Since 1929 and the 2nd Academy Awards, seven performers have received posthumous Oscar nominations for their work. This year, two more beloved Hollywood figures may join the list of actors recognized for roles after their passing.
While Carrie Fisher received three Emmy nominations over her career, the late actress and screenwriter never landed an Oscar nomination. That could change with Fisher’s final performance on the big screen, taking on the iconic role of Princess Leia one last time in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”
Veteran actor Harry Dean Stanton appeared in a plethora of Oscar-nominated pictures, including “Cool Hand Luke” (1967); “Alien” (1979); and “The Green Mile” (1999) but was never singled out for a nomination. Later this year, Stanton will be seen in his final leading role, portraying the soul-searching title character in “Lucky.”
The first performer to ever receive a posthumous nomination at the Oscars was Jeanne Eagels, recognized in Best Actress for her portrayal of a plantation owner’s restless wife in “The Letter” (1929). Triumphing on the big night, however, was the “Queen of the Movies” herself, Mary Pickford, prevailing for “Coquette.” To date, Eagels remains the sole female performer to garner a posthumous Oscar nomination.
More than two decades later, James Dean received not one but two posthumous Best Actor Oscar bids, for his turns as suffering son Cal Trask in “East of Eden” (1955) and ambitious handyman Jett Rink in “Giant” (1956). On neither occasion did Dean prevail, as Ernest Borgnine triumphed for “Marty” in 1955 and Yul Brynner took home the prize for “The King and I” in 1956.
In 1967, the legendary Spencer Tracy garnered his ninth and final Best Actor Oscar nomination, this time posthumously, for his portrayal of a father wrestling with his daughter’s choice of fiancee in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” Tracy, who had triumphed in Best Actor twice before, for “Captains Courageous” (1937) and “Boys Town” (1938), was not the winner in 1967, as Rod Steiger landed the trophy for “In the Heat of the Night.”
Nearly one decade after Tracy’s final nomination, a performer scored the first-ever posthumous Oscar win. Peter Finch, previously nominated for “Sunday Bloody Sunday” (1971), posthumously won the Best Actor prize for his stirring and unforgettable turn as unhinged anchorman Howard Beale in “Network” (1976).
The 1980s saw a single posthumous acting Oscar nomination. Sir Ralph Richardson, first nominated more than three decades prior for “The Heiress” (1949), received a posthumous Best Supporting Actor nomination for portraying the grandfather of none other than Tarzan in “Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan” (1984). On Oscar night, however, it was Haing S. Ngor (“The Killing Fields”) emerging triumphant for the prize.
Likewise, the 1990s also featured one posthumous Oscar nomination for an actor. Massimo Troisi, hailed as one of the up-and-coming Italian filmmakers in the prior decade, died less than a day after production on “Il Postino” (1995) was complete. Troisi’s portrayal of a postman who falls head over heels for poetry landed him a posthumous Best Actor nomination. He would ultimately lose to Nicolas Cage (“Leaving Las Vegas”).
Most recently, it was Heath Ledger garnering a posthumous Oscar nomination and win, in Best Supporting Actor for his electrifying turn as the Joker in “The Dark Knight” (2008). Ledger marked the first performer to receive a posthumous trophy in this category.
Be sure to make your Oscar nomination predictions so that Hollywood studio executives can see how their films are faring in our Academy Awards odds. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on January 23.