When it comes to the Academy Awards, which are fast approaching, it can be hard to predict the winners. However, sometimes you just know. Timothy Gray is a writer for Variety – the premier showbiz news publication in Hollywood. He says for actors, there are certain factors that can lead them to the winner’s circle – or at least score them a nomination. For example, a moment of seeking Divine Guidance in the midst of tears has been a surefire way since Marlon Brando did it in On the Waterfront. Gray says alcoholic or drug-addict roles, and characters with mental or physical afflictions have long been Oscar bait. The last few decades have shown some subtler characteristics that can help actors generate some award buzz, too. For example:
- Talking funny. A strange voice, eccentric rhythms and speech patterns. The glorious roster includes everyone from Billy Bob Thornton in Sling Blade to Renee Zellweger in Cold Mountain, to Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump. Last year it was Daniel Day Lewis for There Will be Blood. Gray says the rule of thumb is this: If a standup comic can do an impression of your performance that’s immediately recognizable, you’re in.
- Have a distinctive haircut. Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. According to Gray, if your character is a popular costume at the West Hollywood Halloween parade, Oscar voters will remember you.
- Another trait that’ll get actors noticed by the Academy: Be threatening and playful. When Forest Whitaker meets James McAvoy in Last King of Scotland, he terrorizes him and then pretends he was joking. Same goes for Joe Pesci with Ray Liotta in Goodfellas. It’s part of the “He's scary!/Oh, he’s kidding!/No, he’s really scary!” school of drama.
- Kill somebody. This scored Johnny Depp a nomination last year for Sweeney Todd, and helped Charlize Theron win for Monster, and Denzel Washington for Training Day. Gray says obviously, there’s one overall winner here: Javier Bardem. He has the all-time great haircut in No Country for Old Men, he toys with his victims, he kills a bunch of people and he’s got the distinctive speech pattern.
So, actors, if want to score an Oscar nomination someday, remember these tips. You just might score a little gold “Friendo” to put on your mantle.