Matthew McConaughey is the clear frontrunner to win Best Actor at this year’s Oscars for his performance in “Dallas Buyers Club.” If he prevails, he will have overcome the curse that has kept other Hollywood hunks — from Cary Grant and Montgomery Clift to Tom Cruise and Johnny Depp — from collecting Oscars over the years.
While Brad Pitt may well win an Oscar as one of the producers of Best Picture frontrunner “12 Years a Slave,” he has lost this three bids for performances. Likewise for another of this year’s Best Actor nominees — Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Wolf of Wall Street.”) — who has gone down to defeat three times in the past.
Why is DiCaprio destined to be an also-ran yet again but McConaughey is predicted to prevail on his first nomination?
Because after being snubbed last for playing a stripper in “Magic Mike,” McConaughey learned a lesson from another Hollywood prettyboy — George Clooney — who packed on the pounds and won Best Supporting Actor in 2006 for “Syriana.” Just as Clooney showed the academy that there was more to him than just movie star good looks, McConaughey transformed himself into real-life AIDS patient Ron Woodroof. He shed 47 pounds from his athletic frame and revealed the ravages of the disease on his face and body to such an extent that his makeup team also picked up a nomination.
While Pitt and DiCaprio each reaped supporting bids for playing against type in “12 Monkeys” (1995) and “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” (1993) respectively, their Best Actor bids came for classic leading man roles.
Pitt contended as Best Actor for the first time in 2008 for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” While his handsome visage may have been covered with aging makeup for part of the picture, CGI was also used to make him look two decades younger than he really was and even prettier than leading lady Cate Blanchett; he lost to Sean Penn (“Milk”). In 2011, he contended for playing real-life baseball manager Billy Beane in “Moneyball.” His only concession to vanity was a less-than-flattering haircut. Gallic charmer Jean Dujardin rode the wave of love for “The Artist” to victory that year.
DiCaprio travelled the aging route when he played Howard Hughes in the 2004 biopic “The Aviator.” However, most of the film was devoted to telling the tale of young Hughes in Hollywood when he charmed a series of lovely ladies, including Katharine Hepburn. Blanchett, who is expected to win Best Actress this year for “Blue Jasmine,” won the supporting prize for playing that screen legend while DiCaprio lost to Jamie Foxx as the blind singer-songwriter Ray Charles in “Ray.” DiCaprio contended again in 2006 for “Blood Diamond.” In that picture, drawn from the headlines, he played a Rhodesian diamond smuggler. While his accent caught the attention of the actors branch, the academy opted for Forest Whitaker, who played real-life dictator Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland.”
This year, DiCaprio is nominated for his performance as real-life financier turned felon Jordan Belfort. While he behaves badly throughout the film — with lots of scenes of drug-fuelled orgies and decadent excess — he always looks great when doing so, clad in designer gear or stripping down to reveal his toned and tanned physique. And while this won him lots of admiring glances, it won’t be getting him an Oscar.
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