Can Daniel Day-Lewis ('Lincoln') break Oscar curse against performers in Steven Spielberg films?

By Chris Beachum
By Chris Beachum
Nov 05 2012 04:08 am
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Aug 21 2015 19:27 pm
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While Steven Spielberg has enjoyed great success at the Oscars -- three wins in 13 nominations -- his actors and actresses have not. Only nine of them have been nominated and none of them has prevailed.

Why is this?

Are his films more appreciated for their directorial flair, visuals (effects, art direction, cinematography) and even the music by John Williams than for the performances.

With Spielberg's historical epic "Lincoln" opening nationwide on Nov. 16, can its stars -- Academy Award champs Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, and Tommy Lee Jones -- break this Oscar curse?

Day-Lewis portrays doomed President Abraham Lincoln and is the leader in the Best Actor race while Field, who plays his mentally-imbalanced wife Mary Todd Lincoln, and Jones who plays Rep. Thaddeus Stevens, are both strong contenders in the featured categories. 

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This Oscar shutout for Spielberg's performers began with his third feature film, 1977's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." Melinda Dillon contended as Best Supporting Actress for her role as Jillian Guiler; she lost to Vanessa Redgrave ("Julia").

Eight years later, "The Color Purple" picked up bids for Whoopi Goldberg as Best Actress plus both Margaret Avery and Oprah Winfrey for Best Supporting Actress. Goldberg was defeated by Geraldine Page ("The Trip to Bountiful"). The featured ladies lost to Anjelica Huston ("Prizzi's Honor"). In all, the film went 0 for 11 at the Oscars, tying the dubious achievement of "The Turning Point" (1977). 

Spielberg's only Best Picture winner was "Schindler's List" in 1993. That film brought nominations to Liam Neeson as Best Actor and Ralph Fiennes for Best Supporting Actor. The lead category was won by Tom Hanks ("Philadelphia") while the supporting award went to Jones ("The Fugitive").

Anthony Hopkins ("Amistad") was a 1997 nominee for Best Supporting Actor; he lost to Robin Williams ("Good Will Hunting").

Up next was Hanks as Best Actor for "Saving Private Ryan" in 1998, but he was defeated by Roberto Benigni ("Life is Beautiful").

The final nominee was a decade ago when Christopher Walken ("Catch Me if You Can") was defeated by Chris Cooper ("Adaptation") as Best Supporting Actor.

This losing streak goes beyond the actual nominees. Many Oscar-worthy performances were overlooked completely by voters, including Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider, and Robert Shaw ("Jaws," 1975), Harrison Ford ("Raiders of the Lost Ark," 1981), Danny Glover ("The Color Purple," 1985), John Malkovich ("Empire of the Sun," 1987), Richard Attenborough ("Jurassic Park," 1993), Ben Kingsley ("Schindler's List," 1993), Djimon Hounsou ("Amistad," 1997), Jeremy Davies ("Saving Private Ryan," 1998), Jude Law ("A.I. Artificial Intelligence," 2001), and Leonardo DiCaprio ("Catch Me if You Can," 2002).

Of Spielberg's contemporaries who have also won Best Picture and Best Director, many of them have helmed Oscar-winning performances. 

Woody AllenDiane Keaton ("Annie Hall," 1977); Michael Caine and Dianne Wiest ("Hannah and Her Sisters," 1986); Wiest ("Bullets Over Broadway," 1994); Mira Sorvino ("Mighty Aphrodite," 1995); Penelope Cruz ("Vicky Cristina Barcelona," 2008).

James L. BrooksShirley MacLaine and Jack Nicholson ("Terms of Endearment," 1983); Helen Hunt and Nicholson ("As Good as It Gets," 1997).

Joel Coen and Ethan CoenFrances McDormand ("Fargo," 1996); Javier Bardem ("No Country for Old Men," 2007).

Francis Ford Coppola: Marlon Brando ("The Godfather," 1972); Robert De Niro ("The Godfather, Part II," 1974).

Clint EastwoodGene Hackman ("Unforgiven," 1992); Sean Penn and Tim Robbins ("Mystic River," 2003); Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman ("Million Dollar Baby," 2004).

Ron Howard: Don Ameche ("Cocoon," 1985); Jennifer Connelly ("A Beautiful Mind," 2001).

Martin ScorseseEllen Burstyn ("Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore," 1974); De Niro ("Raging Bull," 1980); Paul Newman ("The Color of Money," 1986); Joe Pesci ("Goodfellas," 1990); Cate Blanchett ("The Aviator," 2004).

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