On Sunday night, Mahershala Ali won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as real-life classical pianist Don Shirley in “Green Book.” That was his second win in three years following his victory in the same category two years ago for “Moonlight” (2016). It’s rare for an actor to win multiple Oscars that close together, but it’s even rarer for a black actor to win multiple Oscars at all. In fact, the only other black actor who has ever doubled up was Denzel Washington.
Washington claimed the first of his two awards for his supporting performance in the Civil War drama “Glory” (1989). Then he got a promotion to Best Actor with his win for “Training Day” (2001). At that point he was only the second black actor ever to win for a leading role, following Sidney Poitier for “Lilies of the Field” (1963). The same night Washington won for “Training Day,” Poitier actually received an Honorary Oscar for his body of work, but Poitier only won once competitively, so Washington stood alone with his dual victories.
Until now. Ali was a critical and industry favorite for “Moonlight” before winning the Oscar, and he did just as well — or arguably even better — for his performance in “Green Book.” He wasn’t as much of a critics’ darling as he was for “Moonlight,” but he ended up sweeping the Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice, SAG, BAFTA and Academy Awards, even though “Green Book” had been accused of inaccuracy in its depiction of Don Shirley.
With two Oscars in three years, Ali also won multiple acting awards faster than anyone since Tom Hanks, who went back-to-back with Best Actor victories for “Philadelphia” (1993) and “Forrest Gump” (1994). What did you think of Ali’s historic victory?