The weirdest Oscars nominees ever – ranked!

On the eve of the 90th Academy Awards, we celebrate the unlikeliest red-carpet-walkers, including Robert Towne’s dog, several people who don’t actually exist and … Jean-Paul Sartre

10. Hermione Baddeley: best supporting actress nominee, Room at the Top

It took just over two minutes of screen time for Baddeley to nab a nomination for her work in Jack Clayton’s 1959 drama. The current holder of the title for smallest amount of screen time resulting in an actual prize is Beatrice Straight, who won in the same category in 1977 for a performance in Network totalling just under six minutes.

9. Pierre Boulle: best adapted screenplay winner, The Bridge on the River Kwai

Though Boulle had written the 1952 novel on which David Lean’s film was based, most people who saw him collect the Oscar in 1958 knew he was a front for the blacklisted writers Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson. “Everyone knew Boulle couldn’t speak English, let alone write it,” said Hollywood historian Larry Ceplair.

Darkest hour? Norbit, Oscar nominated for best makeup. Photograph: Everett/Rex Shutterstock

8. Kazuhiro Tsuji and Rick Baker: best makeup nominee, Norbit

It is not that Tsuji and Baker, both masters in their field, didn’t deserve this nomination. But the idea that the woeful, fat-tastic 2007 Eddie Murphy comedy can be referred to for all time as “Academy Award nominee Norbit” makes the heart sink. But there can be no controversy, surely, over Tsuji’s nomination this year for turning Gary Oldman into Churchill in Darkest Hour.

7. Kenneth Branagh: best adapted screenplay nominee, Hamlet

Branagh’s four-hour 1996 version of Hamlet – comprising the full first folio supplemented by the second quarto – worked more as filmed theatre than cinema, give or take some gimmicky guest stars (Ken Dodd as Yorick, anyone?). Perverse, then, to single out the script for a nomination when Branagh seemed merely to have decanted the play into Final Draft.

George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw, ready for the red carpet 25 years after writing Pygmalion. Photograph: Popperfoto/Getty Images

6. George Bernard Shaw: best adapted screenplay joint winner, Pygmalion

Thirteen years after winning the Nobel prize for literature, Shaw added an Oscar (shared with Ian Dalrymple, Cecil Lewis and WP Lipscomb) to his mantelpiece in 1938 for his hand in the film adaptation of his 1913 play Pygmalion. It would, in turn, inspire future Oscar winner My Fair Lady and nominee Pretty Woman.

5. Roderick Jaynes: best editing nominee, Fargo and No Country For Old Men

The Coen brothers edit their films under the pseudonym “Roderick Jaynes” and have even concocted a backstory for him as a crusty veteran of British cinema. On the occasion of their imaginary editor’s second nomination, in 2008, Joel Coen doubted that their man would show up at the ceremony: “He’s very old – late 80s, early 90s – so I don’t know if he’d make the trip.”

4. Jaye Davidson: best supporting actor nominee, The Crying Game

Not an unlikely nominee so much as a walking spoiler. Anybody who had not, at that point in 1993, already seen Neil Jordan’s playful, gender-fluid thriller might wonder why the main female face in the film was up against the likes of Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino and eventual winner Gene Hackman.

3. PH Vazak: best adapted screenplay nominee, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes

Unlike Jaynes, PH Vazak was real, all right. Had he won in 1984, however, he would probably have been happier with a handful of choc drops than an Oscar, since in reality he was a Hungarian sheepdog belonging to Robert Towne. The screenwriter (who had previously won for Chinatown) had his name taken off Greystoke in protest at script changes.

2. Charlie and Donald Kaufman: best adapted screenplay winners, Adaptation

Charlie Kaufman already had a screenwriting Oscar nomination for Being John Malkovich, but he shared his second, for the fiendishly clever 2002 comedy Adaptation, with his twin brother, Donald. Except that there was no Donald. Named as co-writer in the credits, he exists only as a character played in the film by Nicolas Cage.

Jean Paul Sartre
Surreal thing … Jean Paul Sartre, Oscar nominated in 1956, but beaten by a pseudonym. Photograph: David E Scherman/The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images

1. Jean-Paul Sartre: best story nominee, The Proud and the Beautiful

Until 1957 there were three screenwriting categories: best original screenplay, best adapted screenplay and best story. It was in the latter section, in the final year of that prize, that the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre found himself nominated for The Proud and the Beautiful, based on Typhus, a screenplay he wrote in 1944. His competitors included the neo-realism figurehead Cesare Zavattini (for Umberto D), but the award went to Robert Rich, a pseudonym for the blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who lived to see the prize reissued under his real name in 1975. Another oddity about the Sartre film: it includes a rare acting appearance from surrealist film-maker Luis Buñuel.


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