Saturday, October 1, 2022

10 Actors Who Received Oscar Attention Early On In Their Careers

By Celia Schlekewey 

Timothée Chalamet broke many hearts during last year’s Oscar season. He tugged at our collective heartstrings when he portrayed Elio in “Call Me By Your Name.” It was touching film about first love and also Chalamet’s first leading role in a mainstream film. Then, when he became the youngest Best Actor nominee in 80 years, he hurt audiences again, when his masterful performance went unawarded. However, at his age, a nod is nothing to sneeze at. This weekend, Chalamet’s follow-up hits theaters in the form of “Hot Summer Nights” – a darker kind of coming-of-age story set before a backdrop of an impending hurricane. He has some big shoes to fill, with expectations high. Knowing this, let’s take a look at 10 other actors who also received some Oscar love early in their career and see how they chose to return to the big screen – and where they have gone since.

*The following list is in alphabetical order*

Julie Andrews – “Mary Poppins”

Julie Andrews was already a successful actress on Broadway and London’s West End, but when Disney approached her for the lead role in “Mary Poppins,” she was still considered green by Hollywood standards. After originally refusing the role due to her pregnancy, Disney postponed production until she was ready to play the part. Despite filming ending in 1963, the added animation increased production time to nearly a full year, with the movie finally hitting theaters in 1964. It was wildly successful, making five times its budget back and being universally lauded by critics. It earned 13 Academy Award nominations and won 5 of them, including the Oscar for Best Actress for Julie Andrews.

Andrews followed her Oscar win with another classic: 1965’s “The Sound Of Music” where she plays another nanny who sings, this time in barely-pre-Nazi Austria. It was one of the most commercially successful films of all time and managed to garner enough love to receive 10 Academy Awards nominations, 5 of which became wins, most notably for Best Picture. While Andrews was nominated again for Best Actress, the voters instead chose Julie Christie in “Darling.” Unhindered, Andrews went on to have a long career, appearing in films such as “The Man Who Loved Women” and the teen classic “The Princess Diaries.” Unfortunately, a botched attempt to fix a minor throat issue stole her singing ability, which has limited the kinds of roles she takes now and making theater work difficult. Still, she is widely respected and considered an icon to industry members all around the world.

Jeff Bridges – “The Last Picture Show”

Jeff Bridges received a Best Supporting Actor nod for 1971’s “The Last Picture Show,” a throwback to old Hollywood coming-of-age stories that centered on two high school seniors and their experiences during their last year living at home. Considered a classic in its own right, “The Last Picture Show” was Bridges’s first major foray onto the big screen, and even though he lost to his co-star Ben Johnson, his nod is still impressive on its own. 

Bridges chose to return to theaters with “Fat City” in 1972, where he played a rookie boxer who trains under an experienced manager. “Fat City” was a critical hit, providing a much-needed bounce-back for its director John Huston, and even accruing an Academy Award nomination for Bridges’ co-star, Susan Tyrrell. Bridges has continued to appear in major motion pictures since then, despite lightening his schedule in the mid-00’s. His most notable appearances have been in films like “The Big Lebowski,” the “Tron” series, “Iron Man,” “Crazy Heart” (For which he received an Academy Award for Best Actor) and “Hell Or High Water” where he received yet another Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Dustin Hoffman – “The Graduate”

In his first ever leading role in a Hollywood film, Dustin Hoffman portrayed Benjamin Braddock, a newly minted college graduate who falls into an affair with an older woman, while also having feelings for her daughter. “The Graduate” was well-received at its release in 1967 and has also stood the test of time, making AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies list (It currently sits at #17). The film earned 6 Academy Award nominations and one win, although Hoffman’s Best Actor nod was not chosen that year, which instead went to Rod Steiger for “In The Heat Of The Night.” 

Hoffman graced US screens again in 1969 with “Midnight Cowboy,” where he played a con-man who starts up a business relationship with the main character. Another character-focused film, Hoffman shined and earned himself yet another Oscar nomination for Best Actor. Through the years, Hoffman has become a widely respected actor, appearing in classics like “All The President’s Men,” “Kramer vs. Kramer” and “Rain Man” (The latter two which he won the Best Actor Oscar twice). However, his early success may have contributed to a shift in what he deemed to be acceptable. In 2017, seven separate women accused him of sexual harassment or assault, which he denies responsibility for. He currently has no projects pending on IMDb and there’s no word on whether or not he will return back to the silver screen.

