Winning an Academy Award is a dream come true for most actors and actresses. Taking home a statue is proof that you are indeed talented, and you have really made it in Hollywood. But for some actors, winning the Best Actor/Actress trophy did not immediately catapult them into stardom and a string of successful film roles. Not everyone is Meryl Streep or Jack Nicholson (both with multiple nominations and 3 wins under their belt).
Winning Hollywood’s highest honor is a possibility at any time throughout an actor’s career. The youngest person to ever win an acting-related award was 10-year-old Tatum O’Neal for her role in 1973’s Paper Moon, while the oldest was 82-year-old Christopher Plummer in 2011’s Beginners. Winning an Oscar has the potential to catapult a lukewarm career into super stardom, but it doesn’t happen that way for everyone.
With the 86th Annual Academy Awards coming up March 2nd, the Academy is about to add four more stars to their list of winners. Newcomer Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) has captured the media’s attention, and is set to launch a successful career, while practically an awards show veteran by now, Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle) is poised to win her second Academy Award. Only time will tell if they will end up like the people on this list.
Read on for 8 actors and actresses who didn’t quite figure out how to ride their one(or two)-time success into a steady stream of critical praise.
8 Marlee Matlin - Children of a Lesser God
In 1987, the role of Sarah Norman, a deaf woman working as a cleaner at a school for the deaf, in Children of a Lesser God, won Matlin the Oscar for Best Actress. At 21, she became the youngest woman to ever win the award. Her role also marked the first time since the 1926 silent film You’d Be Surprised, that a deaf actor was featured in a major role. In her film debut role, Marlee beat out other seasoned actresses Sissy Spacek, Jane Fonda, Kathleen Turner, and Sigourney Weaver. Despite the praise, she didn’t end up doing much in film after. She has had some notable guest starring roles on TV series such as Seinfeld, The West Wing, and Desperate Housewives. She also came in second place on The Celebrity Apprentice. She is now an active character on ABC Family’s Switched at Birth.
7 Timothy Hutton - Ordinary People
Another record setter for youngest to ever win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor was Timothy Hutton in 1981, for his role as Conrad Jarrett in the Robert Redford-directed Ordinary People. He was 20 years old at the time, and it was his first feature film performance. The film also won Best Picture and Best Director for Redford. Since his Academy Award, Hutton has been in films Iceman, Daniel, Turk 182, and Made in Heaven, all of which struggled at the box office. He appeared on Broadway in 1989, and has had a few television roles, but none to match the success of his breakout role as a young man with survivor’s guilt following the death of his older brother in Ordinary People.
6 Kim Basinger - L.A Confidential
Kim Basinger started out as a fashion model, and kicked off her acting career as a Bond Girl in Never Say Never Again. She was nominated for a Golden Globe for her role in The Natural, and played Vicki Vale in Batman. Her career was on the rise when she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1997 for role in L.A Confidential. She actually turned the project down twice before finally agreeing to play the part of Lynn Brackett, a prostitute the lead characters cross paths with while investigating a case. After her win, she took a three year hiatus from acting, before starring in I Dream of Africa, which was widely panned by critics. The part even earned her a Golden Raspberry Award Nomination (Razzie) for Worst Actress. While she has had some bigger roles since (such as 8 Mile), she had never come close to another Academy Award.
5 Mira Sorvino - Mighty Aphrodite
Sorvino is another actress to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for playing the role of a prostitute. Her role as Linda Ash in Mighty Aphrodite was universally praised, earning her a Golden Globe as well. The film was written and directed by Woody Allen, who also starred opposite Sorvino. Since her win, she has been in various films including the cult favorite, Romy and Michelle’s Highschool Reunion. Although she has garnered awards attention (most notably a Golden Globe nomination for Lifetime’s Human Trafficking in 2005), she failed to truly capitalize on the potential of an Academy Award win to make her a household name.
4 Hilary Swank - Boys Don’t Cry & Million Dollar Baby
Not even winning two Academy Awards for Best Actress guarantees a successful future in Hollywood. Swank's role as Brandon Teena in Boys Don’t Cry earned her only $75 per day, culminating in a total of $3,000. But her performance was named the best of the year winning her both a Golden Globe and an Oscar. She starred in a few blockbuster movies including The Core, and Insomnia, but her second Academy Award was for her role as a struggling female boxer in Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby. She hasn’t done much of note since her second win, but two Academy Awards isn’t really anything to complain about.
3 Adrien Brody - The Pianist
Adrien Brody remains the youngest man (at 29) to win the Oscar for Best Actor. He was relatively unknown prior to his role as real-life Polish-Jewish pianist, Wladyslaw Szpilman, in Roman Polanski’s The Pianist. Brody famously kicked off his acceptance speech by kissing award presenter Halle Berry. He beat out veteran actors Nicolas Cage, Michael Cane, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Jack Nicholson to win the award. He has since been in films King Kong (a box-office success), Splice, and The Darjeeling Limited, but in terms of critical acclaim, he hasn’t come close to his previous (unexpected) Oscar success.
2 Halle Berry - Monster’s Ball
Halle Berry became (and still is) the first African-American woman to ever win the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as the troubled wife of an executed murderer in 2001’s Monster’s Ball. She appeared topless (which was rumored to earn her an extra $500 000) in the 2001 film Swordfish, before winning her Oscar. She also reportedly asked for more money to continue being a spokes model for Revlon following her win. In the next couple years, she played Bond girl, Jinx, and the title role in Catwoman (for which she earned $12.5 million). Catwoman was a critical and box office failure, and she actually won a Golden Razzie for Worst Actress for the performance. Despite hitting rock bottom with Catwoman, she is still one of the few actresses in Hollywood to earn over $10 million per film.
1 Cuba Gooding Jr. - Jerry Maguire
Cuba Gooding Jr.’s breakout role was in the surprise hit Boyz in the Hood, and he went on to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in Cameron Crowe’s 1996 sports comedy Jerry Maguire. His iconic line “Show me the money!” is still recognizable almost 20 years later. His acting career has had it’s ups and downs since his Oscar win, including supporting roles in As Good as it Gets, Pearl Harbor, and What Dreams May Come. His list of unsuccessful films is a lot longer including Daddy Day Camp, Boat Trip, and Norbit. He recently appeared in critically acclaimed Lee Daniels’ The Butler, so maybe his career is back on the upswing.
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