Is There a Best Supporting Actress Curse?
11:30 am, February 22nd | by Colette McIntyre
Those in the Hollywood scene weren’t surprised when reports of Jesse James’s affair surfaced mere days after his wife Sandra Bullock won her first Oscar for The Blind Side. “It’s the Best Actress curse,” everyone whispered, alluding to the longstanding belief that there’s a casual relationship between winning an Academy Award and having one’s relationship unravel. The Best Actress statuette isn’t the only Oscar with bad juju — according to the grapevine, winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar turns into a long-term loss. Once a woman wins Best Supporting Actress, it’s believed that she’ll never work again, the award dooming her to the margins of Hollywood. (Insert requisite spooky noise here.)
But does the Best Supporting Actress curse hold any weight? Forbes‘ study of Oscar winners’ domestic box office numbers found that there may be something to the superstition. Looking at the ten women who won the Best Supporting Actress award between 1997 and 2006, and comparing their box office performances the five years before they won to the five years after, Forbes discovered that six out of the total ten actresses had their earnings drop quite dramatically. The actress who saw the steepest fall was Cate Blanchett, the 2004 Oscar winner for The Aviator: her box office earnings decreased by $844 million. Yet, Forbes determined that the extremity of Blanchett’s case was due to The Lord of the Rings trilogy coming to an end. If one discounts the Lord of the Rings’ box office performance, her post-Oscar earnings actually increased by $156 million.
But not all cases were so easily explained — take the actress with the second-biggest career slide, Renee Zellweger. After winning the Oscar for her performance in Cold Mountain in 2003, Zellweger’s box office earnings fell by $378 million. Before her win, Zellweger had two previous Oscar nominations, for Bridget Jones’ Diary and Chicago, but after receiving her Oscar, Zellweger’s career immediately soured: the Bridget Jones sequel, Cinderella Man, Leatherheads, Miss Potter and New in Town were all box office disappointments. This time there’s no massive franchise to blame.
Zellweger is not alone: actresses like Mira Sorvino and Kim Basinger have also struggled to find post-award relevance. The names Brenda Fricker and Mercedes Ruehl may not sound familiar but they both won Best Supporting Actress Oscars about a decade ago for My Left Foot and The Fisher King. Even Zellweger’s Chicago co-star Catherine Zeta-Jones has experienced some blows to her previously illustrious career: after winning the Oscar for Chicago in 2003, Zeta-Jones’ box officer earnings fell by $361 million.
So what’s going on? Is the Best Supporting Actress statuette haunted by the ghost of some past ingénue who suffered such a shocking career slide that she vowed to never let another award-winning actress see success? Probably not; as with many money-related things, the answer is probably sexism. As NBC News writes, “it’s easier for a man to escape the oppressive focus on youth that dooms so many female actors. Only two of the supporting-actor winners since 1990 were younger than their late 40s at the time of their award.” In an industry that values female beauty and youth, it’s hard for a woman to continually score plum roles and stay relevant, Oscar or not.
So will Oscar shoe-in Anne Hathaway be doomed by her win? Not necessarily. If Hathaway plays her cards right, she could get a big boost from her Oscar score like Angeline Jolie. After Jolie won for Girl Interrupted in 1999, her box office earnings grew from $118 million to a whopping $436 million. Yet, i can’t say that I would mind it if Anne Hathaway suffered from the Best Supporting Actress curse, even just a bit. If I didn’t have to see that maniacal, self-aggrandizing woman-puppet feigning modesty and “blerg-ing” on an awards stage ever again, I wouldn’t hate it.
[Photo via Crushable]