What do Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman, Paul Newman in The Color of Money, or even Kate Winslet in The Reader have in common? They all won Oscars for performances that very few people would call their absolute best. They could probably be called "career achievement" Oscars or merely “overdue” but it seems like the Academy has been making up for past sins in recent years by finally getting people like Martin Scorsese and Winslet their statues and it looks likely to happen again this year for one of the most underrated actors in history – Jeff Bridges. The word I keep hearing in regard to Bridges' likely win for Crazy Heart is "finally." This got us thinking – who's next? Who else is overdue for an Oscar and who might be the next actor or actress to merit a "finally"?
We decided to stick to actors or actresses with at least one previous nomination merely to shorten the list, which leaves Donald Sutherland off of it. Clearly, if he found the right part and knocked it out of the park, everyone would be saying "finally" when he was nominated, much like Christopher Plummer this year, earning his first nod after decades in the business.
Runner-ups (total nominations to date): Willem Dafoe (2), Matt Damon (2), William H. Macy (1), Bill Murray (1), Liam Neeson (1), Nick Nolte (2), Michelle Pfeiffer (3), Brad Pitt (2), Emily Watson (2), and Naomi Watts (1)
Glenn Close in an episode of the television show Damages.
Nominated For: The World According to Garp (1982), The Big Chill (1983), The Natural (1984), Fatal Attraction (1987), and Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
Why She's Overdue: One of the best actresses of the 1980s, she's had a resurgence of fame and awards recognition through her excellent work on FX's Damages. Does anyone think that if she got a juicy role like Patty Hewes on the big screen that she wouldn't excel? She may have gone through a career lull pre-FX, but she's back in a big way and when Damages ends, a young writer/director could help her find Oscar glory by writing a role specifically for her, much like Scott Cooper did for Bridges with Crazy Heart. She clearly hasn't found a big screen role worthy of her dramatic ability in years but as she continues to take up mantle space with her Damages work, it only seems like a matter of time before someone taps her for something important on the big screen.
Next Project(s): Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil (2010)
Leonardo DiCaprio in Shutter Island.
Nominated For: What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), The Aviator (2004), and Blood Diamond (2006)
Why He's Overdue: Is it possible for an actor in their mid-30s to be considered overdue? Leo's Titanic co-star certainly was when she finally won her Oscar and DiCaprio has proven that he has the dramatic chops to be considered one of the best actors of his generation and not merely for his nominated work. He was robbed of nominations for both Titanic and The Departed and is currently delivering spectacular work in Shutter Island. If things had gone a little differently and he had been nominated for Titanic and The Departed and Shutter Island had come out last Fall as originally planned, we could be talking about Leo's SIXTH nomination and just how overdue he is no matter his young age. It only seems a matter of time before he finally gets the part that lands him the Oscar. I bet it happens before he turns forty.
Next Project(s): Inception (2010) and Prisoners (2010)
Annette Benning in Being Julia. Photo by Alex Dukay.
© 2004 Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc. All rights reserved.
Nominated For: The Grifters (1990), American Beauty (1999), and Being Julia (2004)
Why She's Overdue: Because I'm tired of her taking stupid roles in junk like Running with Scissors and The Women and an Oscar would get her the parts she deserves. Bening is clearly more talented than the parts she's been offered but she also clearly takes time between Oscar-ish films. It's time for #4 and if she continues working to #5, she'll have to be considered overdue merely by being in so many great films. Like a lot of people on this list, Bening has to be considered overdue merely for the breadth of her long, varied career. Like Bridges, she may need someone to write a juicy dramatic role for her specifically to finally get to the podium.
Next Project(s): The Kids Are All Right (2010), Hemingway & Fuentes (2010), and State of the Union (2010)
Ralph Fiennes in Spider. © 2002
Sony Pictures Classics - All Rights Reserved.
Nominated For: Schindler's List (1993) and The English Patient (1996)
Why He's Overdue: Is anyone else surprised that Fiennes didn't find a part for at least one more nomination in the 2000s? He arguably should have been more widely considered for a supporting nod for In Bruges but, unlike a lot of actors (although like several on this list), he didn't seem that concerned about taking Oscar bait roles, choosing more complex films like Spider, The Constant Gardener, and The White Countess (we'll ignore Maid in Manhattan like everyone should). But Lord Voldemort never lost his acting chops and is clearly one of the best alive at his craft. This is merely a case of a great actor waiting for a great part. I have a feeling the next time he gets nominated, he wins. With several major 2010 films, he'll be back in the public eye in a big way and maybe the right producer will finally find him that part, although he may have found it for himself with his directorial debut of Shakespeare's Coriolanus, in which he'll play the lead, Oscar-friendly role.
Next Project(s): Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang (2010), Clash of the Titans (2010), Cemetery Junction (2010), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I (2010), and Coriolanus (2010)
Laura Linney in Kinsey.
