Screen legend Robert Redford has won two Oscars, but neither were for acting. In 1980 he was awarded Best Director for “Ordinary People,” and in 2001 he received an honorary Oscar for his body of work. Despite five decades of film stardom, he’s only ever been nominated once for acting (“The Sting,” 1973) and he lost that race to Jack Lemmon (“Save the Tiger”). We thought his overdue status might help him snag an Oscar for his performance in the lost-as-sea drama “All is Lost” in 2013, but that didn’t pan out as he was snubbed. Will he have better luck for his role as CBS news anchor Dan Rather in “Truth“?
There’s reason to believe this role might work out better for him at the Oscars. First, “All is Lost” was a tough sit: a single-character drama with virtually no dialogue, so voters might have been hesitant to watch it despite the stature of Redford and director J.C. Chandor (who had just been nominated for his “Margin Call” screenplay two years earlier). “Truth” is much more accessible to mainstream viewers, telling the story of crusading journalists under fire for their reporting of President George W. Bush‘s military service record.
Redford also has the advantage of competing in the supporting category this time around. Though veterans do win the lead-acting race, it’s more often Best Supporting Actor that the academy uses as a de facto lifetime achievement award. Consider these victories for actors of advanced age: Jack Palance (“City Slickers,” 1991), James Coburn (“Affliction,” 1998), Morgan Freeman (“Million Dollar Baby,” 2004), Alan Arkin (“Little Miss Sunshine,” 2006) and the oldest acting champ in Oscar history, Christopher Plummer, who was 82 when he prevailed for “Beginners” in 2011. Redford is 79-years-old, so the academy could choose now to finally hand him his first acting victory.
It doesn’t hurt that Redford plays a real-life, recognizable person. Dan Rather was a revered broadcast journalist who was forced to resign in the wake of questions about the veracity of his “60 Minutes” investigation of Bush. A star playing a star is how Redford’s “Truth” co-star Cate Blanchett won her first Academy Award: she claimed Best Supporting Actress in 2004 for playing all-time Oscar champ Katharine Hepburn in “The Aviator.” Another veteran actor recently won Oscar for playing a recognizable star: Martin Landau as actor Bela Lugosi in “Ed Wood” (1994).
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Photo Credit: Moviestore Collection Ltd/REX