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Oscar Veterans vs. First-Time Nominees: Who Has the Advantage?

Do the Oscar winds favor newcomers or previous winners and nominees? We crunch the numbers on the four acting categories to find out.

by | February 23, 2019 | Comments

Bohemian Rhapsody
(Photo by @ Twentieth Century Fox)

With the 91st Academy Awards around the corner, we’ve been wondering whether first-time nominees or veterans who’ve already won an Oscar – or been nominated – have a better chance of winning. With only four of the 20 nominated actors walking away with an Oscar on Sunday, we wanted to know how the five former winners, six prior nominees, and nine first-time nominees who make up the group of 20 will fair – according to Oscar trends. And so we dove into the data to see if there were any patterns suggesting that vets are favored over newcomers, and vice versa, and applied that to this year’s nominees. To keep the data current, we decided to focus on recent nominees and winners, beginning with the 73rd Academy Awards in 2001. What we found could be crucial info when filling out your Oscar ballot.

(We did go a little further, analyzing the four Academy Award acting categories going back to 1929 and discovered that 1,700 nominations have gone out to only 928 actors. Further, 364 Academy Awards have been won by just 298 actors. Multiple awards have been won by 41 actors, and 257 have only won once. That seems to tell us that, historically, the awards favor first-time winners and it’s more difficult to be a repeat winner with so much competition.)

Here are some key takeaways about the 72 Acting Oscars awarded and the 360 nominations since the 73rd Academy Awards in 2001.

  • 36 Oscars have been won by actors who’d already won an Oscar or been nominated
  • 36 Oscars have been won by first-time nominees
  • 218 nominations have been given to prior winners or nominees
  • 142 nominations have been given to first-time nominees
  • 4 Actors have won multiple Oscars between 2001-2018: Cate Blanchett (2005, 2014), Sean Penn (2004, 2009), Daniel Day-Lewis (2008, 2013), Christoph Waltz (2010, 2013)
  • 5 Actors who won Oscars prior to 2001, won their second or third Oscars since 2001: Meryl Streep (1980, 1983, 2012), Denzel Washington (1990, 2002), Hilary Swank (2000, 2005), Frances McDormand (1997, 2018), Daniel Day-Lewis (1990, 2008, 2013)
  • 68 Actors have won Oscars

So what does this data tell us about who might win this year?


Best Actress: Veteran Nominees – if not winners – Dominate

A Star Is Born
(Photo by @ Warner Bros. )

Nominees since 2001: 26 prior Oscars winners, 30 prior nominees (with no wins), and 34 first-time nominees.

Winners since 2001: 4 Oscar winners, 8 prior nominees, and 6 first-time nominees.

Nominated in 2019: 2 prior nominees (with no wins), and 3 first-time nominees.

  • Glenn Close: The Wife – 6 prior nominations for The World According to Garp (1982), The Big Chill (1983), The Natural (1984), Fatal Attraction (1984), Dangerous Liaisons (1988), Albert Nobbs (2011)
  • Melissa McCarthy: Can You Ever Forgive Me? – 1 prior nomination for Bridesmaids (2011)
  • Lady Gaga: A Star is Born – No prior nominations
  • Yalitza Aparicio: Roma – No prior nominations
  • Olivia Colman: The Favourite – No prior nominations

Based on recent trends, the advantage in this category goes to seven-time nominee Glenn Close (The Wife) and the twice-nominated Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?). Why? Seven of the last eight winning actresses had been nominated at least twice before winning, and prior nominees in the Best Actress category have the best chance to win (8 winners out of 30 nominations, or  26.6%) among the four acting categories. Also, no Oscar-winning actresses were nominated in 2019; in years when no Oscar winners were nominated (2003, 2008), the Oscar has gone to actresses with prior nominations.

Another factor is that since 1927, only Shirley Booth (Come Back, Little Sheba), Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins), Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl), and Marlee Matlin (Children of a Lesser God) have won a Best Actress Oscar for their first starring roles. This hurts the odds of Lady Gaga (A Star is Born) and Yalitza Aparicio (Roma) winning because of their newcomer status.

Who has the advantage? We’re guessing the seven-time nominated Glenn Close will follow in the footsteps of Julia Roberts, Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet, and Julianne Moore who had at least three nominations and zero wins when they picked up their Oscars.


Best Actor: The Odds Are Split, But It Helps to Play a Real-Life Character

Alex Bailey/20th Century Fox
(Photo by @ 20th Century Fox)

Nominees since 2001: 24 prior Oscars winners, 34 prior nominees (with no wins), and 32 first-time nominees.

Winners since 2001: 3 Oscar winners, 8 prior nominees, and 7 first-time nominees.

Nominated in 2019: 1 Oscar Winner, 3 prior nominees (with no wins), and 1 first-time nominee.

