Why do Academy Awards get doled out to everybody in Hollywood except its hottest actors? A list of Oscar's biggest losers looks like a roster of its top matinee idols through screen history -- from Cary Grant, James Dean, Montgomery Clift and Rock Hudson to Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Johnny Depp.
Studs have had a much better shot winning Oscars for working behind the camera -- as proven by Best Director victories by Robert Redford ("Ordinary People," 1980) and Warren Beatty ("Reds," 1981) among others.
Measured by box office gold, Will Smith is the biggest star in Hollywood, but he's never earned academy gold. Twice he was nominated (for "Pursuit of Happyness" in 2006 and "Ali" in 2001), but the Oscar has eluded Smith just as it has most of Hollywood's biggest male matinee idols.
Gorgeous women win Oscars all time (Charlize Theron, Natalie Portman), but when handsome studs come close to victory, they usually get slapped down by the geezer guys who constitute the biggest voting bloc within the academy. It's as if the geezers are telling each Adonis: "That's quite enough, dude. You've got good looks, hot chicks, fame and fortune. Here's one thing you can't have! Aha!"
This year there are many matinee studs in the derby and two got skunked completely by the academy: Golden Globe and SAG Awards nominee Leonardo DiCaprio ("J. Edgar") and Globe nominee Ryan Gosling, who had two roles in contention – "Ides of March" and "Drive."
Michael Fassbender also had two roles in the running this year and is certainly a stud, but he doesn't quite qualify as a matinee star, which is a key principle of the Oscar Slap the Stud Theory. Arguably, past Best Actor winners Adrien Brody ("The Pianist") and Jamie Foxx ("Ray") are studs too, but they weren't automatic box-office titans like Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp.
Pitt is back in the derby this year with a bid for "Moneyball." He's had two losing nominations in the past: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (2008) and "12 Monkeys" (1995). Now the question looms: Does he have enough wrinkles to win? Oscar voters will sometimes give the gold to matinee studs, but only when they lurch toward geezerhood (like academy members themselves).
Paul Newman was 62 years old when he finally won for "The Color of Money" (1986) after seven earlier defeats. At that point he was so disgusted by the Oscar game, he didn't bother to show up at the ceremony to accept it. He told the Associated Press afterward, "A long time ago winning was pretty important. But it's like chasing a beautiful girl. You hang in there for years, then she finally relents and you say, 'I'm too tired.'"
Brad Pitt is now 48 years old and starting to look it. He's up against another aging heartthrob George Clooney, who is age 50 and not afraid of the consequences. Bravely, Clooney sports flecks of gray hair on screen in "The Descendants" and on red carpets across Hollywood in real life. That may be helping him. Currently, the Oscarologists at Gold Derby give Clooney a slight (5 to 4) to win over "The Artist" star Jean Dujardin (3/2) while Pitt is far back with odds of 10/1.
Granted, Clooney won six years ago, of course – for "Syriana" in the supporting slot, but he had packed on 40 pounds and certainly didn't look studly.
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