While few foreign films have won Oscars for acting, thespians from outside the U.S. have had a lasting impact on Hollywood’s most coveted awards.
Easily the most visible contributions are those of the British. The combination of a renowned stage tradition and a common language with the U.S. has guaranteed English players a prominent place in Oscar history.
From 1933, when Charles Laughton won best actor for “The Private Life of Henry VIII,” to 1991, when Anthony Hopkins took the same award for “The Silence of the Lambs,” British actors and actresses have been second only to Americans in both nominations and awards.
Other British actors and actresses honored with an Oscar include Ronald Colman, Laurence Olivier, Alec Guinness, David Niven, Rex Harrison, Daniel Day-Lewis, Vivien Leigh, Glenda Jackson, Maggie Smith and Emma Thompson.
More surprising, though, is the number of Oscar winners whose native tongues were not English. While Sophia Loren remains the only non-American to win an Oscar for a role in a foreign-language film (Italy’s “Two Women,” 1961), more than a dozen others have been nominated.
Perhaps the best bit of foreign-language performance trivia in Oscar history is Robert De Niro’s supporting actor award for “The Godfather II.” Count that as the only American performer in an American film to win an Oscar for a performance spoken in a foreign language (Italian)!
Many foreign-born stars were nominated for, or won, Oscars for roles in English-language films. In fact, until 1985 there had never been a year in which all 10 nominees for the leading-role awards were born in the U.S.
Following is a partial list of Oscar nominees in the acting categories for whom English was a second-or third-language.
Marlene Dietrich, Germany, one nomination
Miliza Korjus, Poland, one nomination
Maria Ouspenskaya, Russia, two nominations
Ida Kaminska, Poland, one nomination Mako, Japan, one nomination Charles Boyer, France, three nominations
Ingrid Bergman, Sweden, three awards
Oscar Homolka, Austria, one nomination
Michael Chekhov, Russia, one nomination
Greta Garbo, Sweden, four nominations, one special award
Emil Jannings, Germany, two awards
Anouk Aimee, France, one nomination
Akim Tamiroff, Russia, two nominations
Katina Paxinou, Greece, one award
Marisa Pavan, Italy, one nomination
Erich von Stroheim, Austria, one nomination
Anna Magtiani, Italy, one award
Vittorio De Sica, Italy, one nomination
Sessue Hayakawa, Japan, one nomination
Simone Signoret, France, two nominations, one award
Melina Mercouri, Greece, one nomination
Isabelle Adjani, France, two nominations
Sophia Loren, Italy, two nominations, one award, one special award
Oskar Werner, Austria, one nomination
Liv Ullmann, Norway, two nominations
Maximilian Schell, Austria, three nominations, one award
Omar Sharif, Egypt, one award
Lila Kedrova, France, one award
Leslie Caron, France, two nominations
Topol, Israel, one nomination
MarcelloMastroianni, Italy, three nominations
Valentina Cortese, Italy, one nomination
Lotte Lenya, Austria, one nomination
Genevieve Bujold, Canada, one nomination
Giancarlo Giannini, Italy, one nomination
Marie-Christian Barrault, France, one nomination
Gerard Depardieu, France, one nomination
Mikhail Baryshnikov, Russia, one nomination
Norma Aleandro, Argentina, one nomination
Max von Sydow, Sweden, one nomination
Haing S. Ngor, Cambodia, one award
Lena Olin, Sweden, one nomination
Pat Morita, Japan, one nomination
Klaus Maria Brandauer, Austria, one nomination
Lilia Skala, Austria, one nomination