Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Eisenberg vs. Damon? The Youngest Best Actor Nominees!

"Do I have your full attention?"

Whilst continuing my "Best in Show" column for Tribeca Film, I decided it was high time to highlight Jesse Eisenberg from The Social Network and this is why. Here at The Film Experience though, it's time for Oscar trivia! Though I would love to see Eisenberg win traction for Best Actor, he has something else working against him besides the subdued performance: his age.

Youngest Best Actor Nominees
And where Eisenberg would fit in, were he to be nominated.
Disclaimer/Bragging: You won't find info this extensive elsewhere! The Official Oscar site / Wikipedia only offer top tens. However the following info is approximate. Though the Academy's top ten is down to the day of the actual nominations, they don't provide official nomination dates only ceremony dates. Inside Oscar and Wikipedia also only list the ceremony dates so we're just using February 1st, ∞ as a general calculation date for when nominations happened for given years.

  1. Jackie Cooper, Skippy (1931) was 9 years old.
    Nine, Guido, Nine! Kind of strange that he was nominated, wasn't it, since back then they were giving people "junior" Oscars. Why wasn't he handed one of those instead? Or perhaps they started those in the wake of this nomination.
  2. Mickey Rooney, Babes in Arms (1939) was 19 years old.
  3. Mickey Rooney, again, The Human Comedy (1943). He was 23.
    Bonus Trivia Note: Rooney is not the youngest actor to receive two Oscar nominations. If you include supporting work, the record holder is Sal Mineo who by the age of 22 had been nominated twice: Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and Exodus (1960). If you include actors, male or female, Angela Lansbury holds the record of fastest to "two-time nominee" status: she had two nominations for Supporting Actress by the time she was 20 (The Picture of Dorian Gray and Gaslight).

    Mickey & Sal: fast-start careers, quick industry respect.

  4. John Travolta, Saturday Night Fever (1977) was 24.
  5. James Dean, East of Eden (1955) was 24 years old when he died. This nomination came posthumously when he would have just turned 25.
  6. James Dean again for Giant (1956). He would have just turned 26.
  7. Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson (2006) was 26 years old.
  8. Orson Welles, Citizen Kane (1941) was also 26.
  9. Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain (2005) was 26 going on 27.
    ****If Jesse Eisenberg is nominated for The Social Network he will boot Matt Damon out of the top ten by a hair (it's a matter of approximately 14 days).
  10. Matt Damon, Good Will Hunting (1997) was 27 years and 125 days old.
  11. Tom Cruise, Born on the 4th of July (1989) was 27½
  12. Albert Finney, Tom Jones was also 27 going on 28.
  13. Marlon Brando, A Streetcar Named Desire was 27 but rapidly approaching 28.
  14. Montgomery Clift, my favorite actor, for The Search (1948) when he was 28.
  15. Marlon Brando again for Viva Zapata! (1952) when he was almost 29.
  16. Chester Morris, Alibi (1929) was turning 29 probably within a week or two of the nominations.  But I can't find the date that the Academy announced the nomination in 1930 for the films of 1928/1929.  
  17. Kenneth Branagh, Henry V (1989) was newly 29 as well.
  18. Anthony Franciosa, A Hatful of Rain (1957) was 29.
  19. Edward Norton, American History X (1998) was 29½.
    From here on out it gets dubious/tricky. I can't vouch for the following order without official nomination dates since all of these men were born in the month of April and the nominations usually arrive in February but dates vary quite a lot.
  20. Adrien Brody, The Pianist (2002) was almost 30.
  21. Marlon Brando again for Julius Caesar (1953) when he was almost 30.
  22. Ryan O'Neal, Love Story (1970) was almost 30.
Once actors have hit 30 the leading roles start coming. Though Rooney and Dean are near the top of "youngest ever" charts I think it would be best to consider Brando the patron saint of all the future young guns given his instant impact and fascinating longevity, despite many career twists and turns.

 Brando from '51 to '54: Four consecutive nods by the time he was 30 for
A Streetcar Named Desire, Viva Zapata!, Julius Caesar and On the Waterfront.

He was nominated in four consecutive years starting at the age of 27 with his history-altering performance as Stanley Kowalski (Streetcar Named Desire, 1951) and ended that insane run with a golden boy win (On the Waterfront, 1954) just 4 days shy of his 31st birthday ...which is about the time most people just start being considered for good roles let alone prizes.  

Excessive Trivia Alert! Brando snatched that youngest winner title from James Stewart (who was 32 when he won for The Philadelphia Story besting Clark Gable's win for It Happened One Night at age 34). The Godfather held onto the title for two decades until Richard Dreyfuss won at 30 (The Goodbye Girl, 1977). Dreyfuss was dethroned a quarter century later by Adrien Brody (The Pianist, 2002) who won three weeks shy of his 30th birthday. Are you loving this trivia or are you begging for it to stop? I can't stop once I get started. But I must. I must!

