Oscar season is upon us, and it’s anyone’s guess who will take home the coveted golden statues. Each year the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominate the best of the best for their achievements in acting, directing, editing, cinematography and special effects, with 2017 being no different. Films like Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea and Arrival have racked up a number of nominations, while La La Land has tied the record for the most nominations in one year.
As Hollywood’s biggest night draws near, we thought we’d take a moment to reflect on some of the things you might not know about the Oscars. Who’s walked away with the most golden statues? Who’s the youngest person to receive an Oscar? Why are they called “Oscars” is the first place? You can find the answers to those questions below, along with a number of other interesting tidbits about tinseltown’s most prestigious ceremony.
Here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About the Oscars.
15. The Dark Knight Rule
If there was ever a comic book movie that deserved a Best Picture nomination, it would have been 2008’s The Dark Knight. Christopher Nolan’s dark and gritty take on Batman was a hit with audiences and critics alike, earning glowing reviews and a huge box office return. It went on to win several Oscars (including a posthumous Best Supporting Actor award for Heath Ledger) but moviegoers were stunned when The Dark Knight failed to secure a Best Picture nomination at the 2009 Awards.
In 2010, the Academy increased the number of Best Picture nominees from 5 to 10. Though it was never officially stated, many believe that this was because of the backlash for the lack of a nomination the year earlier for The Dark Knight. Since that time, the Best Picture nominees have included a wide range of blockbusters like Toy Story 3 and Avatar. While this was probably done to attract a larger audience to tune in, the increase of nominees also ensures that a deserving film doesn’t once again fall through the cracks.
14. Only One Write-In Has Won
Can a person who isn’t nominated for an award take home an Oscar? The short answer is no; write-ins names for the Academy Awards aren’t allowed, that is unless you’re cinematographer Hal Mohr. While the 8th Academy Awards in 1936 was the first year the golden statues were referred to as “Oscars,” it was also the first and only year a write-in took home an award. Cinematographer Hal Mohr was not nominated for his contribution on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but he won the Oscar nonetheless because of a grass-roots write-in campaign.
During the production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the prop forest for the Shakespeare adaptation could barely be lit. Mohr saved the day by thinning the trees, spraying them with aluminum paint and covering them in tiny particles to reflect the light. It ended up paying off, as Mohr became the first and last write-in recipient of an Academy Award in 1936, which was the second and last year that write-in votes were allowed.
13. Why Are They Called the “Oscars?”
Why are the Academy Awards referred to as the Oscars? In truth, nobody really knows. People who work in the industry will tell you different answers, but the most common theory is that the nickname for the golden statue was coined by Academy Award librarian, Margaret Herrick. Legend goes that Herrick drew comparisons between the statue and her Uncle Oscar, and the nickname stuck with the rest of the academy employees.
Other rumors suggest that columnist Sidney Skolsky grew bored of writing about the shiny golden man and dubbed it the “Oscar” after an old vaudeville joke. Still, Bette Davis claims that she came up with the name “Oscar” because the posterior of the statue reminded her of her husband when he would get out of the shower. We will probably never know who is responsible for the “Oscar” nickname, but we have to thank whoever it was for coming up with a catchier title for the statue than the Academy Award of Merit.
12. Gone With The Wind Records
Gone with the Wind is considered a cinematic classic, but you may not know that the sweeping Southern epic is the holder of various Academy Award firsts. Starring Vivien Leigh and Clarke Gable as Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Buttler, the movie was the clear frontrunner during award season from the get-go. By the time the 12th Academy Awards rolled around, Gone with the Wind racked up thirteen nominations, winning in eight of the competitive categories including Best Picture, Director, Actress, Screenplay and Editing.
The movie marked a series of firsts for the Academy Awards. Actress Hattie McDaniel became the first African American to win an Oscar, and screenwriter Sidney Howard also became the first posthumous Oscar winner after he was tragically crushed to death by his tractor just months before the ceremony. Gone with the Wind also became the first Best Picture winner that was in color, with William Cameron Menzies winning an honorary award for the achievement. Last but not least, Gone with the Wind holds the record for the longest film to date to win Best Picture, clocking in at 3 hours and 54 minutes.
11. The Big 3 with the “Big 5”
With 14 nominations, La La Land has the potential to break records at this year’s Academy Awards. It wouldn’t be surprising, considering the Oscars have a long history of movies sweeping various categories. The highest number of Oscars won by a single film is 11, a record that is tied between Ben-Hur (1959), Titanic (1997), and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003).
Even rarer is a movie that has won the so-called “Big 5,” a title that encompasses Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay (either adapted or original). As of this year’s Academy Awards, a total of 43 movies have been nominated in all five categories. Of those, only three have taken all five of the major awards: It Happened One Night (1934), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), and The Silence of the Lambs (1991). Will La La Land join the prestigious group of films that have won the “Big 5?” We’ll have to wait for the 89th Academy Awards to find out.
