Oscar voters have proven time and again that they love actors who portray historic people. Maybe it’s because they can make easy comparisons. Or maybe it’s because they are often heroic figures. Whatever the reason, it’s been happening since the introduction of supporting categories in the earliest days of the awards ceremony. Tour our photo gallery above of every single man who has won the Best Supporting Actor category at the Academy Awards for playing a true life character.
The very first person to win the illustrious prize for slipping into a real person’s shoes was Joseph Schildkraut, who portrayed the wrongfully imprisoned Captain Alfred Dreyfus in “The Life of Emile Zola” (1937). Since then, actors as diverse as Mark Rylance (“Bridge of Spies” in 2015), Christian Bale (“The Fighter” in 2010), Jim Broadbent (“Iris” in 2001), Martin Landau (“Ed Wood” in 1994) and Mahershala Ali (“Green Book”), have all triumphed for effortlessly becoming a recognizable figure.
Two actors, in fact, have twice won this prize for their performances as real people. The first to do so was Anthony Quinn, who triumphed for playing Mexican revolutionary Eufemio Zapata in “Viva Zapata!” (1952) and famous French artist Paul Gaugin in “Lust for Life” (1956).
The second was Jason Robards, who is also one of the few people to win back-to-back Oscars for acting (and the only person to do so in this category). The first was for his role as newspaperman Ben Bradlee in “All the President’s Men” (1976), while the next was for playing novelist Dashiell Hammett in “Julia” (1977).
This year, the Best Supporting Actor category is filled performers playing real life men, including Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers (“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”), Anthony Hopkins as Pope Benedict (“The Two Popes”), Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa (“The Irishman”) and Joe Pesci as Russell Bufalino (“The Irishman”). In this case, perhaps Brad Pitt (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”) as the advantage, since he’s the only one NOT playing a real guy (that we know of).
Tour our gallery to find out what other actors triumphed for playing true life individuals.