Yeah, I'm back from FUCKING ENGLAND finally. Trust me you'll hear plenty about that. It's also post-awards season! Trust me, you'll hear plenty about that too.
Anyway it's been almost a full year since I started this blog, and in that time I started a weird James Bond thing that's not even halfway done, and I have forgotten about it for several months at a time. But the best way to get back into things is to do what I do best; talk about movies and shit!
So let's all pretend its still awards season and this article is still relevant. Basically, one thing I've noticed is how during the Academy Awards, we always remember the artists who are nominated multiple times, but I got to thinking; which characters have been nominated more than once? Are there better things I could be writing about? Yeah. Are there probably more important things I could be researching at this point in my life? Definitely.
Are you curious? Yeah. That's what I thought. These are the characters that have been interesting enough to be represented at the Academy Awards more than once. In chronological order.
King Henry VIII of England
Here's where it gets interesting; the next earliest character, and the record holder for the male character nominated the most times is none other than Henry VIII, England's most head-obsessed king. And not in that way. It's not hard to see why; he's the guy you remember from history class as the king who became so obsessed with having a son he divorced and then murdered a bunch of his wives. He's also more or less guilty for such crimes as the virtual decimation (and impregnation) of most of the Boleyn family. He also loved divorce so much he created Protestantism. And now he can add "having three people being nominated for acting awards for his portrayal" to his resume. It started with Charles Laughton, who won the award for Best Actor for the his performance in The Private Life of Henry VIII in 1932. The trend continued with the great Robert Shaw, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in A Man for All Seasons in 1965, and then the equally great Richard Burton who was nominated for Actor in in Anne of the Thousand Days in 1969. You may remember Burton from all his films that involve Shakespeare, and Shaw from all his films that involve giant sharks. Namely that one. For more jokes about Robert Shaw you're free to visit my From Russia with Love review.
Professor Henry Higgins
Professor Henry Higgins is, of course, the main character in George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion. I don't know how to pronounce it either. The title of course, refers to the ancient greek character who fell in love with his own sculpture. This is thematically like the characterization of Higgins, who, as part of a bet, has to help a poor cockney girl named Eliza to sound like a debutante and then obviously falls in love with her because cliches are old. While Leslie Howard was nominated for Best Actor in the 1938, most people fondly remember the modern (for 1964) film adaptation of the Broadway musical My Fair Lady, for which Rex Harrison won Best Actor.
Goodbye, Mr. Chips, based on the book of the same name, tells the story of Mr. Chipping, a once strict and traditional schoolteacher who learns to grow and connect with his students as he gets older. Obviously, it's incredibly sentimental, but the character was loved well enough to give Robert Donat a Best Actor award, and Peter O'Toole a nomination for his role in the musical remake.
President Abraham Lincoln
What you're going to figure out in due time is how most of this list is British royalty and American Presidents. And it wouldn't be a list of the most famous thematic film characters without one of the all time great American figures; our sixteenth president, patron of log cabins and silly hats, savior of the union, and liberator of black people across the country; Abraham Lincoln. You may not remember John Cromwell's Abe Lincoln in Illinois, for which Raymond Massey received a Best Actor nomination in 1940, and tells the story of Lincoln up to his inauguration. What you probably do remember is Daniel Day-Lewis's Best Actor win for Lincoln in 2012, which covers the story of Lincoln after his inauguration. Unfortunately, Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter did not make the cut.
Father Chuck O' Malley
Father Chuck is the first character on this list to be nominated twice for a performance by the same actor; in this case Bing Crosby, who plays the Father Chuck as an unconventional Catholic priest who is introduced to various parishes to make them more fun, to the chagrin of Barry Fitzgerald and Ingrid Berman. Because movies that would end up on the lifetime channel today were extremely successful back in the day. Anyway, Crosby was so much fun he won for Best Actor in Going My Way in 1944, and was nominated again for The Bells of St. Mary's a year later.
King Henry V of England
The Academy loves historical dramas, and the Academy loves Shakespeare (or they used to, now we have superhero movies). Put them together, and you have the two film adaptations of Shakespeare's historical play about Henry V. First was Olivier, who was nominated for Henry V in 1946, as was Shakespearean expert Kenneth Branagh in 1989. Both were in movies they directed, not sure if that makes it easier or harder.
Cyrano de Bergerac
Finally, we come to my favorite example, and in fact my favorite theatrical character of all time. Cyrano's fucking awesome; he's a swashbuckling badass, a lover of the arts, a hopeless romantic, and a sarcastic asshole. Unfortunately, his biggest character flaw is that he's ugly and has a huge nose. Jose Ferrer won Best Actor for playing him in Cyrano de Bergerac in 1950, but my favorite will always be Gerard Depardieu, who was nominated in 1990.
In another of my favorite examples on the list, 1961's The Hustler became an instant classic and rocketed both the fantastic Paul Newman and the sport of pool to popularity. Unfortunately, pool is the only one of those two still around. However, almost 25 years after getting a Best Actor nod for playing the small-time pool hustler, Newman returned for the inexplicable sequel, Martin Scorcese's The Color of Money. While almost universally considered the weaker movie, it's still a fucking Scorcese/Newman movie (with Tom Cruise and an Eric Clapton song), which was more than good enough to earn Newman his first and only Oscar.
