Are Marion Cotillard and Tilda Swinton one-time Oscar wonders?

A dozen Best Actress Oscar winners and 35 Best Supporting Actress champs won with their only nomination (see lists below). Two of the most recent of these both prevailed in 2007 — Marion Cotillard for her lead performance in “La Vie en Rose” and Tilda Swinton for her featured role in “Michael Clayton.” Though each has been touted as a potential contender in the three subsequent derbies, neither has reaped another bid. Will their luck change this year?


Both of them won hard-fought contests at the 2007 Academy Awards. In the supporting category, Amy Ryan (“Gone Baby Gone”) had won nearly every critics’ award in sight, including the LAFCA Award, NYFCC Award and NBR. Cate Blanchett (“I’m Not There”) was a double-nominee (also nominated in lead for “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”) with several of her own critics’ awards, plus a Golden Globe. Ruby Dee (“American Gangster”) came out of nowhere with her Oscar nomination but was fresh off of a win at the SAG Awards. Despite this win and a Satellite Award nomination being her only two precursor nominations to the Academy Awards, she still posed a threat, as unrewarded veterans sporadically win. And while it might have seemed easy to dismiss Saoirse Ronan‘s chances, it was hard to write off since she was in a Best Picture nominee (“Atonement”), plus in the same category that honored Patty Duke (“The Miracle Worker”), Tatum O’Neal (“Paper Moon”) and Anna Paquin (“The Piano”).

Then there was Swinton. She had three critics’ awards (Dallas, Kansas City and Vancouver) and posed a huge threat once she had won the BAFTA. “Michael Clayton” had received seven nominations and many felt if it was going to win anywhere, it would be in Supporting Actress. To the surprise and delight of many, Alan Arkin opened the envelope and declared Swinton the winner. An actress that many deemed overdue (particularly for 1994’s “Orlando” and 2001’s “The Deep End”) would now not only have a nomination to her credit but the actual gold man on her mantle. 

What would follow would be an exciting post-winning career, filled with smart choices and complex roles. But not a single Oscar nomination. In 2008, she had two supporting roles in “Burn After Reading” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” Outside of a Saturn Award win and a slew of ensemble nominations and wins, Swinton received no individual accolades for “Button.” While the majority of supporting nominations went to costar Taraji P. Henson, it’s Swinton who packed a lasting punch in her limited screen time. For “Burn After Reading,” her chances of a nomination were gone after the Academy snubbed it across the board (a rarity for anything Coen-related these days). She did receive a Supporting Actress nomination at BAFTA, which put her on some radars.

The following year would contain one of the biggest snubs in recent history, and that was Swinton in Lead Actress for “Julia.” While everyone was slinging passionate thoughts from every direction in the Sandra Bullock (“The Blind Side”) versus Meryl Streep (“Julie and Julia”) showdown, hardly anyone was mentioning the career-defining role Swinton delivered in “Julia.” However, its box office performance was poor ($65,000 US box office), and there was barely a campaign.

Last year, Swinton managed to knock our socks off again in the Best Foreign Language Film nominee “I Am Love.” 2010 would give us one of the most competitive Best Actress races ever with easily 15 candidates that warranted nominations. Where Sophia Loren and Roberto Benigni had prevailed under the same circumstances, Swinton couldn’t even land the nomination.

This year, she has “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” an adaptation of Lionel Shriver‘s book of the same name, costarring John C. Reilly. It currently stands at 94% on Rotten Tomatoes and doesn’t look to disappoint. Fingers crossed for Oscar to welcome Swinton back with open arms.

2007 didn’t have us just scratching our heads over who would win Supporting Actress but also Lead Actress. It was a two-horse race, with previous winner Julie Christie (1965, “Darling”) coming in fresh off her Golden Globe (Drama) and SAG wins, plus several critics’ awards, including the NYFC.  Her film, “Away From Her,” also had an extra boost of support in that its writer, Sarah Polley, was also nominated for Adapted Screenplay.

Cotillard, nominated for portraying Edith Piaf in Olivier Dahan‘s foreign film, “La Vie en Rose,” was a relative newcomer to American audiences. Despite fans unfamiliarity with Cotillard, she came into the race with wins from the LAFC, the Golden Globe (Musical/Comedy) and the BAFTA. Ultimately, in one of the toughest Best Actress races of the 2000s, Cotillard, prevailed.

