Having already won a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award for his portrayal of Elvis Presley in “Elvis,” Austin Butler is on a solid path to triumphing on his first Oscar nomination. His film, which covers the entirety of the titular rock star’s two-decade career, boasts a talented cast that includes past Oscar winner Tom Hanks, who collected back-to-back Best Actor trophies for “Philadelphia” (1994) and “Forrest Gump” (1995). He missed out on a supporting bid for “Elvis,” but if Butler clinches the lead award, Hanks will become the 15th man to have acted in a film that won the same Oscar he previously received.
Hanks has a total of five Best Actor nominations to his name, with the three unsuccessful ones having come for his work in “Big” (1989), “Saving Private Ryan” (1999), and “Cast Away” (2001). Until Butler was recognized for “Elvis,” Hanks had never appeared in a film for which someone other than himself received a Best Actor notice. He has, however, seen eight different supporting male cast mates earn bids directly after working with him, with one instance resulting in a win for Mark Rylance (“Bridge of Spies”). The preceding seven cases involved Ed Harris (“Apollo 13”), Michael Clarke Duncan (“The Green Mile”), Paul Newman (“Road to Perdition”), Christopher Walken (“Catch Me If You Can”), Philip Seymour Hoffman (“Charlie Wilson’s War”), Max von Sydow (“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”), and Barkhad Abdi (“Captain Phillips”).
The precedent of a former Best Actor recipient appearing in a film for which someone else would go on to win the same award was set in 1958 by William Holden. In this case, he watched his “The Bridge on the River Kwai” costar Alec Guinness take the prize he himself had earned four years earlier for “Stalag 17.” Holden then landed on the list again when he lost the 1977 Best Actor race to his own “Network” cast mate, Peter Finch.
The only other repeat entrant on this list is Robert De Niro, who won Best Supporting Actor for “The Godfather Part II” (1975) before Walken (“The Deer Hunter,” 1979), Sean Connery (“The Untouchables,” 1988), and Joe Pesci (“Goodfellas,” 1991) conquered the same category. He also appeared opposite eventual Best Actor winner Joaquin Phoenix in “Joker” (2020) after having pulled off a lead victory of his own for “Raging Bull” (1981).
The possible Hanks-Butler case would be only the eighth to involve lead actors. After the Holden-Guinness instance, Maximilian Schell (“Judgment at Nuremberg,” 1962) became the first and only man to win Best Actor for performing opposite multiple past recipients of the award – namely, Spencer Tracy (“Captains Courageous,” 1938; “Boys Town,” 1939) and Burt Lancaster (“Elmer Gantry,” 1961). The remaining two cases were triggered by Rod Steiger’s win for “In the Heat of the Night” (1968), which costarred Sidney Poitier (“Lilies of the Field,” 1964), and Jeff Bridges’s victory for “Crazy Heart” (2010), which featured Robert Duvall (“Tender Mercies,” 1984).
The eight instances of Best Supporting Actor champs later appearing in films that won the same award involved Jack Lemmon (“Mister Roberts,” 1956) and Walter Matthau (“The Fortune Cookie,” 1967), Red Buttons (“Sayonara,” 1958) and Gig Young (“They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?,” 1970), Matthau and George Burns (“The Sunshine Boys,” 1976), Martin Balsam (“A Thousand Clowns,” 1966) and Jason Robards (“All the President’s Men,” 1977), Chris Cooper (“Adaptation,” 2003) and George Clooney (“Syriana,” 2006), Tommy Lee Jones (“The Fugitive,” 1994) and Javier Bardem (“No Country for Old Men,” 2008), Michael Caine (“Hannah and Her Sisters,” 1987; “The Cider House Rules,” 2000) and Heath Ledger (“The Dark Knight,” 2009), and Morgan Freeman (“Million Dollar Baby,” 2005) and Ledger.
The 35-year age difference between Hanks (66) and Butler (31) would be the third largest among any of these acting pairs, after Caine and Ledger (46 years) and Freeman and Ledger (41 years). The 28-year span between Hanks and Butler’s first wins would also be the second longest in the group, behind only De Niro and Phoenix’s 39-year gap.
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