10. The Youngest and Oldest Winners
Though you have to be 35 years old to become President of the United States, it doesn’t matter how old you are to get nominated for an Oscar. There are no age restrictions in the Academy Award categories for acting, which means a seasoned veteran can get beat out by a grade schooler if the Academy thinks it’s justly deserved.
In 1980, 8-year-old Justin Henry became the youngest actor to be nominated for an Oscar for his role in Kramer vs. Kramer. Had he won, Henry would have also been the youngest ever Academy Award winner. However, that title still belongs to actress Tatum O’Neal, who won Best Supporting Actress in 1974 for Paper Moon at just ten years of age.
Likewise, there are no age cutoffs for receiving an Oscar either. At age 82, Christopher Plummer became the oldest person to win an Academy Award when he received the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in 2010’s Beginners. It just goes to show that it’s never too early or too late to nab a piece of Oscar gold.
9. First Televised in 1953
Though the ceremony has been around since 1929, the Oscars’ first televised award show aired in 1953. The 25th Academy Awards took place at the RKO Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, California, and the NBC International Theatre in New York City, becoming the first ceremony to be held in Hollywood and New York instantaneously. It was hosted by popular comic Bob Hope and stage actor Fredric March, who both performed emcee duties on opposite sides of the country in L.A. and New York, respectively.
Among other things, the 25th Academy Awards became known for featuring one of the biggest upsets in the category of Best Picture when the favored High Noon lost to The Greatest Show on Earth. Directed by Cecil B. Demille, The Greatest Show on Earth is often considered one the worst films to win the award for Best Picture, with the lowest ranking on Rotten Tomatoes’ list of the 81 Best Picture films. Not the best thing for the first televised Academy Awards to be remembered for.
8. Only One Woman Winner for Best Director
Like other award ceremonies, the Oscars’ have certainly seen their fair share of controversy. Last year’s #Oscarssowhite debacle addressed the issue of discrimination in the major acting categories, which led several attendees to boycott the event. The Academy has certainly acknowledged that issue with this years’ diverse roster of nominees, but many still argue that the ceremony is not as varied as it could be in certain categories.
One of those categories is Best Director, of which only four women have ever been nominated: Lina Wertmüller in 1977 for Seaven Beauties, Jane Campion in 1994 for The Piano, Sofia Coppola in 2004 for Lost in Translation, and Kathryn Bigelow in 2010 for The Hurt Locker. Of the four, Bigelow is the only one to score the Best Directing Oscar for her war film, which beat out box office juggernaut Avatar, a film directed by Bigelow’s ex-husband, James Cameron. Though it’s nice to see a talented director like Bigelow take home the gold, the fact that she’s the only woman in history to do so is surprising to say the least.
7. A Ticket for the 1st Academy Awards Cost $5
The Academy Awards is without a doubt the biggest event in award show season. Each year the ceremony attracts millions of viewers and is broadcasted in more than 200 countries. With what the Oscars have turned into today, you might be surprised to learn that the Academy Awards’ started from rather small and modest beginnings.
While it’s known for being the ritziest and most prestigious ceremony in the entertainment business, the very first Academy Awards ceremony in 1929 was just a small dinner held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. There were only 270 guests in attendance, while the cost of admittance was just $5 a head. The ceremony only lasted around 15 minutes and the dinner that was served consisted of just broiled chicken. By comparison, the Academy Awards today seat around 3,400, can last more than three hours, and tickets for nosebleed seats cost $150 alone. At least they stopped serving boiled chicken.
6. Most Nominations and Wins
With so many different categories and almost 90 years of ceremonies to sort through, it can get a little confusing as to who has the most Oscar nominations and wins. To help break it down, here are some of the biggest Academy Award records.
- Walt Disney holds the record for the most nominations and wins. Over his lifetime, and death, the acclaimed filmmaker has been nominated a whopping 59 times, and has won 22 competitive Academy Awards. Disney also holds the record for most consecutive wins, with ten awards in eight straight years from 1931 to 1939.
- Katharine Hepburn has the most awards for acting. She won four Oscars, all for Best Actress.
- John Ford has the most awards for directing with four wins.
- Meryl Streep broke her own record this year with a total of 20 nominations for acting.
- The most nominations received by a single film is a three way tie between All About Eve (1950), Titanic (1997) and La La Land (2016), each of which have received 14 nominations.
5. Most Nominations with Zero Wins
For every person fortunate enough to receive an Oscar, there are four or five that aren’t so lucky. The only thing worse than losing an Academy Award is losing an Academy Award more than once. Here are some of the rather unfortunate individuals who have yet to take home that famous statue.