King Henry II of England
Oh look, it's Peter O' Toole again. Peter O' Toole, who sadly was one of the fifty-or-so great actors to die this past year, played the morally questionable king as a young man in Beckett in 1964, before playing him as an older man just four years later in The Lion in Winter. I know what you're going to ask though, and no; unlike the other examples on this list, these films aren't necessarily sequels, as they have a different tone, were made by different companies, and even had a mostly different cast. But they're based on a historical character, so maybe you should watch them in order for consistency. Or just watch Iron Man 3 again, I don't give a shit.
It's kind of weird how much the Academy used to like movies that were actually funny, provided they be kind of saccharine at the same time. Both Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) and Heaven Can Wait (1978) tell the story of Joe Pendleton, an athlete (first a boxer, then a football player) killed on accident before his time, because I guess God just fucks up like that sometimes. He is sent back to Earth in the body of crooked investment banker Bruce Farnsworth, and then has to figure out how to fix this man's life and help the people in his old one. Robert Montgomery and Warren Beatty were both nominated for the role.
Hi Whitney! I see you skipped to this part. And I know why. I think it's fair to say that The Dude is probably an all around better actor than The Duke, but even though Jeff Bridges was incredibly fun to watch in the Coen Brother's 2010 remake (or re-adaptation) of True Grit, Wayne's performance in the '69 original is nothing short of classic. It also won him an Oscar for Best Actor.
And here he is, the man of the hour. Arguably the most famous character on this list, for good reason. Vito Corleone's is the quintessential story of success in America, amidst horrific corruption. Curiously, it's told in reverse. In the first film, considered by many to be the greatest film of all time, Marlon Brando plays Vito as the sophisticated, brilliant, and, perhaps, guilty patriarch of the most powerful crime family in New York City, struggling to protect the lives and souls of the people he loves as his world falls apart. In the sequel, also considered by many to be the greatest film of all time, Robert De Niro plays the character in flashbacks as a Sicilan immigrant whose rise in the mafia and fall from grace mirror Michael's. Brando and De Niro were both awarded the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor (switching places each time with Pacino, who took home squat). Not coincidentally, the third and worst film in the series is absent the character, who sadly does not travel back in time to meet his younger self and warn him about Sentinels.
The fact that Al Pacino won neither Best Supporting Actor in The Godfather, for his role as a good man being corrupted by the italian mafia; nor for Best Actor in The Godfather Part II for his starring role as a bad man being even more corrupted by the italian mafia, is almost as much of a crime as this run-on sentence. It would also go a long way to explaining how he eventually won for making toddler noises in Scent of a Woman, in the Academy's now-standard practice of giving people awards for things they should have already had awards for. In any case, Pacino's performance is only part of what makes these two movies so legendary among cinema.
Hughes, the man who is, by all accounts, the inspiration behind Iron Man, is the definition of Hollywood legend. A filmmaker, producer, inventor, aviator, billionaire, and severely developmentally disabled eccentric genius and all-around crazy person, Howard Hughes helped make Hollywood what it is today through ambition, brilliance, assholeishness, and general insanity. Also my dad totally hung out in his plane once. While he was basically a plot contrivance in 1980's Melvin and Howard, for which Jason Robards was nominated for Best Supporting Actor; his true character shines through in Martin Scorcese's The Aviator in 2004. For his emphasis on Hughes's obsessive compulsive lifestyle, Leonardo Dicaprio was nominated for Best Actor. He did not win though, and so an internet meme was born.
President Richard Nixon
The mastermind behind Watergate, the inventor of the double-peace sign, and the only guy on this list with a bigger nose than Cyrano's; our 37th President may not be the best, or even close, but he may be the most villainously Shakespearean. Or at least the most like a Bond baddie. And I would know by this fucking point, trust me. Perhaps thats why both Anthony Hopkins (for Nixon in 1995) and Frank Langella (for Frost/Nixon) saw nominations for Best Actor for giving us insight into what made this disgustingly power-hungry man tick.
Queen Elizabeth I of England
And we come to it at last, the record-holder for the female character most nominated at the Academy Awards is none other than the world's most famous queen, Elizabeth I. Somewhat fitting that the character tied with Henry VIII would be none other than his own daughter. Brilliant, classy, and badass to the end, Elizabeth showed the western world that a woman could lead and do it damn well. Hell, she was friends with Shakespeare, and apparently she ran into Doctor Who a few times. Anyway, the great Cate Blanchett did the character justice in the rather great Elizabeth (1998) and its rather not-so-great sequel Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007). Blanchett was good enough to become nominated for Best Actress both times, but did not win. Who did win was Judi Dench, for her fan-fucking-tastic supporting portrayal in Shakespeare in Love in 1998. That's right, she was even nominated at the same time as Blanchett, and had about a fraction of the screen time. That's talent.
In what was a nice twist on the "interesting man and his doting wife" cliche, Iris told the story of the brilliant and famous female philosopher Iris Murdoch, and her life alongside her loving husband, before having to deal with all the bullshit that comes with alzheimer's disease. For playing the philosopher at two different times in her life, Judi Dench and Kate Winslet were both nominated for Actress and Supporting Actress in 2001.
Well I'm pretty sure that's all of them. Let me know if I'm wrong, because I'm not going to go down the full list of nominees and press "control F" on every name. Again. In case you couldn't tell, I really didn't feel like doing homework today.