The only other nominees at the age of 30? That'd be Warren Beatty -Bonnie & Clyde, Richard Todd -The Hasty Heart, Franchot Tone - Mutiny on the Bounty, Dustin Hoffman -The Graduate, Sylvester Stallone -Rocky, and Leonardo DiCaprio - The Aviator.

31 Up and the men become too numerous to list. But in the past decade the men who achieved a lead nomination by 31 were Javier Bardem in Before Night Falls (2000), Jude Law in Cold Mountain (2003) and Joaquin Phoenix in Walk the Line... though few noticed the latter's youth at the time since Heath Ledger was making more noticeable history at 26 years of age. Together they made 2005's lineup one of the youngest skewing ever.

Here's the ten youngest best actor nominees of the past decade from youngest to oldest. (DiCaprio is the biggie here having rung up his 3rd Oscar nomination before he was 33. Still hasn't won yet, though.)

Youngest Lead Nominees of the Aughts

I promise I'll stop now!!!
What do you make of all this and do you think Jesse Eisenberg has a shot at all, given the super early frontrunner status of The Social Network minus their resistance to subdued performances and young men?

If you are over 30 reading this list I apologize. It makes me feel unaccomplished, too. If you are under 30 and an actor, take note. There's still plenty of time for you; nail your next audition!

Companion Articles / Related Reading
Best in Show: Jesse Eisenberg
Familiar Faces: Actors David Fincher Uses Frequently 


    Michelle said...

    Wow - thats quite the trivia. Well done! "I can't stop once I get started. But I must. I must!"

    Arkaan said...

    Won't make it in. He plays the asshole, this category is already quite young (Franco and Gosling as contenders) this year and it never skews that young. Critics will likely get behind Franco or Firth in the awards race (cause critics awards are about presaging the oscars) thus leaving him behind. He, Timberlake and Garfield will be invited to present at the oscars. Best documentary or something.

    Oh, saw the movie. Really enjoyed it, but critics need to simmer down. It's not a Gatsbyian masterpiece like Foundas suggested - it's actually a surprisingly shallow examination of the theme ("it's our time"). It's so entertaining and supremely well crafted, though.

    Ryan T. said...

    James McAvoy, who IMO should've been nominated twice already (and maybe a third time) would've cracked this list.

    He was 27 when he should've been nominated for The Last King of Scotland. He was 28 when he should've been nominated for Atonement. Finally, he was 30 when he could've been nominated for The Last Station.

    And of course there's Jamie Bell who should've really been nominated at age 14 for Billy Elliot.

    Michael B. said...

    You have Crowe for Gladiator but not for The Insider!

    NATHANIEL R said...

    The Insider was more than ten years ago. This is the past ten years.

    Derreck said...

    I would love to be nominated for an Oscar. it's my secret, secret dream.

    It's nice to know that i still have a chance to crack the top 10 youngest for a Best Actor nom. lol.

    Maybe i'll have my big break or be discovered next year? i'd rake up high at 22.

    ah, to dream.


    Unknown said...

    I only think Eisenberg will be nominated if The Social Network is still in the #1 slot 'round nomination time. If King's Speech, True Grit, or 127 Hours pass it buzzwise, then Eisenberg and company will have to settle for a SAG nomination.

    By the way, when does True Grit start screening for critics? Excited to hear some feedback on that. December can't come soon enough.

    Stella said...

    @RyanT Dude, there is no way James McAvoy deserved an oscar nom for The Last Station.

    If Jesse Eisenberg looked like Matt Damon, you can be sure that he'd be a lock. The problem isn't his age but rather the fact that he still looks 18.

    Nevertheless I would loooooove for him to make it.

    Rob T. said...

    "If you are over 30 reading this list I apologize. It makes me feel unaccomplished, too."

    Whenever I have negative thoughts along those lines, I cheer myself by remembering that Sydney Greenstreet was nominated for an Oscar at the age of 62 for his movie debut in The Maltese Falcon.

    (Granted that he'd made his professional stage debut 40 years earlier, but still...62, man!)

    Ryan T. said...

    @Stella - I don't think so either. If you notice I said "maybe" and "could've" rather than "should've" when talking about a nomination for that particular role of his. Even then though, the Academy have been known to give make-up nominations to those they snubbed in the past and snub they CERTAINLY did when they didn't nominate him for King of Scotland and Atonement. Ridiculous.

    Anonymous said...

    hi!This was a really fabulous theme!
    I come from itlay, I was luck to find your theme in wordpress
    Also I learn much in your website really thank your very much i will come daily

    Unknown said...