- If you thought Leonardo DiCaprio was overdue for an Oscar last year, you probably haven’t heard of sound mixer Kevin O’Connell, who holds the record for most nominations without a single win with 20. This year would mark O’Connell’s 21st nomination without a win if he yet again doesn’t take home the Oscar for his work on Hacksaw Ridge.
- Two films hold the record for the most nominations without any wins. The Turning Point (1977) and The Color Purple (1985) were each nominated 11 times and took home zero Oscars.
- Though he was awarded an Honorary Oscar in 2003, Peter O’Toole holds the record for the actor with the most nominations without an award with 8.
4. There have been 6 Ties
Though every nomination in the Academy Awards deserves praise, there is only one winner that can claim the statue come Oscar night. Or is there? As astronomical as it might sound, there have actually been six ties in the Academy Awards’ nearly 90-year history.
The first happened back in 1932 when Fredric March was awarded best actor along with Wallace Beery for receiving just one less vote. The rule that there could be a tie with three votes difference was changed shortly after, but in 1950, both A Chance to Live and So Much for So Little took home the gold for Best Documentary with an exact split of the vote. Two films tied yet again for Best Documentary in 1987 with Artie Shaw: Time Is All You’ve Got and Down and Out in America, and 1995 saw both Trevor and Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life (written and directed by Peter Capaldi of Doctor Who) win for Best Short Film.
Perhaps the most famous Oscar tie occurred in 1969 when presenter Ingrid Bergman read out two names for Best Actress: Barbra Streisand and Katharine Hepburn. Each actress received 3030 votes, and since Hepburn was not in attendance, all eyes fell on new-comer Streisand, who was just 26-years-old at the time.
3. Oscar Gold
They may look expensive, but how much are Oscars really worth? Well, that all depends. Based on the current market price of gold, the 24-karat gold-plated statues are roughly worth about $900. Though it may seem ridiculous that an actor would ever part with the most sought-after trophy in the entertainment industry, there are several examples of Oscars going up for auction for absurd amounts of money.
In 1950, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences made it a rule that anyone who tries to sell their award must first offer it to the academy for $1. However, that rule doesn’t apply to any Oscars awarded before 1950. Different high-profile awards have frequently popped up in auctions, the priciest being the 1939 Oscar for Best Picture awarded to Gone with the Wind, which was purchased by Michael Jackson in 1999 for $1, 542, 000! Other highest selling awards include the 1941 Best Screenplay Oscar for Citizen Kane. For years, Orson Welles’ only Oscar bounced around from auction to auction, reportedly selling for over $800,000 dollars at one point. Eventually it was withdrawn from sale by Welles’ daughter and was returned back to the possession of the academy.
2. The Real Oscar
Weighing eight pounds and made out of 24-karat gold, the Oscar is one of the most recognizable statues in the world, but many have wondered why it looks the way it does. It may surprise you that the Oscar statue is rumored be modelled after a real man, and that real man’s name is in fact not Oscar.
Though it has never been proven, the statuette is widely believed to be modeled after Emilio “El Indio” Fernandez, a famous Mexican actor and director who lived in Hollywood during the 1920s. At that time, Fernandez was primarily cast as an extra in movies looking for his big break. Some would say he found it when MGM Art Director Cedric Gibbons, who was designing the statuette for the Academy Awards, asked Fernandez to be the model. As the story goes, Gibbon’s wife was friends with Fernandez and suggested to her husband that he use Fernandez as his male model.
Though similarities between the statue and Fernandez are certainly prevalent (the slim body and athletic build), there is also zero proof that the Mexican actor is the inspiration behind the Oscar. While some believe the story and others refute it, there’s no denying that Emilio Fernandez’s tale is part of Academy Awards history.
1. 2000’s Oscars Were Stolen
Like any major ceremony, the Academy Awards are not immune to slipups. Teleprompters have gone blank, hosts have forgotten their cues, and presenters have horribly mispronounced winners’ names. But these are all just minor hiccups when compared to the year the Academy Awards almost didn’t have any awards to give out.
Just 16 days away from the 72nd Academy Awards in 2000, 55 Oscars were stolen from a loading dock in Bell, California. Panicked that they wouldn’t turn up before the ceremony, the academy ordered that a new batch of the golden statues be ordered before the deadline. Thankfully, 52 of the Oscars were found in a trash bin from a supermarket nine days after the theft, and the 2000 Academy Award show went on without a snag.
In the end, two employees who worked on the loading docks were arrested for the crime, receiving six months in prison. Three years later, one of the three remaining Oscars turned up during a drug bust in Miami, Florida. The last two statues have yet to be found however, so the next time you hear someone jokingly say they have an Oscar, they could be telling you the truth.