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Old March 7 2011, 03:23 AM   #1
CaptainCanada
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Directors and Oscar-winning performances

The most recent Academy Awards included debates about Christopher Nolan's omission from the director nominees, and different types of directing styles ("actor's director", for instance, a category that people tend to put winner Tom Hooper in). The same ceremony saw David O. Russell direct Christian Bale and Melissa Leo to Oscars for The Fighter, I wondered who had directed the most Oscar-winning performances. For fun (yes, this is what I do for fun), I went over Oscar history to look it up; quite an interesting project; in a lot of cases, I recognized the names of actors or films, but not the directors who made them. Anyway, the notables:

1. William Wyler (won Best Director 3 times) - 14 acting Oscars

One of the top guns in Hollywood from the late 1930s to the early 1960s, including directing three Best Picture winners, but not as well-remembered as some of his contemporaries; his most-remembered films today would likely be The Best Years of Our Lives and Ben-Hur. The Stanley Kubrick of his day, known as "ninety-take Wyler". It's highly unlikely his record will ever be surpassed.

2. Elia Kazan (2) - 9 acting Oscars

If anyone was going to, it would probably have been Kazan, who directed all these performances in a 10-year span from 1945 to 1955, including Gentleman's Agreement, A Streetcar Named Desire, and On the Waterfront. Unfortunately for hiim, once the Red Scare ended, Hollywood was free to let him know just how much they appreciated his backstabbing.

3. (tie) Woody Allen (1) & Fred Zinneman (2) - 6 acting Oscars

Allen is the highest-ranked living/working director on the list, though all but one of his wins came between 1977 and 1995. Five of the six were for actresses (and four of those in the supporting category). Unsurprising that big-name actors still line up to work with him.

Zinneman, like Wyler, was a big talent in his day, and many of his films are remembered, but he hasn't gone down as a big name. He directed two BP winners (From Here To Eternity, A Man for All Seasons), as well as the landmark western High Noon.

4. (tie) George Cukor (1), Clint Eastwood (2), John Ford (4), Victor Fleming (1), Martin Scorsese (1) - 5 acting Oscars

Three late legends of the Golden Age of Hollywood and two more directors still working today. As a sidenote, George Cukor was the original director attached to Gone With The Wind, and supervised the preproduction before being fired three weeks before shooting; if he was given partial credit for that film's two acting wins (particularly Vivien Leigh's, since he continued to secretly meet with her for coaching through the shooting), he'd move into third place solo.

5. (tie) Hal Ashby (0), James L. Brooks (1), Jonathan Demme (1), John Huston (1), Sidney Lumet (0) - 4 acting Oscars

Three guys still around today, though no longer in their prime (I actually thought Sidney Lumet was dead, but no, he's still goin'), late legend John Huston (two of the four performances he directed were members of his own family, incidentally) and Hal Ashby, who I'd never heard of, but it turns out he was the director of Being There, among other things, before flaming out in spectacular fashion in the 1980s.

Then there's several people apiece with 3 and 2, respectively (many of the people who had 2 directed them in the same film).

Kazan and Lumet hold the record for the most wins for a single film, three apiece (for A Streetcar Named Desire and Network, respectively).

Wyler, Kazan, Ashby, and Scorsese are the only people to direct winning performances in all four acting categories (Wyler has at least two of each).

The most recent people to join the multiple-winners club are the aforementioned Russell, as well as Stephen Daldry and Gus Van Sant (both in 2008). Other working directors on the list include the Coen Brothers, Jim Sheridan, Mike Nichols, Roman Polanski, James Mangold, Ron Howard, Taylor Hackford, and Jane Campion.

Of the people in the top five brackets, I think Eastwood and Scorsese could both conceivably move higher; surely one of them will get DiCaprio his Oscar.
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Old March 7 2011, 05:26 PM   #2
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Re: Directors and Oscar-winning performances

An interesting survey, thanks. I can't say I'm too surprised. Wellman made so many good movies and brought out a lot of strong performances (even if he had to come to blows with some actors). Zinneman always had characters with strong moral stances that people liked so that makes sense, too. Too bad names like Wellman, Zinneman ("You first"), Cukor and Fleming are not better remembered, but in those days the stars were the actors and directors were not in the public eye like some are today.

CaptainCanada wrote: View Post
[...]and Hal Ashby, who I'd never heard of, but it turns out he was the director of Being There, among other things, before flaming out in spectacular fashion in the 1980s.
Never heard of Hal Ashby? Oh my... Harold and Maude, The Last Detail, Bound for Glory, Coming Home and Being There are absolutely must-see pictures. Ashby was the stereotypical spaced-out California lefty hippie wierdo, but was beloved by actors and made movies that made subversive but really perceptive examinations of conventions and institutions. He also directed Shampoo, which was very successful but more a collaboration between Ashby, Warren Beatty and Robert Towne, and is not as strong as the others IMO. He did flame out but when he was at the top of his game he made a really unique kind of humanistic character film that stood out even in the "New Hollywood" '70s. It's almost hard to believe that films like that were mainstream when I was a kid.

He also made a pretty good Rolling Stones concert movie, though hanging around with Keith Richards was undoubtably not the best thing for him. He was married to Joan Marshall, prosecutor Areel Shaw in TOS "Court Martial," BTW. And he was a Utahn like me.

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Old March 7 2011, 05:47 PM   #3
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Re: Directors and Oscar-winning performances

I've seen Being There, and heard of most of the other films, I'd just never registered Ashby's name. In assembling the list, I came across quite a few of those types.
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Old March 7 2011, 07:36 PM   #4
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Re: Directors and Oscar-winning performances

I was surprised to see no Coppola mentioned but now that I think about it, his casts have had lots of nominations, but IIRC, the only winners under his direction were Brando and DeNiro for playing the old and young Vito Corleone in the first two Godfather movies.
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Old March 7 2011, 07:42 PM   #5
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Re: Directors and Oscar-winning performances

Yeah, Coppola only directed two winners. Other lowish scores would be Alfred Hitchcock with one (Joan Fontaine for Suspicion) and Steven Spielberg with zero.
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Old March 7 2011, 08:00 PM   #6
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Re: Directors and Oscar-winning performances

CaptainCanada wrote: View Post
surely one of them will get DiCaprio his Oscar.
"His" Oscar?

Sure, he's become a solid leading man since Titanic, and one of comparatively few contemporary Yanks to convincingly play badass, but capable of turning in the best performance of a year? Color me unpersuaded.
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Old March 7 2011, 08:01 PM   #7
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Re: Directors and Oscar-winning performances

^ IMHO his nomination for Gilbert Grape was richly deserved. Personally, I think he would have been a more deserving winner than Tommy Lee Jones, whose role in The Fugitive was fun but basically insubstantial. (Actually, of all the nominated performances that year, I thought his was the least deserving yet it won)
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Old March 7 2011, 08:07 PM   #8
CaptainCanada
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Re: Directors and Oscar-winning performances

Gaith wrote: View Post
CaptainCanada wrote: View Post
surely one of them will get DiCaprio his Oscar.
"His" Oscar?
As one of the most consistent leading men in Hollywood, who works pretty much exclusively with great directors, it's just a matter of time.

Actually, Eastwood's Hoover biopic seems like a good prospect.
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