Nominated For: You Can Count on Me (2000), Kinsey (2004), and The Savages (2007)
Why She's Overdue: Because it needs to happen now. I'm worried that Linney is passing that threshold where she'll stop getting juicy dramatic roles much like Glenn Close did in the 1990s. It's tough for actresses of a certain age to find parts as good Linney did in the 2000s, including in un-nominated but great work like Mystic River and The Squid and the Whale, along with her amazing performance on HBO's John Adams. Laura Linney is one of those rare actresses who makes everything she's in just a bit better. This one seems like a needed director/actress match-up. If the right writer/director could find the right way to exploit Linney's remarkable sensitive intellectualism, she could easily start writing an acceptance speech.
Next Project: Sympathy for Delicious (2010), Morning (2010), and The Details (2010)
Johnny Depp in Public Enemeies.
Nominated For: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), Finding Neverland (2004), and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Why He's Overdue: Much like DiCaprio, Depp could have easily been nominated for more than three to date with several great performances ignored, especially in the 1990s before he started making big money for Hollywood. He may only have three nods, but when you add in a career that also includes great work in films like Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, and Public Enemies (all three better performances than the three for which he was nominated), it becomes clear that Depp is overdue for an acceptance speech. Like several names on this list, Depp winning an Oscar seems nearly inevitable. It will be more surprising if his career ends without one. It's just a matter of time, although continuing to do Pirates movies and sticking with Tim Burton through the less impressive second half of his career may make that time a little longer.
Next Project(s): Alice in Wonderland (2010), The Rum Diary (2010), Rango (2011), The Tourist (2011), and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)
Tom Cruise in Vanilla Sky. © 2001
Paramount Pictures - All Rights Reserved.
Nominated For: Born on the Fourth of July (1989), Jerry Maguire (1996), and Magnolia (1999)
Why He's Overdue: Are we over the couch insanity yet? I know you think Tom Cruise is crazy and I'm not going to argue that but there are plenty of mentally unhinged actors with well-deserved Oscars and Cruise has delivered with very few career rough patches for a quarter-century now. It seemed likely to happen in the 2000s after the one-two punch of Jerry Maguire and Magnolia raised the actor's critical profile significantly but Cruise had some hurdles in the last decade, ones that it seems would be easy to overcome in the next decade if he makes the right career decisions and stops going on daytime talk shows. Cruise has always been a director's actor – he delivers when paired with talented filmmakers like Oliver Stone, Barry Levinson, Cameron Crowe, or P.T. Anderson. He needs to pair up with those kind of talented artists more often and he'll find the part that finally gets him the Oscar he should have won for Magnolia.
Next Project(s): Knight and Day (2010) and Mission: Impossible IV (2011)
Joan Allen stars as Senator Laine Hansen in The Contender.
Photo by Gino Mifsud - © 2000 - Dreamworks LLC.
Nominated For: Nixon (1995), The Crucible (1996), and The Contender (2000)
Why She's Overdue: With three nominations in six years, it seemed like Joan Allen was merely tallying them up until she would finally win a trophy. Sadly, the 2000s didn't turn out that way but this actress is far too talented to retire without an Oscar. Allen didn't help herself by limiting her film work and popping up in disasters like Death Race, but high acclaim for her TV work on Georgia O'Keeffe will hopefully put her back on the radar of producers that are producing Oscar bait films. Allen isn't much older than Susan Sarandon was when she got her "overdue" role in Dead Man Walking. That kind of tough intellectual role would be perfect for Allen to finally get her date with Oscar.
Next Project: Good Sharma (2010)
Peter O'Toole and Jodie Whittaker in Venus.
Nominated For: Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Becket (1964), The Lion in Winter (1968), Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), The Ruling Class (1972), The Stunt Man (1980), My Favorite Year (1982), and Venus (2006)
Why He's Overdue: Seriously? Because he's 77, been nominated eight times already, and has been a part of the film industry for five decades. He's one of the few true living legends and he probably should have won for Venus a few years ago (and probably would have if they hadn't already given him an actual Honorary Award for career achievement). The only question with O'Toole is if someone will write him the right part again. Here's all I have to say about that – Christopher Plummer is older and he got his first nomination this year and starred in a Best Picture nominee in Up. There's definitely still time for O'Toole. The only question is which filmmaker out there is willing to write him the ninth nomination?
Next Project(s): Eager to Die (2010), Katherine of Alexandria (2011), and Mary Mother of Christ (2011)
Julianne Moore in A Single Man.
Nominated For: Boogie Nights (1997), The End of the Affair (1999), The Hours (2002), and Far From Heaven (2002)
Why She's Overdue: Because she's one of the best actresses alive and should have won at least one already for Far From Heaven and been nominated at least one more time for A Single Man. Moore made some bad career choices in the second half of the 2000s that derailed what seemed to be a Winslet-esque run where she'd be nominated every two to three years but if anyone thinks she can't climb to that level of regular nominee again in the 2010s, they're crazy. Moore delivers every single time and her raised profile this year with her nearly-nominated work in A Single Man and even her hilarious guest appearance on 30 Rock. Getting her back in the public eye will hopefully put her amazing talent in the mind of a writer out there currently crafting the next great female role. In short, she’s overdue.
Next Project(s): Chloe (2010), Shelter (2010), and The Kids Are All Right (2010)