  • Christian Bale: Vice – 1 Oscar win for The Fighter (2011) and two nominations for American Hustle (2014), and The Big Short (2016)
  • Bradley Cooper: A Star is Born – 3 prior nominations for Silver Linings Playbook (2013), American Hustle (2014), and American Sniper (2015)
  • Willem Dafoe: At Eternity’s Gate  3 prior nominations for Platoon (1987), Shadow of the Vampire (2001), and The Florida Project (2018)
  • Viggo Mortensen: Green Book – 2 prior nominations for Eastern Promises (2008) and Captain Fantastic (2017)
  • Rami Malek: Bohemian Rhapsody – No prior nominations

Statistically speaking, the prior nominees without wins (Bradley Cooper, Willem Dafoe, Viggo Mortensen) and the lone first-timer (Rami Malek) have a better chance of winning than Oscar winner Christian Bale. Prior nominees without wins and first-time nominees have won 15 of the last 18 Oscars, with first-time winners Matthew McConaughey, Eddie Redmayne, Leonardo DiCaprio, Casey Affleck, and Gary Oldman winning in the last five years.

The even distribution of nominations and awards to first-timers and prior nominees has forced us to dig deep to find an advantage between prior nominees (without wins) and those with zero Oscar love. The Academy has awarded 10 of the last 18 Oscars to actors playing real-life characters (more than any category this century). The reason we’re bringing this up is that 4 of the 5 nominees this year played real-life characters – in Vice, Bohemian Rhapsody, At Eternity’s Gate, and Green Book. Right now, Malek seems like the statistical frontrunner because six of the seven first-time nominated winners since 2001 have played real-life characters (Jamie Foxx, Adrien Brody, Forest Whitaker, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Matthew McConaughey, Eddie Redmayne).

Who has the advantage? The competition is fierce, but we think Rami Malek has the advantage because the Academy loves to award first-time nominees for playing real life characters.


Best Supporting Actor: No Oscar History? No worries. 

Green Book
(Photo by @ Universal)

Nominees since 2001: 17 prior Oscar winners, 34 prior nominees (with no wins), and 39 first-time nominees.

Winners since 2001: 1 Oscar winner, 5 prior nominees, and 12 first-time nominees.

Nominated in 2019: 2 Oscar winners, and 3 first-time nominees.

  • Mahershala Ali: Green Book – 1 Oscar win for Moonlight (2016)
  • Sam Rockwell: Vice – 1 Oscar win for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2018)
  • Sam Elliott: A Star is Born – No prior nominations
  • Richard E. Grant: Can You Ever Forgive Me? – No prior nominations
  • Adam Driver: BlacKkKlansman -No prior nominations

This category leans heavily towards first-time nominees and winners with 17 of the last 18 Oscars going to first-time winners. Twelve of those 17 actors, 12 were first-time nominees, with five first-time nominees winning consecutively since 2014 (Jared Leto, J.K. Simmons, Mark Rylance, Mahershala Ali, Sam Rockwell). This statistic will help Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman), Sam Elliott (A Star is Born), and Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) because they are first-time nominees who are up against prior Oscar winners Mahershala Ali (Green Book) and Sam Rockwell (Vice).

Who has the advantage? Adam Driver, Sam Elliott, and Richard E. Grant are the actors to watch according to the category’s history – even if the pundits have Mahershala Ali as favorite.


Best Supporting Actress: First-Time Nominees Step Right Up

Roma
(Photo by @ Netflix)

Nominees since 2001: 20 prior Oscar winners, 23 prior nominees (with no wins), and 47 first-time nominees.

Winners since 2001: 0 Oscar winners, 6 prior nominees, and 12 first-time nominees.

Nominated in 2019: 2 Oscar winners, 1 prior nominee (with no wins), and 2 first-time nominees.

  • Emma Stone: The Favourite – 1 Oscar win for La La Land (2016) and one prior nomination for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • Rachel Weisz: The Favourite – 1 Oscar win for The Constant Gardener (2005)
  • Amy Adam: Vice – five prior nominations for Junebug (2005), Doubt (2008), The Fighter (2010), The Master (2012) and American Hustle (2013)
  • Regina King: If Beale Street Could Talk – No prior nominations
  • Marina de Tavira: Roma –No prior nominations

First-time winners have won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar 18 times since 2001. No other acting category can boast this stat, which gives Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk), Amy Adams (Vice), and Marina de Tavira (Roma) the advantage over Oscar winners and The Favourite co-stars Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz.

King and de Tavira have an advantage over multiple-time nominee Adams, because they’re first-time nominees in a category that has awarded 12 of the last 18 Oscars to first-time nominees. The category is so first-time-nominee–loaded that four of the last five winners (Lupita Nyong’o, Patricia Arquette, Alicia Vikander, Allison Janney) were first-time nominees, with Viola Davis (Fences) being the prior-nominated standout of the group.

Who has the advantage? Regina King is almost a guaranteed lock to win the Oscar. However, based on the data we’ve analyzed, Marina de Tavira has a better probability of winning because Roma was nominated for Best Picture – 11 of the last 18 winning actresses have appeared in movies nominated for Best Picture. Could an upset be brewing? If she wins, you heard it here first.



Who do you think will win this weekend? Let us know in the comments.

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