Unlike the supporting performance categories, there there are no clear trends in terms of preferred length in the lead races. At one hour, 27 minutes, and 29 seconds, Renee Zellweger’s 2020 Best Actress-winning performance in “Judy” ranks among the 11 longest to ever win in the category. But 2019 winner Olivia Colman’s 49 minutes and 48 seconds of screen time in “The Favorite” is the lowest since Kate Winslet won for “The Reader” in 2009 with a total of 41 minutes and 55 seconds.
Not surprisingly, Colman was the subject of category fraud discussion, which leading nominees have generally avoided over the past decade. Her co-stars Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone clocked in at 42 minutes, 51 seconds and 57 minutes, 20 seconds respectively but contended in supporting. All things considered, screen time does not matter much when it comes to selecting Best Actress winners, which hopefully indicates that voters are concerned with the quality of work in the category above all else.
One performance included in the 2020 Best Actress lineup stood out from the rest in terms of screen time: Charlize Theron’s in “Bombshell.” Theron was the only nominee to not have at least one hour of screen time, and her 37 minute and 16 second total placed her performance among the shortest ever nominated in the category. It is also shorter than each one nominated for the same year’s Best Supporting Actor award, which has only happened twice before in Oscar history and not since 1952, when Eleanor Parker was nominated for her 20 minutes and ten seconds of screen time in “Detective Story.” However, there was no outcry regarding Theron’s category placement, and rightfully so.
Over the past decade, Best Actress-winning performances had an average length of one hour, nine minutes, and 41 seconds, with 36% of the nominees in the category clocking in at less than one hour. By contrast, the average screen time of Best Actor winners was 15 minutes and 11 seconds higher, with only 12% of the nominees there having totals of less than one hour. As with the supporting categories, there is a clear preference for longer male leading performances, but the length of Best Actress-nominated performances seems to have no impact on whether they win or lose.
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