Oscar Winning Performances That Were In The Wrong Category

Categories: Oscars

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Louise Fletcher won Best Actress for 1975's One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Next, but she was really supporting. It was a bad year for lead femmes, though (much as I love Ann-Margret in Tommy), and they apparently needed to fill up the category. Besides, Nurse Ratched was by far the film's biggest female role.
It happens, whether because of campaigning or a mistake or a misguided sense that certain perfs should be pushed where they don't belong.

And it seems to pay off because all these people won their categories (with one still pending, but building steam).

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Tatum O'Neal dominated 1973's Paper Moon, but back then you automatically put any child performance in supporting. (But not this year! Go, Quvenzhane.)

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Jessica Lange was the female lead in '82's Tootsie, but they dressed her up as supporting because, after all, she was bound to get nominated for Best Actress for the same year's "Frances." And she did. Tootsie's real supporting actress, Teri Garr, was pissed.

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Nicole Kidman won by a nose for 2002's The Hours. She was named Best Actress, but with an ensemble piece like that, she could have easily been placed in the supporting berth.

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Christoph Waltz is the male lead in Django Unlimited, but he was put in the supporting category. And he has a much better chance of winning that one, so it was a very good move.

Also, Geoffrey Rush was one of three actors to play the lead in 1996's Shine and he copped Best Actor anyway. Still, I don't think that many people felt it was much of a miscarriage of justice since his performance dominated the film.

Can you think of any other categorical mixups in Oscar history?

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14 comments
fkd1963
fkd1963

Simone Signoret for "Room at the Top": belonged in Supporting

Patricia Neal in "Hud": belonged in Supporting

Mary Badham: "To Kill a Mockingbird":  belonged in Lead?

RobertAllenFirth
RobertAllenFirth

Once upon a time, the story went that if this was your first motion picture, you could only be nominated for Best Supporting.  Hence, many of the winners you pointed out were making their motion-picture debuts and could only be nominated in the Best Supporting category.  That's why (back in the days of Opening Credits) you would see the last major acting credit to read "Introducing...so-and-so..."

billyjoe
billyjoe

Hiding in plain sight are two examples, male and female, in this year's Oscar race: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, widely reviewed as the film's lead character, nominated as best supporting actor in "The Master." Ditto Helen Hunt in "The Sessions."

Maybe they should change the name of the category to "featured."


jackson30
jackson30 topcommenter

And Julianne Moore should have also been up for Best Actress for The Kids Are Alright. Annette Bening didn't win anyway, so it wouldn't have hurt her chances.

exackerly
exackerly

There's been a real dread of having two Best Actor or Actress nominees in the same picture. Hasn't happened since Thelma and Louise for the women, and Amadeus for the men (I think). It's thought to pretty much kill off the possibility of either of them winning, but historically, that's not really the case. Example, Murray Abraham in Amadeus. But anyway, that's probably why Jake Gyllenhaal was up for Supporting in Brokeback Mountain (and neither of them could beat Philip Seymour Hoffman anyway).

jackson30
jackson30 topcommenter

Maybe they needed Jessica to be Tootsie's supporting actress because Dustin Hoffman was the Best Actress, lol.

exackerly
exackerly

@jackson30 Too true, and anyway, I never thought of Jessica Lange as the lead in that picture. I think they got it about right.

wayout46
wayout46

Nothing supporting about Marisa Tomei's role in "My Cousin Vinnie", other than the fact that she was an up and coming TV and soap actress, and maybe the powers that be felt a comic leading lady had no chance in hell in the Best Actress category.

ReynoldsDreever
ReynoldsDreever

Anthony Hopkins. His total on-screen time in Silence Of The Lambs was 16 minutes.

oharem2000
oharem2000

Diane Varsi had more screen time than Lana Turner in "Peyton Place," but she ended up in the "Supporting Actress" category, due to her billing, presumably. 

Eleanor Parker was nominated for "Best Actress" for "Detective Story"--she's excellent in it, but she belonged in the supporting category.

psb1969
psb1969 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Timothy Hutton -

should have won for Best Actor instead of supporting in Ordinary People...

Geena Davis- should have won for Best Actress instead of supporting in The Accidental Tourist....

arlaur
arlaur

@psb1969 SO TRUE re: Timothy Hutton! His character was the protagonist of the whole film!

bwaybill
bwaybill

Patti Duke probably should have been up for Best Actress along with Anne Bancroft (who won), but it was that child thing you talk about, where they were automatically supporting.

ladybug9
ladybug9 like.author.displayName 1 Like

David Niven won for Separate Tables but was basically supporting.

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