These days, Hollywood seems to be all about the sequel, the prequel and the reboot, so it’s not surprising when we see popular characters popping up in numerous films or franchises. What is surprising is when an actor decides to bring an award-worthy character back to the big screen, which risks tarnishing its legacy.
While it doesn’t happen often, occasionally an Oscar-nominated performer elects to return to the character that garnered them the nomination in the first place. Most award-seeking films don’t lend themselves to sequels, but there have been a number of exceptions over the years.
Here’s Screen Rant’s 12 Actors Who Reprised Their Oscar Nominated Roles.
12. Johnny Depp
When Johnny Depp slapped on the eyeliner to play a pirate in a film based off of a ride at Disneyland, no one could have predicted that an Oscar nomination was in his imminent future. And yet, that’s just what happened in 2004 when he was nominated for Best Actor for his portrayal of Jack Sparrow in Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl.
Jack Sparrow is probably one of Depp’s most interesting and complex characters, although you probably have to dig a little to find the depth. His performance is so over the top that on first glance, you might think he’s nothing but a drunken Keith Richards impersonator. But that’s what makes it, and the character, so completely unforgettable. Jack Sparrow is unlike anything that’s come before, and it’s that refreshing and unique take that made the film so interesting.
Of course, Depp reprised his role in the three subsequent sequels (a fourth is set for release next year), and although they have not been as highly-regarded as the first film, you can’t deny that Depp has brought the same amount of unique charm to the role each time out.
11. Sigourney Weaver
Sigourney Weaver was given her first leading role playing survivor Ellen Ripley in the 1979 Ridley Scott film, Alien. But it was her repeat performance as Ripley in the 1986 sequel, Aliens (this time directed by James Cameron), which earned her her first Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.
Weaver took charge in this film and proved that not only could she be a leading lady, but she could also be an action star. Ripley is not only considered one of the most influential characters in sci-fi, but also one of the most kick-ass hero’s in any film. Weaver portrays the character with such no nonsense determination it’s hard not to see her as anything but the hero. She reprised her role as Ripley in the sequels Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection, neither of which were as well received as their predecessors. Weaver was supposed to make an appearance in Neil Blompkamp’s Alien 5, but that film has been put on the backburner.
10. Paul Newman
In the 1961 film The Hustler, Paul Newman played Eddie Felson, a small-time pool hustler, looking to break into the big leagues. Felson isn’t really a hero, though. The slick pool shark is charming, and flawed, and the breakthrough performance by Newman earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.
Newman didn’t win the Oscar for The Hustler, losing to Maximillian Schell for Judgement At Nuremburg. In fact, he wouldn’t actually win an Oscar until he reprised the role of Eddie Felson in 1986’s The Color Of Money. Newman’s performance, like all of his performances, was spectacular, as he brought Felson out of retirement and back into the limelight. Although the film is good, it’s inferior to the original and Newman’s Oscar is often said to be a belated recognition for his amazing 1961 performance.
9. Sylvester Stallone
Rocky tells the story of small-time boxer, Rocky Balboa, who gets chosen to fight for the heavyweight title against Apollo Creed earned Sylvester Stallone his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor. Stallone was also nominated for Best Screenplay for the film, which was a huge hit in 1976.
The film, which won the Best Picture at the 49th Academy Awards, turned Stallone into a major Hollywood star. Which isn’t surprising, given how heartfelt and sincere his portrayal is in the film. It’s the true underdog story that has the audience rooting for him from beginning to end. The success of the film spawned six sequels, the latest being 2015’s Creed, which saw Sly bring Rocky out of retirement to train the son of Apollo Creed. The role earned Stallone his second ever acting Oscar nomination, reigniting audience’s love of this indelible character.
8. Al Pacino
Al Pacino brought Michael Corleone to life in the 1972 film The Godfather. His portrayal of the youngest son of Vito Corleone is considered the breakout role for the actor and it earned him a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the Oscars.
Pacino reprised his role in the 1976 sequel, The Godfather Part II, this time earning himself a Best Actor nod. The film, considered one of the best sequels of all time, has Michael taking over the family business after his father’s passing. Pacino’s intense and enigmatic portrayal of Don Corleone is often considered his finest, and it is also considered one of the finest performances in the history of film. Pacino took on the character one final time in 1990’s The Godfather Part III, but the less said about that film, the better.
7. Tommy Lee Jones
Although Harrison Ford was considered the star of 1993’s The Fugitive, it’s Tommy Lee Jones’ portrayal of Deputy U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard that stole the show. Jones was nominated, and won, the Academy Award for Best Supporting actor for the role.
His portrayal of the character, a razor-sharp, no nonsense leader, who does what needs to be done to get the job done, is considered one of his best. The success of both the film, and the character led the studio to make a sequel, 1998’s U.S. Marshals. The film is actually more of a spin-off, as opposed to a sequel, since it follows Gerard and his team on a new mission, one not involving Harrison Ford’s Richard Kimble. The film was met with mixed reviews, although once again, Jones’ portrayal of the character is considered a bright spot.