    I really think he can do it. If Firth and Franco are the only ones ahead of him right now, then he has to contend with Jeff Bridges, Robert Duvall and... who, exactly? There will be other contenders, of course, but I think he's situated pretty well for now. The fact that it's such a fantastic performance might help him.

    chris na Taraja said...

    Hey why does Mickey Rooney get 2 spots. I know it's 2 different oscars but come on! I just want to keep Matt Damon on the list.

    Anonymous said...

    I don't think it's showy enough of a performance, and I keep on thinking about what Eisenberg doesn't do isntead of what he does. He does give dignity to his character in so many ways that he could have sounded mopey or desperate.

    Also, Rashida Jones outacts him with one scene. Not a good sign.

    I'm much sadder that Leo's work in Inception won't get notice.

    NATHANIEL R said...

    chris na -- James Dean also gets two spots and you don't want him booted off do you? Matty will be fine without this one honor since he already has a statue ;)

    okinawa -- agree to disagree i guess. I like Rashida Jones but to me she's one of the least dimensional things in the movie --one of the most "written" parts if you get my drift. She needs to be there but it feels less like a human and more like a plot device, though her warmth goes a long way towards filling it out -- and i think Eisenberg outacts everyone in the movie... which is why i named him "best in show"

    anyway. also Leo: Really? It's not even his best performance this year

    cal roth said...

    @Mike with Paul Giamatti, that could even win if the studio were a little wiser to release the movie now?

    Volvagia said...

    Um...this is an American movie. Citizen Kane (for all the gushing about the technique and the format) is shallow, Some Like it Hot is shallow, The Maltese Falcon is shallow, His Girl Friday is shallow, The Graduate is shallow. And I just rattled off movies that are considered among the best ever made. If you want deep, see 8 1/2, see The Spirit of the Beehive, see Andrei Rublev, see Secrets & Lies, see It's a Wonderful Life (some people say it's corn, but, truthfully, American directors usually don't make movies so baldly about everyday, average joe pain. (It's not like either George Bailey or Potter are Bear Stearns rich.) Instead, the movies are about uber high status people and criminals who can afford to get rabidly angry (Citizen Kane and White Heat are the biggest examples). Which, to me, renders them "shallow.")

    E Dot said...

    My brain hurts.

    NATHANIEL R said...

    too much, eh.?

    Unknown said...

    Your final chart is a particularly revealing example of the age differential between best actor and best actress. So, there have only been nine best actor NOMINEES under the age of 36, yet eight of the last 10 best actress WINNERS are under that age!
    @calroth - I agree there are other contenders (Bardem and Wahlberg, too), but none of them feel ahead of Eisenberg to me, buzz-wise. For now, at least, I think he has a good shot at a nomination.

    The Pretentious Know it All said...

    Yeah...I honestly don't know where all this "Andrew Garfield gives the best performance in the movie..." talk comes from. I recognize that Garfield gave an excellent performance and spun gold out of what can be argued is an underwritten part...I also understand the impulse to want to see more of Garfield (believe me), but Eisenberg, without a doubt, gives the best performance in the film.

    Arkaan said...

    Nah, Garfield's subtlety is awesome. All the roles are underwritten, but the flaws in Eisenberg's characterization hinder the film a little more, imo.

    James T said...

    It's funny how Nicholson is not on that list and still managed to break the male record.

    cal roth said...

    Volvagia is SO random.

    cici said...

    God, no. Andrew Garfield was very good, but also in that Carey Mulliganish way. Most his appeal comes off being excessively cute and vulnerable so that you just want to reach out and cuddle him. At this point his performance is, imo, on the veeeerge of being a little overrated.

    To say that Eisenberg just "plays the asshole" is magnificently simplified.

    Liz said...

    Volvagia, seriously, what are you talking about? Because a movie is about a person with money (although Zuckerberg only became wealthy after the movie's timeline ended), it's shallow? How does that make any sense at all?

    /3rtfu11 said...

    Currently in shock at how Actressexual I am --- because men in front of the camera are so boring.

    /3rtfu11 said...

    I would love to be nominated for an Oscar. it's my secret, secret dream.

    Derreck over at IMDB a person has for their signature: “If Sandra Bullock can win an Oscar so can I.”

    Volvagia said...

    I didn't mean that being about money means shallow. Instead, I was trying to comment on the fact that Plate Smashing Anger Binges are one POTENTIAL sign of a shallow movie. And one more thing: Shallow doesn't mean awful. It just means it's something you can't really chew on or think about for too long. I haven't seen Ths Social Network yet, but something tells me it's just another typical well-made American movie. (Not deep, like Rublev or 8 1/2, but well made and well acted.) All I'm saying is: Don't expect world shaking, succesfully probing and/or deeply philosophical movies from America that often. (The last one on either count from a director I'd associate as American on the time of release was, on last count, It's a Wonderful Life. (2001 almost made it, until I realised I count a director as not of their country of birth anymore after 5 years of living in another country (Kubrick moved to Britain 5 years before finishing 2001.))) Just go in expecting entertainment and speedy execution. If a great movie by an American director delivers more than just a smile on your face, pounding adrenaline or a mood of cheap nihilism, I congratulate you.

