Many of this year's acting nominees have had long and full careers before this year's nominations. Not all their early choices were particularly sound, but some of this year's nominees have been paying their dues for decades.
With the Oscars now just over a week away, we decided to have a little bit of fun by looking back at some of the younger and potentially more embarrassing moments from this year’s acting nominees. No, we weren’t able to track down Meryl Streep’s high school yearbook picture or home movies featuring Christopher Plummer, but we have a bunch of pictures and a few videos of what this year’s class has done in the past. (Note: Some entries only have pictures or videos.)
This year’s category has three veterans, including two previous Oscar winners, taking on a couple young whippersnappers, but the latter two should have plenty of future chances to win Oscars in the future.
Gary Oldman - Since this is Oldman’s second nomination, we need to go back before 2011’s Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy in search of one of his more embarrassing moments (sorry Hitman’s Bodyguard!) Although Oldman’s career is generally fairly solid with early roles in Sid and Nancy and Prick Up Your Ears, he made a movie in 2001 called Nobody’s Baby with Skeet Ulrich about two criminals ordered by the court to care for a baby, in which he played a character named Buford Dill. To be honest, I haven’t seen this movie but the two trailers below are just …yikes!
Timothée Chalamet – Fortunately, the 21-year-old Chalamet hasn’t done enough movies to have too many embarrassing movies or moments from his past. In fact, he appeared in two of the nine Oscar nominated Best Pictures this year, including Call Me By Your Name, for which he was nominated. Few will remember that Chalamet had a role in Jason Reitman’s critically maligned 2014 film Men, Women and Children, playing a football player that gets beat up, so instead, here’s a clip of Chalamet swimming from the 2015 drama One and Two.
Daniel Kaluuya – Similarly, few people knew this British actor before his Oscar-nominated role in Jordan Peele’s Best Picture nominee Get Out, but he was a working actor before that, and he even appeared in a few other films, including a role in the sequel Kick-Ass 2. He only has one line in the clip below but what a delivery!
Daniel Day-Lewis – Remember when the three-time Oscar winner was as young as Timothée Chalamet? Probably not, but he was nominated and won his first Oscar for My Left Foot in 1990 at the age of 33. Ten years before that, Day-Lewis played a radio DJ in the UK series Shoestring, and… yeah, he was still really good in that small role, too.
Denzel Washington – With his eighth nomination for Roman Israel Esq, you’d have to go back before 1988 when Washington was first nominated for Cry Freedom to find something before he was an Oscar nominee. Fortunately, Washington was working for about ten years before that and in 1977, he played a role in the sports drama TV movie Wilma, and he also appeared with George Segal in a movie called Carbon Copy a few years later. Both movies are easily found online but here’s a picture of a 27-year-old Denzel in the latter.
There is a 45-year gap between the oldest actor in this category and the youngest, and while young ingenues like Margot Robbie often do well in the category, it’s the previous winning veterans who are offering her the most challenge.
Sally Hawkins – If you’re like me… then I’m worried about you… but then you also might have first become aware of Hawkins for her leading role in Mike Leigh’s 2008 film Happy-Go-Lucky for which she won a Golden Globe. Hawkins was a very busy British actor even before that, and Happy-Go-Lucky wasn’t even Hawkins' first movie with Leigh, as her first credited role was in his 2002 film All or Nothing, then she had an even bigger role in Vera Drake two years later. She's amazing in both films, the first of which starred Oscar nominee Lesley Manville (see below). Interesting note: Imelda Staunton was nominated for an Oscar for her role in Vera Drake, then Cate Blanchett won the same category for Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine, for which Hawkins received her first Oscar nod.
Frances McDormand – Most people will know this year’s frontrunner in the category for when she won her first Oscar for the Coen Brothers’ Fargo in 1996, but McDormand had already played two uncredited roles in Miller’s Crossing and Barton Fink in 1990 and 1991. Of course, she had already been married to Joel Coen since 1984, who she worked with on both their first movie, Blood Simple. You can see from the clip of the 27-year-old McDormand below that she had just as much intensity 33 years ago as she does in Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri.
Margot Robbie – Before blowing people away with her role opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street and playing Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad, the Australian Ms. Robbie did a few television shows including the short-lived Pan Am and Australian soap Neighbours. Here are her final scenes from latter in which she appeared for three years and over 300 episodes. Doing a soap opera certainly seems like great practice for the drama in I, Tonya.
Saoirse Ronan – Ronan is on her third Oscar nomination at the age of 23, having been nominated for her first Oscar ten years ago for Atonement. Believe it or not, she had already scored her first ongoing television series called The Clinic at the age of 9, and she was absolutely darling even back then, as you can see from the picture above.
Meryl Streep – Like Denzel above, Ms. Streep has been making movies for a very long time, and she’s already received three Oscars out of twenty-one nominations, her first way back in 1979 for The Deer Hunter. That means we’ll have to dig a bit deeper, and we did find a clip of Streep appearing opposite no less than Jane Fonda in 1977’s Julia in which Streep congratulates Fonda, ironic since Fonda would win her second Oscar for her own Vietnam drama Coming Home the same year as Streep's first nomination.
