SAM #4: Actresses Turned Producers & Best Picture

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Welcome to Stat Awards Monday (or, S.A.M., for short). In this new awards season weekly column for Awards Circuit, I—Sam—will be guiding an investigation of interesting stats currently brewing in the Oscar race. Three weeks ago, in the inaugural S.A.M., I scrutinized the unlikelihood that Best Actor will be populated with ZERO former nominees. And in SAM #2, I examined the rarity with which screenplays with four writers win Oscars. In SAM #3, I checked out the very small club of fantastical characters (witches, wizards, etc.) receiving Oscar nominations.

This week, I switch gears a little bit. In the past, I’ve used SAM and stats for the purpose of proving something.   This week, I simply highlight a fascinating stat that is occurring this Oscar season. The fact alone, I don’t think, will sway any voters nor do I think it foreclosing any possible nominations this year. Simply, it’s a fascinating stat worthy of mention.

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STAT #1: ONLY ONE WOMAN primarily known for acting has ever been nominated for producing a Best Picture: Barbra Streisand for producing 1991’s The Prince of Tides*.

Interpreting the Stat: That’s right: one. The grand dame, Babs. Not to mention, it was for a film in which she not only starred in, but also directed. Babs was famously twice “snubbed” for a Best Director nomination at the Oscars, which could possibly highlight the fact that the notorious Boys Club branch is not only biased towards female directors, but extra biased towards actresses-turned-directors.

*Okay, okay, so Babs is probably primarily known as a singer before an actress. I mean, Babs has a surprising haul of Oscar nominations: 1 for Best Picture, two for Best Original Song (with one win in 1976), and two for Best Actress (with one win in 1968). So for the purposes of this article, I’m going to call Babs an actress, okay?

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But I’m getting a little off track. We’re not talking Best Director—we’re talking Best Picture. And when I say “actress,” I mean an actress, not the likes of Sofia Coppola and her brief stint of acting in The Godfather Part III or Kathryn Bigelow’s quartet of acting credits. I’m talking real actresses. Actresses who are known for acting.

Why do I bring this up? Well, a buried storyline this year (guilty, I buried it in the 7th paragraph), is that a trio of Oscar-nominated actresses could get Best Picture nominations. Check it out:

1999 Best Supporting Actress champ Angelina Jolie is a credited producer on her sophomore directorial effort, Unbroken.

One of 1985’s Best Supporting Actress losers (perhaps the least important thing she’s known for) and Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award winner, Oprah Winfrey is one of the many credited producers on Ava DuVernay’s Selma.

Finally, 2005’s Best Actress, Reese Witherspoon, is a credited producer on David Fincher’s masterpiece Gone Girl and Wild. Assuming Wild is out of the running and Gone Girl regains its footing, that means we could quadruple the number of actress-producers IN ONE YEAR.

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But is this a big deal? I think so. Look at the legion of male actors who have garnered Best Picture nominations: Leonardio DiCaprio, Brad Pitt (twice), Ben Affleck, George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Sydney Pollack (dabbled equally in front of and behind the camera), Ron Howard (see: Pollack), Clint Eastwood (same), Kevin Costner (same), Mel Gibson (same), Robert Redford, Bob Balaban, Danny DeVito, Rob Reiner, Warren Beatty, Richard Attenborough, and Michael Douglas. Now, many of those men directed the films for which they were nominated—but Jolie is doing so this year. Many more acting in the films only, like Leo and Wahlberg. Even fewer were involved from a sole behind-the-scenes standpoint, like Douglas and DeVito. With Jolie, Oprah, and Witherspoon this year, we have all three types.

Why haven’t many actresses been nominated for Best Picture when their male counterparts have been in legion? Especially recently, since 2010, we’ve had seven instances of actors nominated as producers. What gives? Where the ladies at?

Angelina Jolie and the real-life POW survivor, Louis Zamperini.
Angelina Jolie and the real-life POW survivor, Louis Zamperini.

Hopefully this stat quadruples on Oscar nomination morning.

Our fearless leader, Clayton is predicting Oprah to win Best Picture, but for Jolie to at least receive a nomination…and yet he has Witherspoon ranked at #11 for Gone Girl. Me? I’m predicting all of these actresses to earn Best Picture nomination certificates.

Thoughts on SAM #4? Let me know! This is a new Column and I want it to be the best it can be! What other stats would you like me to talk about?