Brad Pitt is receiving some of the best notices of his career as the star of “Moneyball.” Coupled with stellar reviews for his supporting turn in “The Tree of Life,” Pitt could join the elite few who were nominated for two acting Oscars in a single year.
The two roles showcase Pitt’s versatility. The 47-year-old has been lauded for playing his age in “Moneyball” and carrying the film as a genuine movie star. He plays the real-life Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland Athletics, and portraying an actual person is often an easy way to an Oscar nod.
In “The Tree of Life,” Pitt plays a volatile, authoritarian father in the 1950s. The Terrence Malick-directed flick is a serious contender in top Oscar categories, which should help propel Pitt toward a nomination. Hard-edged father roles have paid off in this category before, most recently when James Coburn won for “Affliction” (1998).
Pitt is already a two-time Academy Award nominee. He was nominated for Best Actor the backwards-aging title character in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2008), but lost to Sean Penn for “Milk.” Back in 1995, he contended for Best Supporting Actor for playing a mental patient and terrorist in the futuristic “12 Monkeys;” Academy voters favored Kevin Spacey (“The Usual Suspects”). With proper campaigning and luck, Pitt would double his total with dual nominations.
Academy rules stipulate only one performance can be nominated per category. That determination was made after Barry Fitzgerald was nominated as both Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for “Going My Way” (1944). He won the former nomination. Since then, only two male actors have picked up two nominations in a single year, but it paid off both times. In 1992, Al Pacino won his only Oscar as the lead in “Scent of a Woman” while he was shortlisted in supporting for “Glengarry Glen Ross.” Jamie Foxx won Best Actor for “Ray” (2004) while he was nominated in the supporting category for “Collateral.”
Female actors have been more fortunate. Fay Bainter started the ball rolling in 1938 when she competed as a lead in “White Banners” and won supporting for “Jezebel.” Not long after, Teresa Wright lost for her lead turn in “The Pride of the Yankees” (1942), but won the supporting category for “Mrs. Miniver.”
Following Fitzgerald’s 1944 citations, it took nearly four decades for someone be doubly nominated again. Jessica Lange won Best Supporting Actress for “Tootsie” (1982); she was also in contention as the lead of “Frances.”
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Since then, only one of the five actresses to earn two nominations has prevailed. In 1993, Holly Hunter contended in both categories, winning lead for “The Piano” but losing her supporting bid for “The Firm” to her “Piano” co-star Anna Paquin. Among those they competed against was Emma Thompson, hot off a win the previous year for “Howards End” (1992), who lost the lead race for “The Remains of the Day” and the supporting category for “In the Name of the Father.”
Sigourney Weaver lost as the lead in “Gorillas in the Mist” (1988) and in supporting for “Working Girl.” In 2002, Julianne Moore lost for playing 1950s housewives in both “Far from Heaven” and “The Hours.” And Cate Blanchett lost two bids in 2007 for “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” and “I’m Not There.”
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