When a Hollywood celebrity is recognized with an award for outstanding achievement he or she is usually ecstatic. In the world of movies the top prize is the Oscar, and it takes a huge amount of skill to win one of these coveted trophies. But it’s not only skill that’s required. It also takes a certain amount of luck.
After all, Martin Scorsese didn’t win a best director Oscar until much later in his career, and everyone talks about how Leonardo DiCaprio still hasn’t won an Oscar despite having at least ten performances where he could have.
The same can be said for winning an Emmy, Grammy or Tony Award. So, you would think that anybody who won one of these trophies would treasure it. However, that is not always the case. Many celebrities have actually refused to accept awards they have won. Perhaps it is a moral objection that causes some celebrities to snub awards, or maybe they’re just too humble to accept any sort of praise. Here’s a look at ten celebrities who had their own reasons for refusing high-profile awards.
10. David Bowie
Can you imagine turning down a Knighthood? Well, that’s apparently what David Bowie did.
It is widely believed that the rocker declined the honor because he views himself as undeserving of the title, though it’s also been strongly implied that he sees the honor as a waste of time. “I would never have any intention of accepting anything like that. I seriously don’t know what it’s for. It’s not what I spent my life working for,” said Bowie.
Bowie was supposed to receive Knighthood in 2003. This was not the first time Bowie declined being honored by the Queen. Before declining Knighthood he refused to accept an Order of the British Empire medal in 2000, leading to speculation that the outspoken singer harbours anti-Royals sentiment.
9. Nigella Lawson
Nigella Lawson also turned down being honored by the Queen. Lawson has become one of the world’s most respected and successful celebrity chefs, and thus the monarchy deemed her worthy of receiving a royal honour.
However, the celebrity chef and best-selling author turned down the Order of the British Empire, the most junior Order of Chivalry in the British Commonwealth, in 2001. She was to be rewarded for her services to journalism and cookery. Whitehall documents that were leaked in 2003 showed that Lawson refused to accept the recognition from Queen Elizabeth II.
8. Roald Dahl
Becoming one of the most celebrated children’s authors of all time is certainly an accomplishment that should be praised.
Dahl wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, the Fantastic Mr. Fox and a number of other celebrated classics. His body of work led him to be chosen to receive the Order of the British Empire from the Queen of England in 1986. He was selected for the New Years Honours List that year. However, Dahl chose not to accept that particular honor, and it is believed he declined because he was holding out for a Knighthood instead.
7. Dudley Nichols
Screenwriter Dudley Nichols refused his Academy Award for screenwriting in 1936. He won the award for the movie the Informer, but he declined to accept the trophy because the Screen Writers Guild was on strike at the time.
The Informer, a movie that told the story of the Irish War of Independence, was Nichols’ first highly praised film, but it was not his last. He also wrote the screenplay for Stagecoach, Then There Were None and the Tin Star. Nichols would later go on to be named the president of the Screen Writers Guild in 1937, just one year after he declined his Oscar.
6. George C. Scott
Scott warned the Academy that he would refuse the Oscar if he was awarded it, but his performance in Patton was so good that the Academy named him the winner anyway. He was the first actor to decline an Academy Award for best actor.
He turned down the award for philosophical reasons. However, he did not turn down the New York Film Critics Award for his portrayal of George S. Patton. Scott was said to have remarked that the New York Film Critics Award was the only award worth having. He said of the Oscars: “The whole thing is a goddamn meat parade. I don’t want any part of it.”
5. Marlon Brando
Legendary actor Marlon Brando was awarded the Oscar for best actor in 1973 for his portrayal of Vito Corleone in the Godfather.
Brando refused to accept it and didn’t even attend the Oscar ceremonies that year. Instead, he sent a Native American actress named Sacheen Littlefeather in his place to read a statement as to why he was refusing the award. Brando declined the Oscar in protest over the way Native Americans were treated by the film industry. When Littlefeather took the stage after Brando’s name was called she read his statement and received boos from the audience.
4. Woody Allen
Woody Allen has been quoted as saying the whole concept of awards is silly, and to this day he does not acknowledge the four Academy Awards he has won. He has only ever attended an Academy Awards ceremony once.
In 2002 he introduced a montage of films made in New York as a memorial to the lives lost in the September 11 terrorist attacks. “I didn’t have to present anything. I didn’t have to accept anything. I just had to talk about New York City,” said Allen. Allen won three best original screenplay Oscars for Annie Hall, Midnight in Paris, and Hannah and her Sisters. He also won the best director Oscar for Annie Hall.
3. Peter O’Toole
The late Peter O’Toole was not only one of the greatest actors of all time, but he was also famously the actor to be nominated for the most Academy Awards and never win. He received eight nominations for his acting work including a best actor nomination for his role in Lawrence of Arabia. In 2003 the Academy bestowed a great honor on the actor when he was presented with an Academy Honorary Award for his entire body of work.
However, he at first refused to accept the award because he felt he still had many years of acting ahead of him and had the potential to win an award for an individual performance. He wrote a letter to the Academy saying he would not accept the honorary award. He eventually changed his mind, and Meryl Streep presented the trophy to him.
2. Jean-Paul Sartre
French author and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre is one of the only people to ever refuse to accept a Nobel Prize. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1964, but he refused to accept the award for personal reasons. He remarked: “A writer should not allow himself to be turned into an institution.”
This wasn’t the first time that Sartre refused an award. In 1945 he declined the Legion d’Honneur. To this day he is one of only two Nobel laureates to refuse the award, the other being Lê Đức Thọ.
He wrote a letter to the Nobel committee when he was nominated and asked his name be removed from the list; he warned that he would not accept if he won.
1. John Lennon
To protest Britain’s role in the Nigerian Civil War and the government’s support of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, the Beatles singer returned his Order of the British Empire medal to the Queen.
In 1969 Lennon’s chauffeur, Les Anthony, returned the insignia to the Queen on Lennon’s behalf. Anthony also delivered Lennon’s letters to the Queen, Prime Minister Harold Wilson, and the secretary of the Central Chancery, which stated why he was returning his medal as protest.
Lennon reportedly did not discuss his actions with any other members of the Beatles, all of whom had also received a Member of the Order of the British Empire medal.