Some might consider it cynical to lump several Oscar wins in to a single championing role category – but the proof is in the pudding. If an actor wants to increase their chances of displaying a small golden man on their fireplace, they’d better chase scripts that allow them to attempt a ‘challenging’ role. Something that has a real world comparison:
Portray someone with a disability/illness = OSCAR SUCCESS
Almost one in five Oscar wins for Best-Actor/Actress have been awarded to those playing a character based on a real person. But if you can’t bag a biopic role, how about a bit of method acting and heart-wrenching reality? A total of 16% of winners, both male and female, were awarded for portrayals of physical disability or mental illness. Dustin Hoffman won Best Actor in 1988 for his role in ‘Rain Man‘, having reportedly spent a year hanging out with young autistic men and their families. Daniel Day-Lewis won Best Actor in 1989 as cerebral palsy sufferer and artist Christy Brown in ‘My Left Foot‘. Supposedly Day-Lewis formed lasting friendships with several disabled people prior to filming; when on set he’d refuse to come out of character between takes, remaining in his wheelchair to understand the permanence of the illness.
The all-seeing and all-knowing Tom Hanks figured out the key to Oscar success early in his career. His role as HIV-positive attorney in ‘Philadelphia’ (1994) and his depiction of slow-witted ‘Forrest Gump’ won him back-to-back Best Actor awards.
Al Pacino was nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor seven times before finally figuring out the winning formula and taking a role as a blind army lieutenant colonel in ‘Scent of a Woman’; the film behind his 1992 Best Actor award. This year was no exception with a flurry of talent losing their Oscar win virginity for portraying a degenerative illness. Julianne Moore won Best Actress for her Alzheimer-stricken character ‘Still Alice‘ and Eddie Redmayne won Best Actor for his portrayal of Stephen Hawkings and his battle with progressive Motor Neuron disease in the ‘Theory of Everything‘.
As conclusive proof of the Oscar winning formula I present to you, Matthew McConaughey.
McConaughey was the king of the RomCom. No-one would have given him credit for any particularly notable acting skills or definitive character depictions, he was a pretty face with some pretty impressive muscles to match. He needed a role that allowed him to hit his ‘go-to hunk’ label out the park. Cue Dallas Buyers Club.
The film was based on Texan rodeo-riding electrician Ron Woodruff who was diagnosed with HIV in 1985 and given 30 days to live. McConaughey shed his muscle down to the bone with a weight loss of 3st 7lbs, supposedly through ‘chewing a lot of ice’. Both he and Jared Leto (who also shed weight for his role as a HIV-positive transvestite) won Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor respectively at the 2014 Oscars.
The formula is real.