This category only has one first-time nominee and one previous winner, but all five nominees have probably appeared in upwards of a hundred movies.
Sam Rockwell – Another one of this year’s first-time nominees (the only one in this category), Rockwell is a hard-working and prolific actor who has earned the respect of his peers with the diversity of the roles he’s played over the years. Everyone has to start somewhere and Rockwell’s first major role was in the ’80s classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Basically, Rockwell has gone from a hood offering kids cigarettes to being a corrupt and racist cop, a role that will likely win him his first Oscar.
Willem Dafoe – With three nominations before his nod for last year’s The Florida Project, Dafoe is another prolific character actor who has played so many different roles over the years. Even before his first nomination for Oliver Stone’s 1987 film Platoon (another Vietnam film!), Dafoe was already keeping busy as an actor, even playing one of the co-leads in William Friedkin’s To Live and Die in L.A. Blink and you would have missed Dafoe in Tony Scott’s The Hunger back in 1983 or that background part in Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate.
Richard Jenkins – Nominated in the supporting category this year, Jenkins’ first Oscar nomination was for Todd McCarthy’s The Visitor in 2007, but Jenkins has been working since the mid-70s (including a recurring role in HBO’s Six Feet Under, although he didn’t even win an Emmy until 2015’s Olive Kittredge). Here is Jenkins appearing as Kelly in a scene where he’s thrown out of a saloon by Brian Dennehy in the 1985 Western Silverado, which began Jenkins’ amazing run at the age of 38.
Christopher Plummer - Having already won an Oscar for Beginners in 2012, Plummer had only been nominated one time prior, in 2010 for The Last Station at 81 years old. His nomination for playing JP Getty in Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World came out of a week of reshoots where he replaced the disgraced Kevin Spacey. Plummer appeared on a lot of early television shows in the ‘50s, but he also had a role in Sidney Lumet’s 1958 feature film Stage Struck. You can watch a clip of Plummer with a young Henry Fonda here.
Woody Harrelson - Harrelson is possibly the easiest actor to find earlier work for, because he first came to prominence playing bartender Woody on the popular hit sitcom Cheers in 1985. Here’s a great clip of Woody from that show…
Similar to the supporting actor category, this one offers one previous winner and four women who have never been nominated, but at least three of them have been more than deserving after years of hard work.
Mary J. Blige – One of the first first-timers actually received two nominees, one for her performance in Dee Rees’ Mudbound and the other for her original song “Mighty River.” Obviously, Ms. Blige has made her name as an R ’n’ B singer with nine Grammys, but she’s made a few forays into acting including a role in 2012’s movie musical Rock of Ages. I just couldn’t subject you to the latter, but you can watch clips from her 2001 indie Prison Song here.
Allison Janney – Who wasn’t already familiar with this star of The West Wing before she received her first Oscar nomination for I, Tonya? After all, she won four Emmys and was nominated for four Golden Globes for her role on that show. Janney has been acting steadily since the early ‘90s with roles of different shapes and sizes, and though I was fine sharing a clip of her in Tony Shaloub’s Big Night, Janney’s character Loretta from 1999’s Drop Dead Gorgeous apparently has a cult following that put together the second clip reel below.
Laurie Metcalf – Since I never really watched Roseanne and don’t go to many Broadway shows, I wasn’t as familiar with Laurie Metcalfe as others were when they saw her amazing performance in Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird. Metcalf was on Roseanne from 1988 to 1997, winning three back-to-back Emmys for her performance as Jackie Harris. It would have been easy enough to grab a Roseanne clip, but instead, here’s Metcalf in the 1985 film Desperately Seeking Susan where a 30-year-old Metcalf is already nagging people, in this case her brother, played by Mark Blum.
Lesley Manville - A frequent and long-time collaborator with Mike Leigh, many of Manville's fans have been shocked that she hasn't been nominated before, neither for All or Nothing nor Another Year. Clearly Leigh is aware of her talent, putting her in just about all his films. Then again, Ms. Manville has been a British staple since the ‘70s—the above pic is from the series Emmerdale-- and it’s unfortunate that it took Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread to get Manville her past-due Oscar nomination. Below is a clip of Manville with Gary Oldman in 1989’s The Firm (with some not-safe-for-work language):
Octavia Spencer – Although Ms. Spencer won her first Oscar for her first nomination for The Help in 2012 and has had two nominations since (including last year’s The Help), she is a formidable powerhouse who has been acting for more than twenty years. Her first role was in the historic drama A Time to Kill playing a nurse in 1996, and then she lined up dozens of roles before finally being recognized for The Help. (She had already appeared in her pal Tate Taylor’s earlier film Pretty Ugly People along with her other long-time friend… Allison Janney.) I wanted to share one of Spencer’s later nurse roles (she’s played many) from The X-Files in 1999, but instead, here’s Spencer as the “Woman in Elevator” helping John Cusack in Being John Malkovich.
The Oscars are Sunday night, March 4, and we’ll have full coverage here on the Tracking Board.
Edward Douglas | East Coast Editor