Two of Hollywood's hottest male stars -- Brad Pitt ("Moneyball") and Leonardo DiCaprio ("J. Edgar") -- are among the frontrunners to win Best Actor at this year's Oscars but history tells us that their greatest asset, their looks, could also count against them.
While the Academy voters have had no problems awarding statuettes to the most glamorous female stars (Julia Roberts, Halle Berry, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron, Reese Witherspoon and Sandra Bullock in recent years) they constantly snub the most attractive leading men. Are the voters jealous of their success? Are the actors too pretty to be taken seriously?
Maybe the voters think they already have it all -- fame, money, good looks & millions of fans -- so why should they give them the one thing they are craving: to be recognized as serious actors instead of just box office stars.
It is more than a half century since the last genuine male sex symbol won an Oscar at the height of his power -- Marlon Brando for "On the Waterfront." His win finally came in 1955 only after losing at the three previous ceremonies. Even during Hollywood's most glamorous decades of the 1930s and 40s Clark Gable was the only screen idol to win an Oscar in his prime for "It Happened One Night."
For a select few there have been ways to overcome this "slap the stud" syndrome. The first is to let age play its part: Paul Newman had to wait until he was 62 before winning his Oscar with his seventh acting nomination, Ronald Colman was 57, Michael Caine 54 and Al Pacino 52.
The second way is to de-glamorize yourself: George Clooney packed on 35 pounds and grew a beard to win for "Syriana" while Javier Bardem had one of the ugliest haircuts in film history in "No Country for Old Men."
The most successful way to win has been to for an actor to go behind the camera: Robert Redford only ever received one acting nomination but struck gold for directing "Ordinary People." The following year Warren Beatty collected the same prize. Kevin Costner, Clint Eastwood (twice) and Mel Gibson all won two Oscars for helming and producing Best Picture champs while Ben Affleck and Matt Damon won their Oscars for co-writing "Good Will Hunting."
Pitt has lost two acting bids while DiCaprio has racked up three losses. They are in good company with this other matinee idols who never won an Oscar: Peter O'Toole (8 nominations), Richard Burton (7), Albert Finney (5), Charles Boyer (4 nominations), Montgomery Clift (4), Tom Cruise (3), Johnny Depp (3), Kirk Douglas (3), Marcello Mastroianni (3), James Dean (2), Cary Grant (2), Jude Law (2), Will Smith (2), John Travolta (2), Tony Curtis (1), Harrison Ford (1), Rock Hudson (1), Steve McQueen (1), Robert Mitchum (1) and Burt Reynolds (1).
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