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 

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