“Birdman” star Michael Keaton has sat atop our Best Actor chart all awards season long. Rounding out the top five are three British thespians — Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything“), Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Imitation Game“) David Oyelowo (“Selma) — and another American, Steve Carell (“Foxcatcher“).
There are three more Brits — Timothy Spall (“Mr. Turner“), Bill Nighy (“Pride“) and Jim Broadbent (“Le Week-End“) — jockeying for that fifth slot currently occupied by Carell. And Keaton should be hoping that one of them makes it in as the lone American has always won an Oscar when facing four foreign rivals.
In 1971, Jane Fonda (“Klute”) won her first Best Actress award over Julie Christie (“McCabe and Mrs. Miller”), Glenda Jackson (“Sunday Bloody Sunday”), Vanessa Redgrave (“Mary, Queen of Scots)”, and Janet Sussman (“Nicholas and Alexandra”). Despite the controversy that swirled around Fonda and her anti-Vietnam war crusade, the then largely politically conservative academy gave her the award. Of the other nominees, only Sussman even bothered to attend the ceremony.
In 1983, the Best Actor category was again filled with four Brits — Michael Caine (“Educating Rita”), Tom Conti (“Reuben, Reuben”) and “The Dresser”‘s Tom Courtney and Albert Finney — and one American, Robert Duvall (“Tender Mercies”). After three loses, Duvall won his only Oscar to date.
In 1992, the most surprising case of American loyalty occurred. Marissa Tomei, appearing in just her second film, “My Cousin Vinny,” beat three British stage and screen stars — Joan Plowright (“Enchanted April”), Vanessa Redgrave (“Howards End”) and Miranda Richardson (“Damage”) — and one Australian (Judy Davis, “Husbands and Wives”) who many people mistakenly thought was British. Indeed, presenter Jack Palance introduced the nominees as all being from foreign countries, four English and one from Brooklyn. With Emma Thompson (“Howards End”) a lock for Best Actress, perhaps the academy voters wanted to keep one Oscar at home.
And in 1997, Helen Hunt (“As Good As It Gets”) edged out four Brits — Helena Bonham Carter (“The Wings of the Dove”), Julie Christie (“Afterglow”), Judi Dench (“Mrs. Brown”) and Kate Winslet (“Titanic”). Hunt also won an Emmy that year for her laffer “Mad About You.”
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