    Matt said...

    Great list. That Orson Welles was in his 20s when he made Citizen Kane really staggered me.

    Arkaan said...

    Few films have probed the shift in American values as beautifully as The Godfather II.

    There Will Be Blood was noteworthy in it's exploration of unyielding capitalism.

    I think The Social Network is a little shallow, but that's because it's an Aaron Sorkin movie. Not because it's an American movie.

    Arkaan said...

    And don't get me started on the work done by the best of American television.

    Philomena said...

    Don't ever apologize - I LOVE Oscar trivia!!!

    Anonymous said...

    Wow, Volvagia, such big statements from someone who hasn't even seen the movie. Way to render your own opinion invalid.

    Marcos Celesia said...

    At the time of Jackie Cooper's nomination AMPAS was not giving the Juvenile Performer special Oscars. That started 3 years later with Shirley Temple. And, who knows, maybe they did it BECAUSE they did not want the same situation to repeat itself.
    By the way, I believe they should have a Best Juvenile Performance category now, even though TRULY outstanding performances HAVE been nominated... The age limit would remain to be decided. Males or females. All in the same single category.
    Every year there are at least five performances that are deserving. This year -- and these are only the girls/teenagers: Saorsie Ronan, Elle Fanning, Hailee Steinfeld, and maybe Bailee Madison in Conviction?

    Volvagia said...

    I was saying: On average, don't expect deep statements from American film. Is it invalid? If you think you need to see any specific movie to make a GENERAL statement, than, yeah, you're COMPLETELY CORRECT. (FF Coppola was maybe the ONLY director who UNCONFUSEDLY AS AN AMERICAN (By the time Kubrick did his most probing stuff (Dr. Strangelove and beyond at the very least (Paths of Glory is not a deep exploration of the issue: it's a puddle deep, undeniably liberal diatribe), he was on the path to becoming British), consistently tried to explore his topics on a deeper level. (I also count Hitchcock's post '43 works as AMERICAN films.)) I'm sorry I temporarily forgot The Godfather movies, but There Will Be Blood still kind of contains one of those "American shallowness" earmarks I was trying to group together. (Bowling balls and "I drink your milkshake" means: Do the math.) And, yeah: Charlie Wilson's War was painfully shallow, because it conflated the already shallow Mike Nichols with Aaron Sorkin, and from that I could still tell what his two big influences were: Hecht and Albee. Except he seems quite a bit more shallow than either of those (And it's not like either of those is F. Scott Fitzgerald good to begin with). Fun, but I couldn't think enough about anything it presented other than the painful moments of shallowness even the day after.

    Anonymous said...

    Damon was born a few days later in October than Eisenberg though. But should nomination dates really matter? Generally, the Oscars take place around the same time every year so I'd say we just use their birthdate as the measure.

    Arkaan said...

    On average, don't expect deep statements from ANY commercial film, regardless of nationality.

    That's my basic problem with your thesis, Volvagia. From commercial films, as a rule, expecting "deep philosophy" is rather foolish. What's the most popular commercial cinema in the world? India's. And it's mostly fluff.

    But even that's being reductive. And you're gonna have to explain to me your remarks on There Will Be Blood, please, because they make no sense to me.

    NATHANIEL R said...

    anon 7:05 -- well, they matter to the Academy which publishes the top ten list. (and uses the actual date of nomination) I was merely expanding from 10. But if he gets nominated, the Academy will change their statistical data because they go by nomination date.

    volvagia -- i'm sorry. but what are we talking about? I don't mind a tangent here and there but this is very confusing... especially because you haven't seen the movie... and especially because 90% of cinema anywhere is fluff. What's more, who says fluff has to be shallow? The words aren't necessarily synonymous though they can be.

    I also don't think directors would appreciate you changing their nationalities for them by some arbitrary 5 year rule ;)

    Janice said...

    //our final chart is a particularly revealing example of the age differential between best actor and best actress. So, there have only been nine best actor NOMINEES under the age of 36, yet eight of the last 10 best actress WINNERS are under that age!//

    @Mike - that's the statement that really makes my head hurt (oy). Or rather, my heart, but it was exactly what was on my mind when I started reading this post - how is it that youth is a handicap for Best Actor but not Actress, and vice-versa re: maturity?

    Jason Cuthbert said...

    What a REALLY interesting post. Cool Idea! What about Leonardo DiCaprio (born 11/11/74) for his incedible Oscar-nominated role in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" (1993) at age 19 ???