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What has followed in the years since her win is a great career. She was off the radar in 2008, but in 2009 she came bursting back on the scene with great supporting work in “Public Enemies” opposite Johnny Depp and Christian Bale then the ensemble musical, “Nine.” While good in “Public Enemies,” she stole the show in the underwhelming “Nine.” Though the film disappointed many, the Academy honored it with four nominations, including Supporting Actress Penelope Cruz. Part of the blame for Cotillard’s snubbing can be placed on The Weinstein Company who wrongfully campaigned Cotillard in Lead Actress.  If any performer deserved to be nominated for “Nine,” it was Cotillard.  Had she been placed in the proper category, she most likely would have ended up with the nomination.

Last year, “Inception” received huge love from the Academy, garnering four wins out of eight nominations. With this came the egregious snubbing of Leonardo DiCaprio (for both “Inception” and especially “Shutter Island”). If he couldn’t land the nomination, then no way was the solid heart-wrenching turn by Cotillard going to be recognized.

Finally, we are to this year where Cotillard has turned in, yet again, two rock solid performances. In “Contagion,” her storyline gets lost in the mix and doesn’t quite have the arc it should have. Still, she delivers. It’s been both a critical and box office hit and will certainly make more of mainstream America more familiar with who she is.

It is in the June-released Woody Allen comedy, “Midnight in Paris,” where Cotillard shines brightest among a solid ensemble. A film that could have easily been lost in the shuffle of summer blockbusters has made history as Woody Allen’s highest grossing film (surpassing “Annie Hall” and currently sitting at $53 million) and is still generating an audience. In the film, Owen Wilson delivers the performance of his career and it’s thanks in part to his on-screen flame, Marion Cotillard. She doesn’t show up until late in the movie, but she is the one you remember upon walking out.

One can hope that Oscar welcomes back Swinton and Cotillard this year. If not, the ladies will remain in good company. The following actresses all won Oscars on their only nomination:

Best Actress

Sandra Bullock (2009, “The Blind Side”)
– Marion Cotillard (2007, “La Vie en Rose”)
– Reese Witherspoon (2005, “Walk the Line”)
– Halle Berry (2001, “Monster’s Ball”)
– Gwyneth Paltrow (1998, “Shakespeare In Love”)
– Helen Hunt (1997, “As Good as It Gets”)
– Marlee Matlin (1986, “Children of a Lesser God”)
– Louise Fletcher (1975, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”)
– Shirley Booth (1952, “Come Back, Little Sheba”)
– Judy Holliday (1950, “Born Yesterday”)
– Ginger Rogers (1940, “Kitty Foyle”)
– Mary Pickford (1929, “Coquette”)*

*Though Pickford received only one competitive nomination/win in her career, she was also honored in 1976 with an Honorary Award.

Best Supporting Actress

– Mo’Nique (2009, “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”)
– Tilda Swinton (2007, “Michael Clayton”)
– Jennifer Hudson (2005, “Dreamgirls”)
– Rachel Weisz (2005, “The Constant Gardener”)
– Catherine Zeta-Jones (2002, “Chicago”)
– Jennifer Connelly (2001, “A Beautiful Mind”)
– Kim Basinger (1997, “L.A. Confidental”)
– Mira Sorvino (1995, “Mighty Aphrodite”)
Anna Paquin (1993, “The Piano”)
– Mercedes Ruehl (1991, “The Fisher King”)
– Brenda Fricker (1989, “My Left Foot”)
– Olympia Dukakis (1987, “Moonstruck”)
– Peggy Ashcroft (1984, “A Passage to India”)
– Linda Hunt (1983, “The Year of Living Dangerously”)
– Mary Steenburgen (1980, “Melvin and Howard”)
– Beatrice Straight (1976, “Network”)
– Tatum O’Neal (1973, “Paper Moon”)
– Cloris Leachman (1971, “The Last Picture Show”)
– Sandy Dennis (1966, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”)
– Lila Kedrova (1964, “Zorba the Greek”)
– Margaret Rutherford (1963, “The V.I.P.s”)
– Patty Duke (1962, “The Miracle Worker”)
– Rita Moreno (1961, “West Side Story”)
– Shirley Jones (1960, “Elmer Gantry”)
– Miyoshi Umeki (1957, “Sayonara”)
– Dorothy Malone (1956, “Written on the Wind”)
– Jo Van Fleet (1955, “East of Eden”)
– Eva Marie Saint (1954, “On the Waterfront”)
– Donna Reed (1953, “From Here to Eternity”)
– Kim Hunter (1951, “A Streetcar Named Desire”)
– Josephine Hull (1950, “Harvey”)
– Katrina Paxinou (1943, “For Whom the Bell Tolls”)
– Mary Astor (1941, “The Great Life”)
– Jane Darwell (1940, “The Grapes of Wrath”)
– Hattie McDaniel (1939, “Gone with the Wind”)

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