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170 Days until Oscars: Brody & Dreyfuss

170 is the amount of days by which Adrien Brody (The Pianist) narrowly defeated Richard Dreyfuss (The Goodbye Girl) to become the Youngest Best Actor winner ever. Do you think both of them deserved their wins?

Adrien Brody (29) and Richard Dreyfus (30) are the 2 youngest Lead Actor winners

1977 Best Actor 2002 Best Actor
Woody Allen, Annie Hall Adrien Brody, The Pianist
Richard Burton, Equus Nicolas Cage, Adaptation
Richard Dreyfus, The Goodbye Girl Michael Caine, The Quiet American
Marcelo Mastroianni, A Special Day Daniel Day Lewis, Gangs of New York
John Travolta, Saturday Night Fever Jack Nicholson, About Schmidt


The most hilarious thing about this statistic is that Adrien Brody is both the youngest Best Actor winner at 29 AND the only twentysomething winner. Meanwhile "29" is actually the most common age to win Best Actress. These eight women all accomplished it and none of them were anywhere close to making a "youngest" list. 

Ginger Rogers, Kitty Foyle (1940)
Ingrid Bergman, Gaslight (1944) 
Judy Holliday, Born Yesterday (1950)
Elizabeth Taylor, BUtterfield 8 (1960)
Julie Andrew, Mary Poppins (1964)
Jodie Foster, Silence of the Lambs (1991) 
Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line (2005)
Natalie Portman, Black Swan (2010) 

A record book ode to double standards! This can't possibly bode well for Jack O'Connell (Unbroken) who just turned 24 last month... but what an impressive season he's likely to have anyway with two acclaimed leading man performances already jostling about for attention (Starred Up, '71) and one more as Christmas present (Unbroken).

current best actor chart  (i'll update all the charts once I'm back from Toronto on the 14th)

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Reader Comments (36)

For 1977, I haven't seen Equus, but of the rest, my choice is Woody Allen. I'd say that's a perfect performance. Mastroianni is very moving, Travolta is spellbinding on the dance floor and not bad off it, Dreyfuss is fine but better in Close Encounters of the Third Kind from the same year.

For 2002, yes, I think the right actor won - though all five of them are very good.

September 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

Brody was worthy, Dreyfuss not as much. Had the Academy known it was Burton's last chance at bat I would think he would have gotten it. He deserved it anyways.

The Dissolve had a little review of 1977 in this category:

September 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

Its hard to be objective about Richard Burton losing considering his body of work. Its a good line up although I think Travolta could have been replaced, I like the film, but keep seeing him "acting" rather than being. I did enjoy Dreyfuss but agree that Close Encounters is a better perf. He probably won as much for both as for one, but the academy would never give a Sci-Fi film a nod for acting, even if Truffaut is in it.

Brody was the best choice. But what a weird career. He must be very content because I don't see a lot of ambition. He can't be that hard to cast so I wonder what he is turning down?

September 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Henry brought up that Adrien Brody has had a weird career since his Oscar win, and I agree to some extent, but I think it's been really fun to watch. He's been an action hero in two of the only well received remakes of the past decade (King Kong and Predators), he's done weird sci-fi/horror stuff (Splice), and he's become a welcome addition to Wes Anderson's stock company. He's also worked with the likes of Terry Gilliam and Woody Allen. He hasn't had a role since The Pianist that has even come close to being as meaty as that one was, but he's sort of reinvented himself as a character actor who makes eclectic choices, and I'm cool with that.

September 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEdwin

I'd say Brody definitely deserved his win. I can see Dreyfus deserving the win over Allen and Travolta, sure, but I haven't seen A Special Day or Equus.

That list of Best Actress winners is interesting in that several of the first half-dozen I would've thought were well over 29, while I'd have thought the two most recent 29 year olds were younger than that.

September 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterScottC

Henry: Gielgud was someone at least a bit contemptuous of his film work and was probably never going to get anything more than supporting nominations. They'd already given Art Carney a growing to be contentious win over Jack and, especially, Al Pacino, for his performance in Harry and Tonto. Jack Nance in Eraserhead is too arty for them and can barely be considered acting. Henry G. Sanders in Killer of Sheep is technically much more of a performance than Nance, but it's still too arty for the Academy. Burt in Smokey and the Bandit was too loose and natural to draw attention to itself. Mark Hamill was too dull in Star Wars, and the Academy's actors never really got into Dennis Hopper enough to bite on The American Friend, let alone the later Blue Velvet.

September 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

should've been Woody Allen & Daniel Day Lewis. It's actually (and by far) my favorite performance of DDL. I think that should be his ONLY Oscar win.

September 5, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterstjeans

I remember when Thin Red Line was being released. Pre-release, there was a great deal of talk of Broody and how he was the next big thing, the discovery of the film, etc. etc. Then it came out and he was barely in it. I don't think that really hurt him as the film was pretty much a non-event and divisive (There are moments of great film making and moments where you just scratch your head (What was he thinking?) and perhaps Nolte's best performance in a career filled with great perfs while some of the stunt casting (Clooney) really broke the film up.....).

