“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” ended a 26-year drought in Best Supporting Actor, producing two nominees, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell, from the same film for the first time since “Bugsy” (1991) stars Harvey Keitel and Ben Kingsley lost to Jack Palance (“City Slickers”). By all appearances, it’s smooth sailing for Rockwell for the win, which would be the sixth time a Best Supporting Actor winner defeated a co-star in 18 dual duels.
“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939) stars Harry Carey and Claude Rains were the first co-stars to be nominated against each other in Best Supporting Actor, but they lost to Thomas Mitchell for “Stagecoach.” It would be another 32 years — with seven pairs of double nominees in between — before a Best Supporting Actor champ, Ben Johnson, beat a co-star, Jeff Bridges, for 1971’s “The Last Picture Show.”
Three years later, Robert De Niro prevailed over fellow “The Godfather Part II” players Michael V. Gazzo and Lee Strasberg — the third time there’s been three nominees from one film in the category. The other triple nominee years were 1954, with “On the Waterfront”‘s Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden and Rod Steiger losing to Edmond O’Brien (“The Barefoot Contessa”), and 1972, when Joel Grey (“Cabaret”) beat “The Godfather”‘s James Caan, Robert Duvall and Al Pacino.
Three years after De Niro, “Julia”’s Jason Robards won his second straight Best Supporting Actor trophy over Maximilian Schell. Then 20-year-old Timothy Hutton became the category’s youngest winner, edging out his “Ordinary People” (1980) psychiatrist Judd Hirsch. The fifth and most recent co-star battle champ is Jack Nicholson, who beat “Terms of Endearment” (1983) co-star John Lithgow for his second Oscar.
At 29.4 percent, Best Supporting Actor has the third best success rate of a winner beating a co-star of the four acting races. Best Supporting Actress, which has eight pairs of double nominees in this century alone, boasts the highest at 35.29 percent, with 12 winners from 34 multiple nominee scenarios, including the last two: Melissa Leo over “The Fighter” (2010) co-star Amy Adams and Octavia Spencer over “The Help” (2011) co-star Jessica Chastain.
Best Actor has the second highest at 33.3 percent, with four winners from 12 instances, the most recent being F. Murray Abraham defeating Tom Hulce for “Amadeus” (1984). That was also the last time two men from the same film have been up for Best Actor.
Unsurprisingly, Best Actress has the fewest co-star nominees. Only five pairs of leading ladies have been co-nominated and unlike the other three categories, there’s never been three nominees from the same movie vying for Best Actress (1935’s “Mutiny on the Bounty” stars Clark Gable, Charles Laughton and Franchot Tone lost Best Actor to “The Informer”‘s Victor McLaglen; 1963’s “Tom Jones” stars Diane Cilento, Edith Evans and Joyce Evans lost Best Supporting Actress to “The V.I.P.s”‘ Margaret Rutherford). The only co-star who’s won Best Actress is Shirley MacLaine, who took down her “Terms of Endearment” daughter Debra Winger. The last duo to be nominated were Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon for “Thelma & Louise” — the same year as “Bugsy” — who fell to Jodie Foster (“The Silence of the Lambs”).
Now that the Best Supporting Actor double nominee drought is over — and with seemingly a winner to boot — when will the dry spells end for Best Actor and Best Actress?
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