Aunjanue Ellis would make Oscar history with ‘King Richard’ win

After a quarter century of resume building, Aunjanue Ellis has finally landed on a solid path toward Oscar gold as she continues to rake in praise for her performance in “King Richard.” In this account of Venus Williams and Serena Williams’s rise to tennis stardom, Ellis shines as the players’ staunchly supportive mother, Oracene Price, whose firm voice of reason resonates whether she is on screen or not.

The recent Emmy nominee for “Lovecraft Country” has already appeared in several Oscar-winning features, including two that were awarded the prize she now seeks: Best Supporting Actress. If she is victorious, she will be only the second female acting champ to have appeared in at least two films that won the same Oscar she later received.

The first woman to follow in the footsteps of two of her former co-stars this way was Ingrid Bergman. After winning a pair of Best Actress awards for “Gaslight” (1945) and “Anastasia” (1957), she bagged a third statue for her featured turn in “Murder on the Orient Express” (1975). The film that brought her her first lead nomination, “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” is also the one for which Katina Paxinou won the 1944 Best Supporting Actress Oscar. Bergman then saw Goldie Hawn triumph in the same category 26 years later for their film “Cactus Flower.”

This potential achievement has been a decade in the making for Ellis. The first of her castmates to land a Best Supporting Actress win was Octavia Spencer for “The Help” in 2012. Set in pre-Civil rights era Mississippi, the film features both actresses as housemaids who each end up squarely on the bad side of their town’s most vindictively bigoted socialite. Supporting player Jessica Chastain was also recognized for her work in the film, as was leading lady Viola Davis, who lost to Meryl Streep (“The Iron Lady”).

In 2019, Ellis watched her “If Beale Street Could Talk” costar Regina King take home the supporting prize for her role as a mother who supports her daughter through her unplanned pregnancy and her boyfriend’s incarceration. Ellis portrays the young man’s mother, who clashes with King’s character by openly denouncing their future grandchild. This reunion came 14 years after Ellis and King first appeared together in “Ray” as flames of musician Ray Charles, a role that earned Jamie Foxx a Best Actor trophy.

Ellis would also be the 12th Best Supporting Actress champ to have previously appeared in at least one film that won the same award. Besides Bergman’s case, the other 10 involved Jane Darwell (“The Grapes of Wrath,” 1941) and Hattie McDaniel (“Gone with the Wind,” 1940), Vanessa Redgrave (“Julia,” 1978) and Bergman, Maggie Smith (“California Suite,” 1979) and Margaret Rutherford (“The V.I.P.s,” 1964), Streep (“Kramer vs. Kramer,” 1980) and Redgrave, Maureen Stapleton (“Reds,” 1982) and Helen Hayes (“Airport,” 1971), Geena Davis (“The Accidental Tourist,” 1989) and Jessica Lange (“Tootsie,” 1983), Jennifer Connelly (“A Beautiful Mind,” 2002) and Marcia Gay Harden (“Pollock,” 2001), Renée Zellweger (“Cold Mountain,” 2004) and Catherine Zeta-Jones (“Chicago,” 2003), Davis (“Fences,” 2017) and Spencer, and Allison Janney (“I, Tonya,” 2018) and Spencer.

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