Past Best Actress Oscar winners

Oscars by the Numbers: 30 Years of Best Actress–Winning Roles

It’s been said that the easiest way for a beautiful actress to win an Oscar is to “go ugly” for a role. (This might be one reason why so many mistakenly predicted Jennifer Aniston was going to score a nomination for ) But out of 30 winners, only five women have won the Oscar after transforming themselves into less physically attractive personas onscreen. It might have just been a thing from the early aughts. In 2000, Hilary Swank kicked off the trend when she won for Boys Don’t Cry. In 2002, Halle Berry took the award for her performance in Monster’s Ball. The year after that, Nicole Kidman and her fake Virginia Woolf nose scored big for The Hours. Charlize Theron ended the streak with her unrecognizable role in Monster.

Many in the industry claim there aren’t enough opportunities in Hollywood for women over 40, but the evidence suggests otherwise: One third of all Best Actress winners over the past 30 years have been older than 40. The oldest was Jessica Tandy, who took home the statuette for Driving Miss Daisy when she was 80 years old.

Surprisingly, Hollywood ingenues fared worse than their more experienced counterparts—although only slightly so. Nine women under 30 have won an Oscar, but most of them did so when they were in their late twenties. Marlee Matlin still holds the title of youngest Best Actress, at 21, for her performance in Children of a Lesser God.

There’s an old Hollywood adage that winning a Best Actress Oscar leads to the demise of a relationship. Unfortunately, after looking at the numbers, it seems this curse might be real. Half of recent Oscar winners have gone on to divorce or separate from their significant others. Some breakups came years after their wins, while others happened more swiftly. Reese Witherspoon filed for divorce from Ryan Phillippe the same year she won for Walk the Line, while Sandra Bullock separated from husband Jesse James only a few weeks after she took home her Oscar for The Blind Side.

This year, three out of the five Best Actress nominees—Marion Cotillard, and Felicity Jones—are foreign. Does having an accent factor into the odds? Only if you’re from England or Australia, apparently.

What about roles in which the character dies on-screen? A spectacularly sad death will likely earn an actress a nomination, but not necessarily a statuette: Only a little more than a quarter of these roles lead to an Oscar.

It is safe to say that wearing a corset or a vintage costume might serve an actress’s career. Even though recent winners Cate Blanchett and Jennifer Lawrence played contemporary women in their award-winning films, eleven out of 30 Best Actress Oscars went to women who played a character in a period piece.

After looking at the numbers, you could argue that all of this year’s Best Actress nominees have a fair shot. Reese Witherspoon and Felicity Jones both play real-life women: Cheryl Strayed and Jane Hawking, respectively. Marion Cotillard is not only foreign, but downplayed her parisienne good looks to play a depressive factory worker in Two Days, One Night. Julianne Moore we’ve already covered. And isn’t Rosamund Pike’s character in Gone Girl suffering from a disability? Batshit insane counts, right?

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