Jennifer Hudson – “Dreamgirls”

Jennifer Hudson had an unlikely rise to fame: she appeared on the third season of American Idol, catapulting herself into the entertainment industry with the pure power of her voice. The following year, she was cast as Effie in the film adaptation of “Dreamgirls,” set for limited release in late December of 2006. While the film was appreciated for all of its aspects, most of the critical approval centered on the musical numbers, particularly Hudson’s rendition “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.” That performance earned her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, deservedly so.

Two full years after her debut and Oscar-winning performance, Jennifer Hudson exercised her acting chops as Sarah Jessica Parker’s assistant in “Sex And The City.” Not exactly the move of a rising star returning to claim her throne. However, she’s stayed in touch with the industry, appearing in films such as “Winnie Mandela,” “The Secret Life Of Bees” and “Chi-Raq.” Perhaps given the right role, she can ascend to “you’re gonna love me” levels once again.

Jennifer Lawrence – “Winter’s Bone”

In 2010, Jennifer Lawrence broke onto the scene in “Winter’s Bone,” a story about an impoverished teenager in rural Missouri who provided care for her mentally-ill mother and two siblings. The film itself was critically acclaimed, earning a rating of 4 out of 4 from Roger Ebert and Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay nominations, however, Lawrence’s performance was the most talked about aspect of the whole project. She fully committed to the role, even living with the family the story was based on for a week before shooting, and this commitment showed in her performance, earning her a nod for Best Actress, before ultimately falling to Natalie Portman in “Black Swan.”

Lawrence’s follow-up to her Oscar-worthy performance was a romance film titled “Like Crazy,” where Lawrence played the lead’s rebound girlfriend. The movie was essentially well-accepted, although nothing near the acclaim Lawrence received the year before. You can’t say that Lawrence has gotten comfortable, however: she has appeared in horror, science fiction, romance, biopics, and even blockbuster series, and she isn’t even 30 yet. She went on to win the Best Actress award for her work in “Silver Linings Playbook” and received another nomination, this time for Best Supporting Actress, for her work in 2013’s “American Hustle.” She still has decades of a career in front of her and she’s proven she has what it takes to be a star.

Lupita Nyong’o – “12 Years A Slave”

In her first ever major motion picture, Lupita Nyong’o played Patsey in 2013’s “12 Years A Slave,” as a well-liked slave who is favored by her master for her unusually large output of cotton. Great care was taken to stay true to the titular character’s real-life experiences, and the film was praised for not pulling any punches when it came to depicting the horrors of slavery. It garnered attention from the Academy, acquiring 9 nominations, three of which were wins, including Nyong’o for Best Supporting Actress and the coveted Best Picture award.

Nyong’o’s next appearance in a film after her win was in one of the most anticipated and widely seen films of all time, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (“Non-Stop” hit theaters just three days before she received her Oscar). There, she played Maz Kanata using motion capture technology, a huge departure from her previous roles. While there was infamous conflict surrounding the release of the new “Star Wars” trilogy, her character was generally well-liked and considered a highlight of the film. As well as continuing her appearances in subsequent “Star Wars” films, Nyong’o has continued to act in films such as “Queen Of Katwe,” “The Jungle Book” and “Black Panther.” She will later be in the upcoming reboot of “Charlie’s Angels.” Nyong’o is a young talent, with diverse performances and a range that can be pushed to achieve even greater feats in the coming years despite being anointed early on in her career. 

Haley Joel Osment – “The Sixth Sense”

Haley Joel Osment appeared in many times in small roles on TV or bit parts in movies, but his first big part was playing Cole Sear in “The Sixth Sense,” a psychic child who is working with a child psychologist to understand why he sees visions of mutilated people. A modern classic, “The Sixth Sense” has a twist that many consider being a standard, and has made a huge impact on the cultural film landscape, earning a spot on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Quotes list with the phrase “I see dead people.” The film earned 6 Academy Award nominations but won none of them, including Osment for Best Supporting Actor. That year, the honor went to Michael Caine in “The Cider House Rules.”

Osment returned to theater screens in 2000 with “Pay It Forward,” where he plays a child who is given a school assignment to attempt to make the world a better place. The performances were a saving grace for the film – where not many critics praised the film’s execution. Nearly all say that any value came directly from the performances given by the three leads. Afterward, Osment continued to have a career, though not as Oscar-worthy as his early work may imply. He has done a large amount of voice acting, specifically for video games, and has appeared on television shows and a few major motion pictures, most notably “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” and “Entourage.” While he hasn’t left the industry, he certainly is no longer in the spotlight as much as his younger years.

