Oscar flashback: When Sylvester Stallone’s ‘Rocky’ was crowned Best Picture champ

Creed” opened on November 25, 40 years to the day of the first scene in “Rocky.” This seventh film in the franchise looks to be the one that finally wins Sylvester Stallone, who created the iconic character of Rocky Balboa, an Oscar. Back in 1976, he contended for both Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay for the original film, losing to “Network” star (Peter Finch) and scribe (Paddy Chayefsky) respectively. The consolation prize — his movie won Best Picture over that film as well as “All the President’s Men,” “Bound for Glory” and “Taxi Driver.” (Above: Watch Stallone accompany producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff up on stage to accept that award from Jack Nicholson.)

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This time around, Stallone has the advantage of competing in supporting where he is the overwhelming frontrunner with the backing of 22 of our 26 Experts (journalists who cover the Oscar beat year-round), all seven of our in-house Editors, 20 of the Top 24 (those two dozen folks who did the best predicting last year’s winners) and 80% of all those who have entered our predictions contest. 

While veterans do win Best Actor from time to time, it’s more often that that the academy uses Best Supporting Actor as a de facto lifetime achievement award. Stallone is now 69, which would make him the 11th oldest winner in the 80-year history of this award. 

The oldest ever was Christopher Plummer, who was 82 when he prevailed for “Beginners” in 2011. Other champs who were quite gray when they got Oscar gold include Jack Palance (73 when he won for “City Slickers,” 1991); Alan Arkin (72; “Little Miss Sunshine,” 2006) James Coburn (70; “Affliction,” 1998) and Morgan Freeman (67; “Million Dollar Baby,” 2004). 

Stallone would make Oscar history if he prevails for playing the same part. Currently, Paul Newman holds the record for the longest gap between Oscar bids for the same character. He first played pool shark Eddie Felson in 1961’s “The Hustler,” losing Best Actor to Maximilian Schell (“Judgment at Nuremberg”). A quarter of a century later he won his only Oscar in this same race for reprising the role in “The Color of Money”

Bing Crosby holds the record for the shortest gap between nominations for repeating a role. He won Best Actor in 1944 for creating the character of Father Chuck O’Malley in “Going My Way” but lost that same race the following year for the sequel “The Bells of St. Mary’s” to Ray Milland, star of the Best Picture winner “The Lost Weekend.”

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Al Pacino lost two times in three years for playing Michael Corleone. He contended in supporting for “The Godfather” in 1972 (Joel Grey won for “Cabaret”) and then in lead in 1974 when Art Carney (“Harry and Tonto”) pulled off an upset. 

Oscar’s biggest also-ran among actors was Peter O’Toole. He lost two of his eight Oscar races for his portrayal of King Henry II, first in “Becket” in 1964 to Rex Harrison (“My Fair Lady”) and then in 1968 for “The Lion in Winter” to Cliff Robertson (“Charly”). 

Cate Blanchett reaped two Best Actress bids for playing Queen Elizabeth I, losing for “Elizabeth” in 1998 to Gywneth Paltrow (“Shakespeare in Love”) and in 2007 for “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” to Marion Cotillard (“La Vie en Rose”). 

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Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

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