6. John Travolta
Yes, John Travolta was nominated for an Academy Award prior to his turn as Vincent Vega in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. He was actually nominated for his portrayal of Tony Manero in 1977’s Saturday Night Fever, where he played a young man who used the world of disco to escape his mundane life.
His performance as Manero turned the actor into a bonafide movie star, throwing the TV actor even farther into the limelight. His portrayal is both endearing and heartbreaking and showcases Travolta’s range and ability to do what needs to be done. He was not a trained dancer, but studied for months to become king of the floor. To say that the movie was a huge success would be an understatement. Travolta reprised his role as Tony Manero in the god-awful 1983 sequel, Staying Alive, which was lambasted by critics for its lack of heart and the gritty realism of the first film.
5. Michael Douglas
The ’80s were the height of excess, and that is never more apparent than in Oliver Stone’s 1987 drama Wall Street. In the film, Michael Douglas portrays corporate raider, Gordon Gekko, whose unscrupulous morals lead him down a dangerous path. The performance not only earned Douglas an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, but he also won the award at the 60th Academy Awards.
His portrayal of the charismatic, yet villainous Gekko is the best thing about the film and his “greed is good” speech is a particular highlight. Douglas’ ability to play the bad guy in such a way as to make you actually kind of like him is a true talent and one of the many reasons that the character is one of his most recognizable. Douglas reprised the role in 2010’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, where a reformed Gordon Gekko, fresh from prison, tries to repair his relationship with his estranged daughter during the 2008 financial crisis.
4. Ian McKellen
Although it’s really more of an ensemble piece, the Academy singled out Ian McKellen’s spectacular performance as Gandalf the Grey in 2001’s epic fantasy The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring and honored him with a nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
McKellen’s portrayal of the iconic wizard is one for the ages. The actor brought everything that anyone who has ever read the book would want to see in the role, while at the same time making it all his own. Of course, McKellen reprised his role in both The Two Towers and Return Of The King, albeit in the slightly different form of Gandalf The White. It’s hard to imagine the role of Frodo’s mentor being played by anyone else, now that the character and the films have been so ingrained into pop culture.
3. Gene Hackman
In this 1971 based-on-a-true-story crime thriller, The French Connection, Gene Hackman plays Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle, a New York narcotics cop who, with the help of his partner, stumbles upon a drug smuggling operation that has a French connection (hence, the title). The role not only earned Hackman a Best Actor nomination, but a win at the 1972 Academy Awards.
Hackman’s portrayal of the hard-nosed and dedicated (and extremely flawed) Doyle thrust him into the spotlight and proved his leading man status. His performance is considered one of the all-time best and he reprised his role in the completely fictitious sequel, 1975’s The French Connection II. Considered one of the greatest film sequels of all time, the film does justice to the genre, if not the character of Jimmy Doyle. Then again, perfection is hard to top a second time around.
2. Shirley MacLaine and Jack Nicholson
The quintessential tear-jerker, James L. Brooks’s 1983 film Terms Of Endearment won Academy Awards for two of its stars: Shirley MacLaine for Best Actress and Jack Nicholson for Best Supporting Actor.
Both Shirley MacLaine and Jack Nicholson were at the top of their game in this film and it shows. MacLaine’s Aurora Greenway is the perfect passive aggressive, overly-controlling mother, and the perfect foil to Nicholson’s charismatic, yet womanizing Garrett Breedlove. Their chemistry is palpable and you can’t help but want them to give in to it and have that relationship. The two reprised their respective roles in the 1996 flop, The Evening Star. Although the sequel picks up a number of years after the original, it lacks the heart that made the first one so amazing, and instead the audience is left with a contrived mess that has nothing endearing about it.
1. Anthony Hopkins
No one can deny that Anthony Hopkins deserved the Oscar for Best Actor that he won at the 64th Academy Awards for playing Hannibal Lecter in Jonathan Demme’s Silence Of The Lambs. His portrayal of the serial killer is both chilling and unforgettable. In fact, AFI has labelled Hannibal Lecter as the number one film villain of all time.
Hopkins’ turn as the unpredictable Lecter is one of the best on-screen performances ever. His ability to make audiences actually like a homicidal cannibal is unparalleled and proves that he is one of the greats. Hopkins reprised his iconic role in two sequels, 2001’s Hannibal and 2002’s Red Dragon. Neither film was able to capture the same magic as the original, with both receiving mixed reviews from critics. Although Hannibal Lecter is an unforgettable character, these sequels prove that it’s the film as a whole that truly matters.
Not many actors pickup the reins and give their award worthy characters another spin. The main reason is most likely because they don’t want to tarnish what came before. The performers here took that chance, and while the majority of them weren’t able to recreate the same magic the second (or third or fourth) time around, you can’t fault them for trying. Let us know what you think of these second chances in the comments below.