Ellen Burstyn (‘Pieces of a Woman’) poised to make Oscar history in two ways

Ellen Burstyn racked up five Oscars nominations in less than a decade between 1972 and 1981. She took home the Best Actress Oscar in 1975 for playing the titular role in “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.” But she was unable to accept the award in person as she was appearing on Broadway in “Same Time, Next Year,” for which she won a Tony. It would be 20 years after that hot streak before Burstyn was nominated again for “Requiem For a Dream” in 2001. Now, another 20 years later, she is back in the race for the Netflix flick “Pieces of a Woman,” with a whole lot of Oscar history on the line.

At 88 years old, Burstyn would be the oldest actor ever nominated for an Academy Award. She would also become the first actor to be nominated after a 20 year gap — twice! Christopher Plummer was 88 years old when he was nominated for “All the Money in the World,” but by the time this year’s ceremony takes place in April, Burstyn will have edged him out by a few months. She would also dethrone Gloria Stuart (“Titanic”), who holds the record for the oldest actress ever nominated at 87.

Other actors have endured longer than 20 years between nominations in the past, but none have ever waited 20 years back-to-back, which would be the case for Burstyn should she receive her seventh nomination for “Pieces of a Woman.” Henry Fonda waited 41 years between his first nomination for “The Grapes of Wrath” and his winning role in “On Golden Pond.” On the women’s side, it took 39 years for Helen Hayes to take home the gold for “Airport” (1970) after winning for “The Sin of Madelon Claudet” in 1931. Although Hayes doesn’t hold the record for the longest timespan between nominations, she does hold the record for the longest gap between wins.

2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actress

Speaking of winning, if Burstyn were to prevail for “Pieces of a Woman,” that would only add to her potentially historic year. It’s been 46 years since Burstyn took home her first and only Oscar to date. If she wins again this year she would outdo Hayes by seven years to claim the longest gap between Oscar wins. That is, of course, if Sophia Loren doesn’t outdo her at the same ceremony. Loren could contend for Best Actress for her role in “The Life Ahead,” 59 years after winning for “Two Women” in 1962.

Burstyn’s first Oscar nomination was for Best Supporting Actress in 1972 for “The Last Picture Show,” which she lost to her co-star, Cloris Leachman. Her next was in 1974 when she earned a rare acting nomination for a horror film, “The Exorcist,” but lost Best Actress to Glenda Jackson in “A Touch of Class.” After winning for “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” in 1975, Burstyn contended for the film version of “Same Time, Next Year,” in 1979 but lost to Jane Fonda in “Coming Home.” In 1981 she was nominated for Best Actress in “Resurrection,” losing to Sissy Spacek in “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Burstyn’s last hope for an Oscar was squashed in 2001 when she was nominated for “Requiem For a Dream” but lost to Julia Roberts in “Erin Brockovich.”

Burstyn currently ranks third in our Best Supporting Actress race with 11/2 odds for playing Elizabeth in “Pieces of a Woman.” She trails Amanda Seyfried in “Mank” (19/5 odds) and Olivia Colman in “The Father” (4/1 odds). Yuh-Jung Youn in “Minari” (13/2 odds) and Glenn Close in “Hillbilly Elegy” (15/2 odds) round out the top five.

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