Good news, Peter Dinklage: ‘Cyrano’ is already one of 20 male characters to merit multiple Oscar nominations

In the 125 years since the first play based on the life of 17th century author Cyrano de Bergerac premiered, the classic underdog tale’s eternal relevance has been proven time and time again. Its simple love triangle premise has served as the basis for many stage and screen adaptations, two of which captured the attention of Oscar voters. José Ferrer and Gérard Depardieu both earned academy recognition for their portrayals of de Bergerac, and now Peter Dinklage is gunning for a Best Actor bid for starring in the new film “Cyrano.” If he succeeds, the character will become one of only a handful in Oscars history to have inspired three nominations.

Dinklage, who bagged four Emmys during his eight-season tenure on “Game of Thrones,” first played de Bergerac during the Off-Broadway run of the stage musical from which his film derives. His potential Oscar nomination would come 71 years after Ferrer’s, which resulted in a victory that made him the first person to score a Tony and an Oscar for the same role. Depardieu’s bid came in 1991 for an adaptation that put France in contention for the Best International Feature Film award. It ultimately lost that race to Switzerland’s “Journey of Hope,” while Depardieu was bested by Jeremy Irons (“Reversal of Fortune”).

Besides de Bergerac, there have been 19 double-nominated male characters in the nine-decade history of the Oscars, beginning with fictional priest Chuck O’Malley. Bing Crosby was recognized for portraying the character in both “Going My Way” (1945) and “The Bells of St. Mary’s” (1946) and took home a Best Actor trophy for the former.

Next came two more fictional lead characters: Norman Maine (Fredric March, “A Star Is Born,” 1938 and James Mason, “A Star Is Born,” 1955) and Henry Higgins (Leslie Howard, “Pygmalion,” 1939 and winner Rex Harrison, “My Fair Lady,” 1965). Bradley Cooper was also nominated in 2019 for the latest “A Star Is Born” remake, though his character’s first name was changed from Norman to Jackson.

Over three decades after Charles Laughton won the lead prize for “The Private Life of Henry VIII” (1934), two more actors were nominated for playing the titular king: supporting player Robert Shaw (“A Man for All Seasons,” 1967) and lead Richard Burton (“Anne of the Thousand Days,” 1970).

In 1969, Peter O’Toole followed Crosby’s example by landing a lead bid for playing King Henry II in “The Lion in Winter” after first being recognized for taking on the same role in “Becket” (1965). The next year, his nomination for “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” made him the second actor nominated for playing Arthur Chipping after Robert Donat, who won Best Actor in 1940 for a film of the same name.

In 1975, Robert De Niro’s supporting victory as Vito Corleone in “The Godfather Part II” made him and Marlon Brando the first actors to win Oscars for playing the same character, as Brando had triumphed as lead for “The Godfather” two years earlier. Al Pacino was also doubly recognized for his work as Michael Corleone in the first two Godfather films, first as a supporting actor and then as a lead.

In 1979, Warren Beatty and Jack Warden both reaped bids for their respective lead and supporting turns as Joe Pendelton and Max Corkle in “Heaven Can Wait,” a remake of “Here Comes Mr. Jordan,” for which Robert Montgomery and James Gleason earned notices in 1942.

Paul Newman made Eddie Felson a member of this group when he won the 1987 Best Actor award for “The Color of Money” a quarter century after receiving a bid for originating the character in “The Hustler.”

Next came King Henry V (Laurence Oliver, “Henry V,” 1947 and Kenneth Branagh, “Henry V,” 1990), Howard Hughes (Jason Robards, “Melvin and Howard,” 1981 and Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Aviator,” 2005), Richard Nixon (Anthony Hopkins, “Nixon,” 1996 and Frank Langella, “Frost/Nixon,” 2009), and Rooster Cogburn (winner John Wayne, “True Grit,” 1970 and Jeff Bridges, “True Grit,” 2011), all of which were classified as lead roles except for Robards’s take on Hughes.

In the past decade, four more characters have been added to the list, starting with Abraham Lincoln. Daniel Day-Lewis won his third Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of the 16th U.S. president in “Lincoln” (2013) seven decades after Raymond Massey received a bid for “Abe Lincoln in Illinois” (1941). In 2016, Sylvester Stallone was nominated for his supporting turn as Rocky Balboa in “Creed” after first competing in 1977’s lead race as the same character in “Rocky.” Next came lead character Vincent van Gogh (Kirk Douglas, “Lust for Life,” 1957 and Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate,” 2019), followed by Batman villain The Joker, a role for which featured player Heath Ledger (“The Dark Knight,” 2009) and leading man Joaquin Phoenix (“Joker,” 2020) both triumphed.

Counting Norman/Jackson Maine and King Henry VIII, de Bergerac would be only the third male character to produce three Oscar nominations and could also be the third for which multiple actors have won, after Vito Corleone and The Joker. Dinklage, who ranks fifth in our odds, would continue a 93-year tradition by serving as this year’s designated first-time Best Actor nominee. Those currently running ahead of him are Will Smith (“King Richard”), Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Power of the Dog”), Andrew Garfield (“tick, tick… BOOM!”), and Denzel Washington (“The Tragedy of Macbeth”).

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