Since 1972, Ben Johnson has held the record for shortest Oscar-winning performance in the Best Supporting Actor category. His screen time in “The Last Picture Show” falls just under 10 minutes, and his is the only performance to win the award without hitting that mark. Yet, there are 16 other supporting males who have been nominated for even shorter roles, and Johnson has placed outside of the list of 10 shortest nominees since 1986. Here is a look at the current roster, which has been in place for just two years (and here are the 10 shortest winners):
10. Sam Elliott (“A Star Is Born”)
8 minutes, 45 seconds (6.45% of the film)
When Mahershala Ali won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 2019, his one-hour, six-minute, and 38-second performance in “Green Book” became the longest to ever win in the category. Some of his competitors also made history, with the year marking the first time that two actors with less than 10 minutes of screen time challenged each other. At nine minutes and 51 seconds, Sam Rockwell’s performance in “Vice” is the 16th shortest ever nominated, while Elliott’s cracks the top 10. With a few sporadic scenes as the protagonist’s manager and brother, Elliott added his name to a list of actors who earned their first Oscar nominations over 40 years into their film careers, which also includes Fred Astaire, Hal Holbrook, and Christopher Plummer.
9. Alan Arkin (“Argo”)
8 minutes, 39 seconds (7.19% of the film)
Before Ali broke the record for longest winning performance in this category, it was held by Christoph Waltz, who appears in one hour, six minutes, and 17 seconds of 2012’s “Django Unchained.” The year’s supporting male lineup was the first and only one to be entirely made up of previous acting winners, with Arkin having won for his 14-minute and 20-second role in 2006’s “Little Miss Sunshine.” With nearly half that amount of screen time, his Lester Siegel is essentially a bookend character who is not directly involved in the main action of “Argo.” The performance was cited as one-note throughout the awards season and became the shortest of all 200 nominated during the 2010s.
8. William Hurt (“A History of Violence”)
8 minutes, 22 seconds (8.75% of the film)
After winning an Oscar for “Kiss of the Spider Woman” in 1986, Hurt earned two more Best Actor nominations over the next two years, becoming one of 10 men to compete for the same acting award three or more consecutive times. 18 years later, he received his fourth nomination for his supporting role as menacing mobster Richie Cusack, who does not make an appearance until 81% into “A History of Violence.” The fact that he enters so late and exits within 10 minutes gave Oscar voters a chance to recognize a truly novel, indisputably supporting performance. The ultimate victor, however, was George Clooney for his 27 minutes and 51 seconds of screen time in “Syriana.” Hurt also has a small role in that film, sharing his scenes with Clooney and clocking in at just two minutes and 44 seconds.
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7. John Gielgud (“Becket”)
8 minutes, 7 seconds (5.48% of the film)
Like Hurt, Gielgud makes a very late entrance in “Becket,” although he does show up comparatively sooner at the film’s 69% mark. Despite his entire portrayal of King Louis VII of France being confined to two seven-minute scenes, he managed to impress voters enough for them to give him his first Oscar nomination. He later won in 1982 for his 18-minute and 44-second performance in “Arthur,” but lost on his first bid to Peter Ustinov, who won his second award in the category for his then record-breaking 56 minutes and 30 seconds of screen time in “Topkapi.”
6. Charles Durning (“The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”)
7 minutes, 26 seconds (6.51% of the film)
Durning earned his first of two consecutive Best Supporting Actor nominations for his brief turn as the corrupt, nameless Governor of Texas. After two decades of establishing himself as a dependable character actor, his performance of a single song in the final quarter of this musical comedy was deemed worthy of academy recognition. The award eventually went to Louis Gossett, Jr. for his much more serious work in “An Officer and a Gentleman,” which totals 32 minutes and 23 seconds of screen time. The same year’s supporting female prize went to Jessica Lange for “Tootsie,” in which Durning appears as Lange’s character’s father.
5. Maximilian Schell (“Julia”)
6 minutes, 49 seconds (5.81% of the film)
While Jason Robards won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for “Julia” with a very low screen time of 10 minutes and 49 seconds, he defeated an actor who gave an even shorter performance in the same film. As a liaison simply known as Johann, Schell appears in just two scenes in the middle of the film, essentially only sharing them with Jane Fonda, who gives the longest of her seven nominated performances. At the time, Schell had already placed on the list of Best Actor winners with the lowest amount of screen time, currently ranking seventh for his 39-minute and 20-second role in 1961’s “Judgment at Nuremberg.”
4. John Lithgow (“Terms of Endearment”)
6 minutes, 28 seconds (4.91% of the film)
Lithgow, like Charles Durning, was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor in both 1983 and 1984. His second nomination came for playing Sam Burns, with whom protagonist Emma Horton (Debra Winger) has a brief affair. His role, which is contained to four scenes in the middle third of the film, stands in stark contrast to the more prominent role of his castmate, Jack Nicholson, who won the award with 26 minutes and 50 seconds of screen time. While three actors with less actual screen time had already been nominated, Lithgow holds the record for shortest nominated performance in the category by percentage.
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3. Basil Rathbone (“Romeo and Juliet”)
6 minutes, 16 seconds (5.04% of the film)
1937’s inaugural supporting male lineup included one of the category’s all-time shortest nominated performances, which ranked as the shortest of all for 34 years. Before his iconic portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in 14 films, Rathbone earned two Oscar nominations, the first of which came for his brief turn as Tybalt in George Cukor’s “Romeo and Juliet.” He also made history as one of the first men to lose an acting Oscar to the same person more than once. Walter Brennan was chosen as the winner in 1937 for his 39 minutes and 27 seconds of screen time in “Come and Get It,” and won against Rathbone again for “Kentucky” in 1939. Charles Boyer and Spencer Tracy are the only other men to be involved in such a situation, with Tracy having defeated Boyer in the Best Actor category in both 1938 and 1939.
2. John Marley (“Love Story”)
6 minutes, 3 seconds (6.04% of the film)
After getting a late start in his 40s, Marley’s only Oscar nomination came toward the end of his career for his heartfelt portrayal of loving father Phil Cavilleri. Though he lost to John Mills, whose screen time in “Ryan’s Daughter” totals 26 minutes and seven seconds, he notably claimed the record for shortest performance ever nominated in the category, which he held for the next six years. The praise he received for the brief role was enough for him to be included in the running for the role of Vito Corleone in 1972’s “The Godfather,” though he ultimately played the part of film producer Jack Woltz instead.
1. Ned Beatty (“Network”)
6 minutes, 0 seconds (4.95% of the film)
Beatty received his only Oscar nomination in 1977 for one scene’s worth of work as media conglomerate chairman Arthur Jensen. Had he won, “Network” would have been the first film to score acting wins in all four categories, but voters instead chose Jason Robards as the Best Supporting Actor winner for his 12-minute and 58-second performance in “All the President’s Men.” Beatty’s castmate, Beatrice Straight, is known for delivering the shortest Oscar-winning performance of all time at five minutes and two seconds – a feat that would have been even more impressive if Beatty had won alongside her and set a record among winners in his category with his six minutes of screen time.
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