While the Academy Award producers are targeting younger audiences for their telecast this year's top winners could break the record as the oldest ever. If George Clooney (50), Meryl Streep (62), Christopher Plummer (82), Vanessa Redgrave (75) and Steven Spielberg (65) all prevail, a new record would be set at 334 years old.
The benchmark was set 30 years ago when three of the acting champs (Henry Fonda, Katharine Hepburn & John Gielgud) were in their seventies, Maureen Stapleton was 56 and helming winner Warren Beatty turned 45 the day after the ceremony. Their combined age totalled 327 and smashed the previous record set in 1968 when Katharine Hepburn, Ruth Gordon and Jack Albertson were part of a quintet that ran to 301 years.
Only seven Best Actress races have gone to women over 60 and Hepburn claimed three of those. This year, two favorites are both past that mark -- double Oscar winner Streep with "The Iron Lady" and five-time nominee Glenn Close (64) with "Albert Nobbs."
While the supporting categories often go to older actors, this year's winners could be the oldest ever. George Burns was 80 years and 69 days when he won Best Supporting Actor for "The Sunshine Boys." Leading contenders include Plummer ("Beginners") and 82-year-old Max von Sydow ("Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close"). Even the younger challengers in the supporting actor race are over 50: Kenneth Branagh (51 in December) for "My Week with Marilyn," Jim Broadbent (62) for "The Iron Lady" and Albert Brooks (64) for "Drive."
Best Supporting Actress is the category that could halt the record bid as the leading contender -- Octavia Spencer for "The Help" -- is a mere 39 years old. She has even more youthful competition from Berenice Bejo ("The Artist"), Jessica Chastain ("The Help," "The Tree of Life" and "Take Shelter") and Shailene Woodley ("The Descendants"). However, there is still a chance for the elder generation with previous category champs Redgrave for "Coriolanus" and Judi Dench (77 in December) for "J. Edgar" also in contention.
Spielberg is a frontrunner for Best Director with "War Horse" while Terrence Malick (68 in November) is another strong contender for "The Tree of Life." Two-time winner Clint Eastwood (81) is the record holder for oldest winner in the category with his 2004 win for "Million Dollar Baby." Were he to contend for "J. Edgar," he would be the oldest helming nominee ever, eclipsing the mark set by John Huston in 1985.
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