I thought he was pretty perfect in Pianist and well deserved the win that year but I would like to see him do more deep roles.

September 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

He can't be that hard to cast

He has the nose and height of a character actor and not much range.

September 5, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

In a stellar line-up. Nicholson was my favorite with Caine close second. However, I do think that Brody deserved it. I've always liked him since I discovered him in SOS Summer of Sam. Besides, he gave us one of the most memorable moments of the telecast. His post-Oscar career has been clearly disappointing.

I can't stand Dreyfuss in The Goodbye Girl. He was far better in Close Encouters of the Third Kind. Genre bias, I guess. Anyway, it should have been Marcello Mastroianni*.

*Sophia is brilliant in that movie too. She should have been nominated too along with Liza. 1977 was good for women.

September 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

This is when I get angry that Timothy Hutton's Oscar was in the wrong category.

September 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHayden W

Volvagia--Those are somewhat obscure. I was thinking more along the lines of DeNiro for New York New York-Gere for Goodbar-Pacino for Bobby Deerfield-Nolte for The Deep, even Peck for MacAuthur. I always felt Travolta got the nom for the popularity of the film and the eminent death of Diana Hyland whom he was involved with (I know that sounds terrible, but......).

September 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

If Timothy Hutton was in a different category, he wouldn't have won. :-)

I think both of these guys deserved the award, and if I'm being honest, there are a lot more 20something performances that should have been nominated, but the Academy is so cautious with the men. I imagine there are only a handful of 20something performances nominated and in order to get them you really had to stand out (i.e. die like James Dean)?

September 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Alamitos Beach

I definitely think Brody is a deserving winner in a strong line-up, but boy do I wish Hugh Grant could've made it in for About A Boy. I'd take away Caine's (deserved) nomination to squeeze him in, more as punishment for winning for The Cider House Rules than anything else (and he's not even bad in that, but not better than Law, Osment, or a still not sure how he missed Plummer).

September 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVal

Henry: I didn't think of DeNiro because it was a public flop in a fading genre. Gere, looking at the plot description, looks slightly borderline and certainly not someone the Academy would look at as Lead (If Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech is their idea of "supporting"?), The Deep was too badly reviewed/trashy, even if it did have a high gross, meaning it'd be like arguing for Transformers to be nominated in major categories, Bobby Deerfield had even worse reviews and MacArthur probably had no chance as a conventional biopic in the peak of the Academy's most stridently anti-conventional period of 1975-1977. (Two openly biographical movies, and they are, respectively, Dog Day Afternoon (which is about a gay bankrobber with a spouse who wants to undergo gender reassignment) and Give Em Hell, Harry! (James Whitmore giving an extended monologue). Neither is exactly conventional fare, are they?)

September 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Hayden-no one was going to beat Robert de Niro that year, nor should anyone have.

I agree with Henry-some other actors were likely gunning for the fifth spot against Travolta. I suspect Pacino (who could get nominated for almost anything in the 70's), Peck (a legend in a biopic), Carney (who won the NSFC Award and whose film got a Screenplay nod) or even George Burns (curmudgeon and an afterglow contender) were the ones that were fighting him.

September 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

2002 was a fascinating year for Best Actor and I really like Adrien Brody's win, partly because it's a terrific and soulful performance, but also because he was the only nominee in that line-up who wasn't already a winner, and yet, every one of those performances was terrific. Jack Nicholson was giving his least "Jack Nicholson" performance in About Schmidt and is incredibly moving, Nicolas Cage channeling Kaufman is brilliant (I particularly like how he developed very specific personalities for both of his characters while making clear that they're practically the same person), Michael Caine was perfectly cast in his role and as for Daniel Day-Lewis, as great as he is Gangs of New York, I always felt was more of a supporting role. There were also other great un-nominated performances (Leonard DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can, Hugh Grant in About a Boy, Kieran Culkin in Igby Goes Down, Javier Cámara in Hable con Ella, just to name a few)...

September 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRichter Scale

I think Adrien Brody was so deserving.

September 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

Man, I'd defend Dreyfuss's Best Actor win.

I may be soft on The Goodbye Girl though because it's the film my parents saw on their first date. So I always think The Goodbye Girl -> other things -> my existence. (But I'd still defend it for other reasons too.)

September 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKacey

I remember being firmly in the camp of Jack Nicholson for being so uncharacteristically un-Jack, but Brody's win was a welcome and deserved surprise, and his reaction was so heartfelt that I couldn't help but be moved myself.

September 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

Brody was deserving. It should have been Burton instead of Dreyfuss, whose performance while charming is hardly revelatory, has given more powerful performances. He was more deserving for his un-nominated turns in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and Whose Life Is It Anyway?

September 5, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

I'm have to disagree with everyone because the Brody performance does nothing special for me but I really don't like the movie much and find it boring as hell. All other four nominees were better then Brody which is why his win is laughable to me.

Dreyfuss was my winner for Close Encounters and it is sad Burton was never rewarded as he should have been in 1966.

