The Best Actress Oscar is usually awarded to an ingenue, unlike the Best Actor prize which is typically taken by a veteran. Indeed, a whopping 32 of the 89 Best Actress winners were in their 20s when they picked up their prizes, including last year’s winner Emma Stone (“La La Land”). Among those this 28-year-old prevailed over was Isabelle Huppert (“Elle”), a 63-year-old actress who has the stature of Meryl Streep in her native France. (Scroll down for the most up-to-date predictions for this year’s Best Actress race.)
Unlike Huppert, who was an Oscar newbie, Stone had vied down in supporting in 2014 for “Birdman.” Likewise, 2012 Best Actress champ Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”) had been nominated in 2010 for “Winter’s Bone.” At 22, Lawrence ranks as the second-youngest winner ever, having about a year on Marlee Matlin (“Children of a Lesser God,” 1986).
Streep had defied this youth bias when, at age 62, she picked up her third Oscar in 2012 for “The Iron Lady.” She had the overdue factor in her favor as it had been almost three decades since her second win for “Sophie’s Choice.” Likewise for Helen Mirren who was 61 when she prevailed for “The Queen” in 2007 after two previous losses. Geraldine Page was also 61 when she finally won on nomination #8 for “A Trip to Bountiful” in 1986. Katharine Hepburn, who was 26 when she claimed her first Oscar in 1934 for “Morning Glory,” had just entered her 60s when she won Best Actress back-to-back (“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” 1967; “The Lion in Winter,” 1968). The only other Best Actress champ in her 60s was Marie Dressler who won for “Min and Bill” at the 4th Academy Awards in 1931.
Hepburn was almost 75 when she won her record fourth Oscar for “On Golden Pond” in 1982 while Jessica Tandy was 80 when she prevailed in 1990 for “Driving Miss Daisy.”
Julianne Moore was 54 when she finally won after four losses for “Still Alice” in 2015. The only other Best Actress winner in her 50s was theater veteran Shirley Booth who won for reprising her Tony-winning role in 1952’s “Come Back, Little Sheba.” Fourteen of the 89 Best Actress winners were in their 40s when they took to the stage while 34 were thirtysomething.
UPDATED: August 23, 2017
Netflix just confirmed that “Our Souls at Night” will get a theatrical release on Sept. 29, thereby launching two-time Oscar champ Jane Fonda (“Klute,” “Coming Home”) into the Oscar race. This charmer reunites her with Robert Redford 50 years after they made movie magic in “Barefoot in the Park.” They play a pair of friends who may become something more than that when each is widowed.
Diane Kruger won Best Actress at Cannes for her heartbreaking performance in Fatih Akin‘s riveting political drama “In the Fade.” She plays a grieving woman coming to terms with the murder of her husband and son at the hands of neo Nazis. This showcase for Kruger just got picked up by Magnolia Pictures and will get a year-end qualifying release.
Also new to the hunt is two-time nominee Saoirse Ronan in Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird,” which just got picked up by A24 and will be out in the fall. Ronan plays a California teenager hoping to escape her small town and attend college in New York City.
Last year’s winner, Stone, is back in contention this year for portraying tennis ace Billie Jean King in “Battle of the Sexes.” Taking on the challenge of conveying the character of a real-life woman has been the winning formula for seven of the last 15 Best Actress winners, including both Mirren and Streep.
Huppert also headlines another French langugae film, “Happy End,” a timely film about the refugee crisis, which debuted in Cannes. She is working again with Michael Haneke, who wrote and directed the Oscar-contending “Amour” in 2012.
Perennial nominee Meryl Streep portrays Washington Post publisher Kay Graham in “The Papers,” Steven Spielberg‘s docudrama about her 1971 decision to trust editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) and publish a classified dossier on the escalating American involvement in the Vietnam conflict.
Judi Dench reaped her first Oscar bid 20 years for playing Queen Victoria in “Mrs. Brown,” which told the moving story of the widowed Queen’s friendship with Scotsman John Brown (Billy Connolly) soon after her beloved Prince Albert died in 1861. She returns to the role in “Victoria and Abdul,” which is set in 1887 and chronicles the relationship between the monarch, who is celebrating her golden jubilee, and her new Indian servant Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal). Over the ensuing years, he becomes one of Victoria’s most trusted confidantes, which is a cause for concern among the royal courtiers.
Michelle Williams is certainly overdue having lost her four previous bids. She stars in two very different true stories this year: the wife of circus impresario P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman) in “The Great Showman” and Gail Getty, the mother of the kidnapped oil heir J. Paul Getty III who battles his namesake (Kevin Spacey) over paying the ransom in “All the Money in the World.”
Annette Bening is equally overdue and is said to be outstanding in her portrayal of Oscar winner Gloria Grahame (“The Bad and the Beautiful”) in “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool.” However, Sony Pictures Classics has not slotted this in for a release this year but may do so after it screens at the late summer film festivals.
Please note: Only those films with confirmed release dates are listed below. Check back often as new contenders are scheduled while other are dropped due to delays or critical reaction. Several contenders are also included in the Best Supporting Actress round-up, pending confirmation of campaign strategies.
UPDATED: August 23, 2017
Jessica Chastain, “Molly’s Game” (STX Entertainment)
Judi Dench, “Victoria and Abdul” (Focus Features)
Jane Fonda, “Our Souls at Night” (Netflix)
Diane Kruger, “In the Fade” (Magnolia Pictures)
Jennifer Lawrence, “mother!” (Paramount Pictures)
Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Carey Mulligan, “Mudbound” (Netflix)
Julia Roberts, “Wonder” (Lionsgate)
Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird” (A24)
Emma Stone, “Battle of the Sexes” (Fox Searchlight)
Meryl Streep, “The Papers” (20th Century Fox)
Michelle Williams, “All the Money in the World” (Tristar)
Michelle Williams, “The Greatest Showman” (20th Century Fox)
Debra Winger, “The Lovers” (A24)
Kate Winslet, “The Mountain Between Us” (20th Century Fox/Chernin Entertainment)
Kate Winslet, “Wonder Wheel” (Amazon Studios)
Claire Foy, “Breathe” (Bleecker Street/Participant Media)
Gal Gadot, “Wonder Woman” (Warner Bros.)
Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Salma Hayek, “Beatriz at Dinner” (Roadside Attractions)
Isabelle Huppert, “Happy End” (Sony Pictures Classics)
Nicole Kidman, “The Beguiled” (Focus Features/Gramercy Pictures)
Margot Robbie, “Goodbye, Christopher Robin” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Rachel Weisz, “My Cousin Rachel” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Sally Hawkins, “Maudie” (Sony Pictures Classics)
Nicole Kidman, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” (A24)
Brie Larson, “The Glass Castle” (Lionsgate)
Margaret Qualley, “Novitiate” (Sony Pictures Classics)
Riley Keough, “Under the Silver Lake” (A24)
Elizabeth Olsen, “Wind River” (The Weinstein Company)
Emma Watson, “Beauty and the Beast” (Walt Disney Pictures)
In the coming weeks and months, we will be predicting all 24 of the competitive categories at the Oscars.
Best Picture | Best Director | Best Original Screenplay | Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Actor | Best Actress | Best Supporting Actor | Best Supporting Actress
Best Cinematography | Best Costume Design | Best Film Editing | Best Production Design
Best Makeup & Hairstyling | Best Sound Editing | Best Sound Mixing | Best Visual Effects
Best Original Score | Best Original Song
Best Animated Feature | Best Documentary Feature | Best Foreign Language Film
Best Animated Short | Best Documentary Short | Best Live-Action Short