Most Known For: “The Jerk,” “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” “Father of the Bride,”
Snubbed For: “The Jerk,” “Roxanne,” “All of Me”
Steve Martin doesn’t need an Oscar nomination, all he needs is… this lamp… and this chair… and a more than deserved reputation as an all-time great comedian/entertainer. Of course, after a career that has spanned five decades and seen some of the most iconic comedic performances in that span, a little recognition from the academy would be nice.
The good news is that Steve Martin has not gone his whole career without any recognition. As a writer, actor, producer, stand-up and musician, Martin is one of the most eclectic artists out there and even if the academy hasn’t been able to nominate him for his great work, he is still a Grammy and Emmy winner. But this is a film column, so let’s dive in to his big screen performances that deserved more love than they got.
Martin’s big break on the silver screen was in a film he also wrote, “The Jerk.” The film starts off with Martin’s Navin Johnson lying in the streets surrounded by hobos and explaining to the audience how he “was born a poor black child,” and this uproarious comedy just got better from there. “The Jerk” is out there, combining a lot of elements of Martin’s stand-up act but it holds up to this day and is considered one of the greatest comedy scripts ever written. The academy should have taken a page from when they nominated Mel Brooks’ “The Producers” – which even managed to pull of the win – and paid more attention to “The Jerk” for “Original Screenplay.”
“The Jerk” was also the first film in a long and successful partnership with Carl Reiner. One of the duos biggest successes was the 1984 film “All of Me.” Martin plays a lawyer who mysteriously winds up getting the soul of a recently deceased rich woman stuck inside his body and is forced to share it with her. The premise sounds ridiculous but it all worked and clicked with a number of award voting bodies. Martin and co-star Lily Tomlin received Best Actor/Actress nominations from the Golden Globes for Comedy, which isn’t that big of a surprise, but wins from the National Society of Film Critics and the New York Film Critics Circle would certainly qualify, beating out the “Amadeus” duo and Jeff Bridges in “Starman.” Oscars were still a no go for comedy, though.
Similar success would come for Martin in 1987 when he would write and star in his “Cyranno de Bergerac” adaptation, “Roxanne.” As fire chief with the gift of gab – mention his nose at your own risk – Martin once again impressed the National Society of Film Critics to earn the win as well as the Los Angeles Film Critics, tying with Jack Nicholson in his eventual Oscar-nominated performance in “Ironweed.” Nicholson would move on to Oscar night, Martin would not.
There are many more great performances from Steve Martin, from continued excellence in comedy like “Three Amigos,” more dramatic flair like “Parenthood,” and a mix in “The Father of the Bride” films, Martin has proven himself versatile, yet unlucky when it comes to the Oscars. While his films in this century have been much more miss than hit, Martin has still proven he has the chops with guest spots on SNL, hosting and presenting duty at the Oscars and in his other artistic ventures.
Thankfully, the academy at least moderately recognized their mistake in not nominating Martin in the past; last year they awarded him an honorary Oscar. AFI also got in on the fun as they recently honored him with its Lifetime Achievement Award.
There’s still a chance though that the academy could recognize him in the future. Martin hasn’t appeared in person on the big screen since 2011, but he will have a supporting turn in Ang Lee’s “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” as Norm Oglesby set to release in 2016. Steve Martin may not need an Oscar nomination, but I’m sure he wouldn’t argue against it.