When it comes to winning an Oscar, the key is usually a good story.
The young upstart bursts onto the scene with a sparkling debut. The faded star is making an unlikely comeback. The tough Method actor completely transforms himself in the service of their profession.
While the decision of who wins often has to do with the arbitrary notion of “momentum” and who ran the most lavish behind-the-scenes campaign, many talented actors often fell short and lost out to a more romantic story.
Sometimes actors have amassed a handful of Oscar nominations without ever winning.
For every series winner, like Daniel Day-Lewis or Frances McDormand, there’s a Willem Dafoe or Glenn Close: great actors who haven’t gotten their due from the Academy yet.
Here’s a rundown of all the living actors who have been nominated multiple times but have never taken home an award.
Close is tied with the late Peter O’Toole for the record for most Oscar acting nominations without a win, with eight in her nearly five-decade career. While her most recent nod, for the tacky 2021 Hillbilly Elegywould probably never win her an award, she had even been the front-runner in 2017 for her role in The woman. The bookmaker’s favorite lost out to the real one Favorite, however, when Academy newcomer Olivia Colman stole her thunder. However, don’t expect this drought to last forever; there is the belief among many in Hollywood that Close should have waited a long time now.
For whatever reason, Adams’ career has become synonymous with the idea of the Oscar also running. After breakthrough with the indie drama June bug in 2005 (earning her the first of six unsuccessful acting nominations), she has gone on to deliver powerful performances in films such as Doubt, The fighter And The teacher, but has never won an Oscar. Her last nomination was in 2019, for Adam McKay’s bloated biopic about Dick Cheney Shame — but at age 47, there’s still plenty of time for Adams to finally get his hands on a gold statuette (or several).
In the 1970s and early 1980s, it must have been inevitable for Alexander to win an Oscar. The Massachusetts-born actor was nominated four times for roles in just fourteen years The great white hope (1970), All the president’s men (1976), Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) and will (1983). will would be her last nomination, however, and while Alexander remains a prolific presence on TV and on stage (even earning a Tony Award nomination in 2020), she has appeared in only three films since 2009.
Beatty, one of the top multi-talents of the New Hollywood era, has garnered numerous Oscar nominations in various categories for writing, acting, directing and producing, winning Best Director for Red in 1981. However, his acting was never deemed worthy of the highest gong, despite four nominations – and arguably his best performance, in Robert Altman’s McCabe and Mrs. Miller, was never even nominated. Nevertheless, Beatty has still etched his name in the Oscar history books, playing a central role in the infamous 2017 Best Picture announcement blunder.
One of the standout female actors of her generation, Bening is someone who many people believe has already won an Academy Award. However, that is not the case, despite her four nominations – including that of 1999 American beauty while he took home awards in several other major categories (including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Kevin Spacey), it feels like some sort of disapproval. Even more egregious was the decision not to nominate her for 2016 Women of the 20th century; her turn as single mom Dorothea Fields was one of the best of the decade.
After his breakthrough in the riotous comedy The hangoverCooper went on to establish himself as one of Hollywood’s foremost leading men in films like Silver Linings Playbook, American hustle, American sniper And A star is bornwhich saw him earn all four acting nominations. Cooper has also been recognized by the Academy for his production and directing work, but has never won. While it’s his turn Nightmare Alley has not been appreciated this awards season, the film itself is in any case in the running for Best Picture.
Another actor you might have thought had already won an Oscar, Dafoe is known for his ability to wow arthouse audiences and Spider-Man fans alike. Of his four near misses (Platoon; Shadow of the vampire; The Florida Project; At the Eternity Gate), it’s probably his role as the well-meaning motel manager in Sean Baker’s understated The Florida Project what stings the most; Dafoe was half expected to win at the time, but he lost out to Sam Rockwell Three billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri.
Actor and director Marsha Mason isn’t quite a household name, but her string of projects from 1973 to 1982 earned her a whopping four nominations: for Cinderella Freedom (1973), The farewell girl (1977), Chapter two (1979), and Only when I smile (1981). Unfortunately, she didn’t win any of them, although she won two Golden Globes for her efforts.
One of cinema’s greatest films, Harris has had no shortage of accolades over the course of his critically acclaimed career. However, an Oscar is a trophy that eludes him; despite nominations for Apollo 13, The Truman Show, Pollock And Doorshe has always walked away from the big night empty-handed.
Irish actor Ronan’s continued presence on the ballot almost became a running joke among Oscar pundits. At the age of 24, she had been nominated four times (for 2007’s Penanceyears 2015 Brooklynand her two collaborations with director Greta Gerwig: 2017’s Lady Bird and that of 2019 Little women). It’s not hard to assume that the 27-year-old will win one of these days. And if Ronan continues like this, she could even beat Meryl Streep’s all-time record for most nominations.
Williams is perhaps best known to the general public for her roles in tentpole releases such as venom or The greatest showmanbut it’s in smaller, heavier movies (like Certain women or Manchester by the sea) she really shines. Her Oscar-nominated turns in 2011 Blue valentine and that of 2018 Manchester by the sea both would have been particularly worthy winners; but her other nominations, for Brokeback Mountain in 2006 and for her turn as Marilyn Monroe in My week with Marilyn (2012), were also deserved recognition of her craft.
While the later years of Cruise’s career were defined by high-octane blockbusters, he was once capable of nuanced performances. His Oscar-nominated turn as a misogynistic pick-up artist in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia is arguably Cruise’s best work to date, and misses the mark Born July 4 And Jerry Maguire as one of three nominations in total.
Damon is one of Hollywood’s biggest names who has never won an Oscar – despite coming close three times. In 1998, he lost it after being nominated for Good Will Hunting (although he did manage to get a win in the Best Original Screenplay category). Subsequent nominations for Invictus And The Martian followed in 2010 and 2016, to no avail. His starring role in last year’s superb medieval epic The last duel could have been an interesting contender, but the film was completely dropped from the nominations list.
…and the rest
There are 14 other living actors who have been nominated three times without winning: Joan Allen, Johnny Depp, Woody Harrelson, Diane Ladd, Angela Lansbury, Piper Laurie, Laura Linney, Viggo Mortensen, Nick Nolte, Edward Norton, Michelle Pfieffer, Mark Ruffalo , Sigourney Weaver and Debra Winger.