Kristen Stewart is comfortably in first place in the Oscar odds to win Best Actress for her portrayal of Princess Diana in “Spencer.” Stewart certainly feels like a typical Best Actress champ, giving an acclaimed turn as a tragic real-life figure. And at 31, she’s at the “right age,” but that age — or specifically, that age range — hasn’t been right for the Oscars in a while.
If Stewart prevails, she’ll be the first Best Actress winner in her 30s in 13 years. Kate Winslet was 33 when she won for 2008’s “The Reader” on her sixth nomination. The past 12 awards have gone to women who were in their 20s (four: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Lawrence, Brie Larson and Emma Stone), 40s (three: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett and Olivia Colman), 50s (two: Julianne Moore and Renee Zellweger) and 60s (three: Meryl Streep and twice to Frances McDormand). But the thirtysomethings have been left out in the cold.
It’s quite a departure for the Oscars, which, as we all know, historically love awarding younger women (versus preferring to crown older men). Yes, four twentysomethings still heard their names called during this timeframe, with JLaw becoming the category’s second youngest winner at 22, but the average age of a Best Actress winner is 36.9 and the 30s is the most common decade for a woman to win — 34 Best Actress champs were in their 30s at the time of their victories. The second most common decade is, of course, the 20s as 32 twentysomethings have struck gold.
Then it’s a huge drop-off: 15 fortysomethings have won, followed by eight in their 60s, three in their 50s, one in their 70s (Katharine Hepburn, 74, for 1981’s “On Golden Pond”) and one in their 80s (Jessica Tandy, 80, for 1989’s “Driving Miss Daisy”). Take note that the 50s only added its second and third recipients in the last six years, with Moore, who was 54 when she won for 2014’s “Still Alice,” and Zellweger, 50 at the time of her triumph for 2019’s “Judy,” joining then-54-year-old Shirley Booth (1952’s “Come Back, Little Sheba”).
Zellweger’s win is part of an unprecedented four-year streak in which Best Actress has gone to a woman older than 40. McDormand was 60 when she prevailed for 2017’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” followed by then-45-year-old Colman for “The Favourite” and Zellweger. In April, McDormand nabbed her third Best Actress statuette for “Nomadland” at 63 years and 306 days old, becoming the category’s third oldest champ behind Tandy and Hepburn. Previously, the longest streak was two years in a row, which happened six different times.
Will this trend continue for a fifth straight year or will it, like all things eventually do, come to an end? McDormand (“The Tragedy of Macbeth”) and Colman (“The Lost Daughter”) are back in the race again, so they can continue it themselves. But at the moment Stewart looks tough to dethrone with a performance many have called the best of her career. And in some ways, Stewart, who will turn 32 less than two weeks after the March 27 Oscar ceremony, seems older than her years. A former child star, she feels like she’s been around forever — and was around everywhere during the “Twilight” era — and has successfully transitioned into a fruitful career as an adult, putting in strong work in indie films the past few years and becoming the first and still only American actress to win a Cesar Award, which she did for Best Supporting Actress for “Clouds of Sils Maria” (2014).
In the current predicted Best Actress lineup, Stewart is one of two thirtysomethings, the other being No. 4 Lady Gaga (“House of Gucci”), who turns 36 the day after the Oscars. Jessica Chastain (“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”), who turns 45 three days before the Oscars, is in second. McDormand is in third and 47-year-old Penelope Cruz (“Parallel Mothers”) is in fifth.
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