September 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEoin Daly

Of the 1977 five (and I haven't seen Equus)...I'm surprised I'm the only one who would vote for Travolta. He is mesmerizing in Saturday Night Fever, though it's a pretty decent group of performances overall I have to say. And I agree with Eoin Daly that my vote would have gone to Dreyfuss in Close Encounters and by a pretty wide margin. The Goodbye Girl has not aged well at all, although I can still watch it and tell that Dreyfuss is pretty good in it.

2002, also a surprisingly strong lineup (stronger than I remember in retrospect). It was a probably a bit of a headscratcher at the time that Caine made it in over Richard Gere, just in terms of buzz. But the omission of Gere allowed for one of the strongest lineups of that decade (2003 is the best and a hard one to beat, for me). I think, although he was the frontrunner, that Day-Lewis might actually be my least favorite of these five performances for a lot of reasons. Firstly, I think he was in completely the wrong category. Also, there just isn't a lot of connective tissue in Day-Lewis' rendering of Bill the Butcher in terms of character and backstory and motivation. He's super watchable (Nine being the exception, he rarely isn't) but I've seen Gangs a couple of times and I still have no idea who Bill the Butcher is.

September 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterThe Pretentious Know it All

Also, how unbelievably sexy was Richard Dreyfuss back in the day? I still get swoony watching the clip of him presenting Sally Field with her Oscar, where he's clearly...altered, let's just say.

September 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterThe Pretentious Know it All

so let me just say that I think there's no way in hell Travolta was in the fifth spot that year. That movie was a phenomenon. My guess is the fifth spotter was Mastroianni who was a default choice for them back then just as Pacino was, whether they were brilliant or just good.

September 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

2002 was a really great year, and I love the perfs by DDL, Cage, Jack, and Adrien. I think I'd give it to DDL, who really added something that wouldn't have been there w/o him. The other three had strong performances already on the page. I do love Adrien in this though, and wonder why he hasn't gotten more good roles.

I'd give 1977 to Woody Allen who maybe invented himself more than played himself in the role. And maybe give Actress that year to Goodbye Girl.

September 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMarsha Mason

I've always said 1977 is the strongest year ever for Best Actress nominations - what a bloodbath!

But the men's side was pretty tame. I think Richard Dreyfuss' Oscar is for the entire movie not just his performance. (Sort of like Katharine Hepburn in Guess Who's Coming To Dinner).

Woody is the only other Best Actor nominee from a Best Picture nominee and though he's great in the movie, it's hardly much of an acting stretch.

PS having both Dreyfuss AND Travolta in their 20s and nominees has got to be pretty rare right?

September 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Alamitos Beach

Dreyfuss deserved his Oscar. Burton was great, but the device of talking into the camera killed his chances. Jack should have won in 2002. Acting in its purest form.

September 6, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I just realized how each and every losing actor would become part of Oscar trivia:

Woody Allen would join Olivier as a the 2nd director who directed himself to a win (until and Benigni - oy...)
Richard Burton would have finally won for his last career nomination
Mastroianni would have been the first best actor ever to win for a foreign performance (then Benigni wouldn't hold that title now)
John Travolta would have been the youngest winner ever at age 24

Cage would have become part of the 2-time Oscar winners
Caine would have joined Nicholson and Brennan (then Day-Lewis later) as a 3-time winner
Day-Lewis would have joined the 2-time winners' club
Nicholson would have become the only 3-time BA winner and 4-time Oscar winner in general as an actor

September 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMr. Goodbar

My votes would be Mastroianni and Day-Lewis

September 6, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

I think Brody deserved his Oscar, even though it was more of a "safe" choice (Hello Holocaust movie!!!) from the Academy. I also loved Jack Nicholson and Nicholas Cage (he's great when he doesn't try to play an overly cool character) very much. Can't say anything about DDL, because I haven't seen Gangs of New York yet.
Though my favorite male lead performance was Robin Williams for One Hour Photo. So creepy, but also very sad...
Unfortunately he wasn't nominated for anything. But the truely best performances often aren't. *sigh*

September 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSonja

Speaking of young, I hope Ellar Coltrane in "Boyhood" will somehow make a dent in the updated Best Actor chart, even as a possible outsider/contender. If Quevanzhane Wallis can get a longshot nod, he most definitely can.

September 6, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterzig

BUtterfield 8 was released in 1960, and Taylor won the Oscar in 1961 right after her 29th birthday. You're probably thinking of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, for which she was nominated in 1958, but lost to Joanne Woodward. Many consider Taylor's win was due to sympathy votes because of her near death bout of pneumonia, requiring an emergency tracheotomy.

September 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCraig

Liz lost to Susan Hayward for 1958; she lost the 1957 race to Joanne.

September 6, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

zig, ew please no. I thought Ellar Coltrane was definitely the weakest part of Boyhood.

September 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

Brody> Nicholson, Day-Lewis, Caine, Cage

Burton> Allen, Mastroianni, Travolta, Dreyfuss

September 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPatryk

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