Jessica Chastain’s Best Actress win prevents Olivia Colman and Nicole Kidman from a rare Oscar feat

Jessica Chastain, one of the only two Best Actress nominees at this year’s Oscars who hadn’t previously won before, took home the gold for her performance in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” In doing so, she beat first-time nominee Kristen Stewart (“Spencer”) as well as three past Oscar winners — Olivia Colman (“The Lost Daughter”), Penelope Cruz (“Parallel Mothers”) and Nicole Kidman (“Being the Ricardos”). Colman and Kidman’s losses in particular prove that winning a second Oscar for Best Actress is no easy task.

If Colman or Kidman had won, they would have joined a club consisting of only Ingrid Bergman and Meryl Streep — out of 14 multiple Best Actress champs — as Best Actress winners whose second prize was for a film not nominated for Best Picture. While none of this year’s Best Actress nominees were in films nominated for Best Picture, it does show that more often than not, winning this category again means that voters have to love your film. Case in point: Frances McDormand won her second Best Actress Oscar for Best Picture contender “Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri” (2017) and her third one last year for “Nomadland,” the film that ultimately won Best Picture.

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Looking back on the rare exceptions of Bergman and Streep, both women had compelling narratives that made up for their films not factoring into the Best Picture race. Bergman’s win for 1956’s “Anastasia” marked the actress’s comeback in Hollywood after her affair with director Roberto Rossellini caused a scandal. For Streep, it had been almost 30 years since she had won her first Best Actress Oscar for 1982’s “Sophie’s Choice,” which may have swayed some voters to give her another one for “The Iron Lady” (2011). Neither Colman nor Kidman had that kind of extra incentive to reward them a second time this year.

If Colman or Kidman had in fact defeated Chastain, they would have pulled off similar victories as their first wins. Kidman lost the SAG Award to Renee Zellweger in “Chicago” during the 2002-03 award season but beat her at the Oscars for her performance in “The Hours,” while Colman lost at SAG to Glenn Close for “The Wife” (2018) only to win the Oscar over her for “The Favourite.” Considering Colman and Kidman were also nominated at this year’s SAG Awards, Chastain can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that history wasn’t repeated.

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