As another awards season approaches, we could be seeing some major “comeback” performances that garner Oscar buzz. Some people say the nomination is the win, but I’ve got a feeling all seven of these men really wanted to win.
After decades of comedies, Murray starred in a drama (which was still considered a Comedy by the Hollywood Foreign Press). “Lost in Translation” earned Murray a Golden Globe and the Best Actor BAFTA. (The British Academy even gave his co-star Scarlett Johansson Best Actress, and she was Oscar snubbed.) But the Oscar went to Sean Penn for “Mystic River”, after three previous nominations.
Similar to Murray’s story, here’s one of the biggest comedy stars of all-time. Murphy’s performance in the musical “Dreamgirls” attracted all kinds of attention. He showed a cinematic side no one had ever seen before. But that didn’t prevent Academy members from having promotion for Murphy’s “Norbit” shoved in their faces during the voting period. So the Oscar went to… Alan Arkin for “Little Miss Sunshine”.
As “The Wrestler”, Rourke delivered the kind of showy, career-defining performance that took critics and audiences by storm. Like Murray, Rourke won a Golden Globe and the Best Actor BAFTA. But guess who took home the Oscar… Penn, this time for “Milk”.
ROBERT DOWNEY, JR.
2008 was a prolific year for RDJ. His is the quintessential comeback story of the past 15 years. “Iron Man” instantly re-launched him onto the A-list, and “Tropic Thunder” brought a comedic performance onto the Oscar ballot. But Best Supporting Actor, instead (and for good reason) went to the late Heath Ledger for “The Dark Knight”.
One of the biggest comeback sagas in recent years still resulted in the most talked about actor of the year (in the year’s Best Picture) not earning the trophy. Keaton’s mind-blowing performance in “Birdman” was universally applauded. But Eddie Redmayne was named Best Actor for playing Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything”.
Mark Rylance was fine in “Bridge of Spies”. But one of the recent losses that still stings is Stallone in “Creed”. Nearly 40 years after the original “Rocky”, Stallone gave a deep, layered performance as Balboa and proved that he’s still got it – and may be better than ever. And yet again, the most talked about performance doesn’t get the gold.
The Golden Globe winner (“Four Weddings and a Funeral”) had never been Oscar nominated. But when “Florence Foster Jenkins” was released overseas in May 2016, Grant instantly earned rave, career-high reviews. I attended a screening in NYC in June (Paramount executives sat behind me). “Florence” opened in August, with glowing praise for both Grant and Streep. They both earned Critics Choice, Golden Globe, SAG and BAFTA nominations that awards seasons and seemed like Oscar nominee locks. But while Streep got on the Best Actress ballot, Grant wasn’t in the Supporting Actor category.