“The Irishman” co-stars Al Pacino and Joe Pesci are up for Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars, but this is not the first time the duo has gone head to head. They last clashed 29 years ago in the same category, and one came out on top.
Pesci prevailed for his iconic role as Tommy DeVito in “Goodfellas” (1990), defeating Pacino (“Dick Tracy”), Bruce Davison (“Longtime Companion”), Andy Garcia (“The Godfather Part III”) and Graham Greene (“Dances with Wolves”). And who can forget his equally iconic speech (watch above): “It was my privilege. Thank you.” Brevity is the soul of wit and acceptance speeches (see also: Merritt Wever‘s 2013 Emmy speech).
This was Pesci’s second and most recent nomination until now. Pacino was on his sixth bid and seeking his first win, which would come two years later in the lead category for 1992’s “Scent of a Woman” (he was also nominated in supporting that year for “Glengarry Glen Ross”). Pacino also hadn’t been nominated since his long-awaited victory.
Brad Pitt (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”) looks like stone-cold lock in supporting actor this year after taking the Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice and Screen Actors Guild Awards, but if Pesci, who’s in second in our odds, pulls off an upset, this would be the fifth time one actor has defeated another actor twice. The first four are:
1. Irene Dunne lost Best Actress for “Theodora Goes Wild” (1936) and “The Awful Truth” (1937) to Luise Rainer for “The Great Ziegfeld” (1936) and “The Good Earth” (1937)
2. Charles Boyer lost Best Actor for “Conquest” (1937) and “Algiers” (1938) to Spencer Tracy for “Captains Courageous” (1937) and “Boys Town” (1938)
3. Basil Rathbone lost Best Supporting Actor for “Romeo and Juliet” (1936) and “If I Were King” (1938) to Walter Brennan for “Come and Get It” (1936) and “Kentucky” (1938)
4. Annette Bening lost Best Actress for “American Beauty” (1999) and “Being Julia” (2004) to Hilary Swank for “Boys Don’t Cry” (1999) and “Million Dollar Baby” (2004)
Pacino is in third place in our odds, followed by Tom Hanks (“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”) and Anthony Hopkins (“The Two Popes”).
But would we get another speechless Pesci speech? Probably not. The actor has long eschewed public events since his retirement 21 years ago and hasn’t attended any of the major awards ceremonies this season so far. He did show up to the New York Film Critics Circle Awards earlier this month to accept his supporting actor prize, bringing “Irishman” director Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro onstage for help because he’s “really terrible at this stuff.” De Niro quipped: “That’s him saying thank you.”
If he somehow does attend and win the Oscar, he should just say this.
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