearances as Robert E. Lee were electric.

    Maybe it was the most disappointing movie of the year, but was it really worse than From Justin to Kelly, or the hordes of dissapointing horror films of 2003? The worst movie I saw in 2003 was Identity - a trite modern riff on The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari that shot itself in the head in the middle of the 2nd act. Imagine Caligari or Fight Club spilling the beans at the middle of the film, and you have a pretty good idea of what happens. From that moment on, you no longer have any investment with the characters, because you know the truth about them. I haven't had such a palpable urge to walk out of a bad movie since the imaginative but awful Nightbreed, over a decade ago. Just like any movie, Identity has its fans, but it is *my* choice for worst movie of 2003.
     
  12. Paul>Wh

    Paul>Wh Agent

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    so does that mean at my reunion I can say I invented Post-it notes???
     
  13. Ray H

    Ray H Producer

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    Is this also happening to Angelina Jolie? After Girl, Interrupted, she seems to have faltered in here career. Though she still gets larger roles, few of them are successful.
     
  14. Joe Kamsan

    Joe Kamsan Stunt Coordinator

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    An interesting read, although even the article's author admits that the curse does not affect everyone. Seems like a bit of a reach, to say that winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar is a curse. Many nominees for the award have vanished into obscurity or whose careers have nosedived (Kate Hudson, Rosie Perez)) yet they were good enough to be considered on the night, no one is asking the same questions of them.

    You're likely to find similar examples in the Best Actor and Best Actress categories (ie. F. Murray Abraham, Hilary Swank). Oscar glory can be fleeting indeed...

    BTW, I also liked Romy and Michelle's Reunion. Dumb, harmless comedy with a bit of 80's nostalgia [​IMG]
     

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