Sylvester Stallone – “Rocky”

While Bridges may have made his post-nom comeback with a boxing film, Sylvester Stallone broke onto the scene with one. In the 1976 film “Rocky,” Stallone plays the titular role, an aspiring boxer who gets a chance at the big time when Apollo Creed chooses him for a hometown-heroes style matchup. The film was a commercial success seemingly out of the blue – the film only had a budget of about $1 million and grew to make $117 million in the US box office alone – and found critical success to the tune of 10 Oscar nominations. Stallone received a nomination for Best Actor, a surprising feat considering his film debut was only 4 years prior and he was still a relative unknown at the time of “Rocky’s” release.

In 1978, Stallone returned in the starring role of “F.I.S.T.,” where he played a union member that was employed by an abusive trucking company. Although the movie was generally well received, there became a narrative that Stallone could only act well in physical roles and it didn’t help that he continued to return to the “Rocky” series, as well as originating and serializing his role as Rambo. Featuring heavily in “The Expendables” and the “Rocky” reboot “Creed” (Which brought him back to the Oscars with a nomination for Best Supporting Actor), Stallone seems to have fallen into the typecasting trap, but he still has plenty of active years ahead of him for audiences to see more of his range he displayed in “Creed” and will hopefully expand upon with “Creed 2.”

​Hailee Steinfeld – “True Grit”

In 2010, Hailee Steinfeld made her first feature-length debut acting opposite Jeff Bridges in “True Grit,” a Western film that focused on Mattie’s (Steinfeld) hunt for her father’s killer. She is joined by a Deputy U.S Marshal named Cogburn (Bridges), and together, they trek through unknown territory to find vengeance. The film was highly anticipated, being a full blown period western from the Oscar winning Coen Brothers and premiered to surprisingly high numbers on Christmas weekend. Overall, it received 10 Academy Awards nominations, with Steinfeld receiving a nod for Best Supporting Actress, although she lost to Melissa Leo in “The Fighter”. 

Following “True Grit,” Steinfeld didn’t hit the silver screen again until 2013’s “Hateship, Loveship”  which was met with middling reviews and a perpetually limited release, despite premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival that year. That film was clearly a bust but Steinfeld managed to land some standout projects (“Begin Again,” & the “Pitch Perfect” sequels) and a meaty lead role in “The Edge Of Seventeen” for which she received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical. One of the better coming-of-age films this decade, Steinfeld expertly portrayed the anxieties and frustrations of a teenage girl. Hopefully, we’ll get to see more of these kinds of performances from her, even if her music career is bordering on successful.

Denzel Washington – “Cry Freedom”

Denzel Washington achieved his first big break on the television hospital drama “St. Elsewhere,” but his first leading role on the big screen was in “Cry Freedom,” a 1987 drama set in South Africa’s Apartheid, where he played real-world activist Steve Biko. Filming took place in Zimbabwe due to the actively tense environment of South Africa, and the material was especially relevant considered some of Biko’s writings were still banned in areas around South Africa. Critics enjoyed the film, specifically noting the performances as exceptional, and the film earned three Oscar nominations, including one for Denzel Washington as Best Supporting Actor.

Washington returned to theaters the following year in “For Queen And Country,” where he played a British paratrooper. Critics did not respond particularly well to Washington’s follow-up, criticizing the execution of its messaging and Washington’s bad Cockney accent. However, he bounced back quickly, winning an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1989 for “Glory,” and then going on to appear in “Malcolm X,” “Remember The Titans,” “Training Day” (Which he won the Best Actor Oscar for) and directing and acting in “Fences.” Washington is one of the most respected actors of this generation, and his early work only hinted at what he had to offer.

The list could go on and on (Eva Marie Saint, Edward Norton, Anna Paquin, Barbra Streisand, and Barkhad Abdi among many more) but the lesson is the same: there is no “right” direction to go after an early Oscar nomination, but the next steps can define a person’s career, for better or worse. We look forward to seeing Timothée Chalamet’s follow-up, as well as the rest of his career beyond that with “Beautiful Boy” later this year and much more!

So what do you think of our list? Are you excited to see more Timothée Chalamet this year in both “Hot Summer Nights” and “Beautiful Boy” this year? Will he get another nominations 2 years in a row so early on in his career? Let us know in the comments section below.

You can follow Celia and hear more of her thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @filmsunstuck

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