Oscars flashback 15 years to 2006: ‘Crash’ stuns ‘Brokeback Mountain’

There have been a few instances in Oscar’s illustrious history that have left film fans scratching their heads. One such occurrence happened on March 5, 2006, at the end of the 78th ceremony when the Best Picture was announced. It remains one of the most controversial wins in the history of the awards show. It was also a year in which there was no big winner – in fact, FOUR films tied with the most wins – at just three apiece! Also unusual for the Oscars, the awards for picture, director and all four acting awards went to different productions, and there were a few anomalies in the acting categories as well. The event, which was held a week later than normal due to the Winter Olympics, was hosted by Jon Stewart for the first time (he’d host again in 2008). His opening sketch featured former Oscar hosts Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, Chris Rock, Whoopi Goldberg and David Letterman hilariously turning down the gig.

This was one of the few ceremonies during the “five-movie- limit” years in which all the Best Picture and Best Director nominees aligned. Ang Lee was unsurprisingly named Best Director for “Brokeback Mountain,” becoming the first non-Caucasian winner in that category, and making it seem that “Brokeback” was a shoo-in for Best Picture. However, “Crash” swooped in with Jack Nicholson announcing the stunning news, becoming the first Best Picture winner since “Rocky” 29 years before to win only three awards in total; in fact, “Crash” and “Brokeback” each won three, including wins for their screenplays. “Crash” won Best Original Screenplay and Best Film Editing, while “Brokeback” won for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Score.

Another rarity for the Academy is for all four acting winners to be first-time nominees – this had not happened since 1962. In fact, out of 20 nominees in the four acting categories, 14 received their first nominations, and two more received their first nomination in a particular category. Additionally, all four winners were the sole winners from their films. The Best Actor category, which usually features at least one previous nominee, was especially unusual.

Every Best Actor and Supporting Actor nominee was a first-time nominee in that category. Joaquin Phoenix had previously earned a Supporting Actor nomination, but this was his first Best Actor bid, for “Walk the Line.” However, Philip Seymour Hoffman had been racking up critics awards for his portrayal of legendary writer “Capote,” and unsurprisingly picked up his final win that evening. Besides Phoenix, he beat out Terrence Howard (“Hustle and Flow”) and David Straithairn (“Good Night, and Good Luck”), both of whom received their (thus far) sole nominations, as well as Heath Ledger (“Brokeback Mountain”), who would go on to win posthumously for Supporting Actor in 2009.

In the supporting category, Matt Dillon (“Crash”), Paul Giamatti (“Cinderella Man”) and Jake Gyllenhaal (“Brokeback Mountain”) also all received their sole nominations to date, while William Hurt received his first nomination in this category for his performance in “A History of Violence;” however, he was a three-time nominee and former winner (for “Kiss of the Spider Woman”) in the Best Actor category. On this evening, it was George Clooney who not only won for Best Supporting Actor, but also had a history-making night.

Clooney won his first Oscar that evening, taking home the Best Supporting Actor statue for his performance in “Syriana.” He also received Best Director and Best Screenplay nominations, becoming the fifth person in Academy history to receive all these nominations in the same year. However, he made history by becoming the first to do so for two different films – his other two nominations were for “Good Night, and Good Luck.” In the 15 years since, Clooney has achieved three Best Actor nominations as well as another Best Screenplay nomination. He’s won once more, in 2013 as co-producer of Best Picture winner “Argo.”

Over in the actress categories, there were more veteran nominees. Among the Best Actress nominees, Dame Judi Dench had had four previous nominations between the two actress categories, winning for Supporting in 1999 for “Shakespeare in Love,” and Charlize Theron had won Best Actress two years previously for “Monster.” But it was Reese Witherspoon who came away victorious that evening, winning for her portrayal of country music legend June Carter Cash in “Walk the Line,” also beating out other first-timers Felicity Huffman (“Transamerica”) and Keira Knightley (“Pride and Prejudice”).

In the supporting category, Rachel Weisz won for “The Constant Gardener,” beating out other first-timers Amy Adams (“Junebug”) and Michelle Williams (“Brokeback Mountain”), both of whom have gone on to receive multiple nominations with no wins thus far. Catherine Keener received her second (and to date, last) nomination for “Capote,” and Frances McDormand (“North Country”) received her third of three career nominations in the Supporting category. She’s batting zero in that category, but has won both of her Best Actress bids, for “Fargo” in 1997 and for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” in 2017.

A couple of other memorable wins were for Best Documentary and Best Original Song. “March of the Penguins” was not only an award-winner for Best Documentary Feature, but is also one of the most commercially successful documentaries of all time. “It’s Hard out Here for a Pimp” became the second hip hop song to win an Oscar, with the songwriters from Three 6 Mafia becoming the first hip hop artists to perform at the ceremony.

The other two films to tie for most wins at three apiece were “King Kong,” which won Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing and Best Visual Effects, and “Memoirs of a Geisha,” which won Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design. Of the other three Best Picture nominees, both “Good Night, and Good Luck” (with six bids) and “Munich” (with five bids) came away empty-handed, while the only win for “Capote” (with five bids) was Hoffman.

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