Trivial pursuit

Possible precedents, high-water marks in the offing March 23

As the 70th Oscar season reaches a head, Variety examines some of the potential record makers and breakers in the 1997 acting categories, as well as possible additions and revisions to the already towering mountain of Academy Award trivia.

Pam Grier, the former blaxploitation queen who limns the title character of Quentin Tarantino’s spiked crime drama “Jackie Brown,” could vault a high-profile barrier if she captures the best actress Oscar. The thesp would be the first black actress to win in the lead category. A black actress has won a nomination in the lead category only six times before: Dorothy Dandridge for 1954’s “Carmen Jones”; Diana Ross and Cicely Tyson in 1972 for “Lady Sings the Blues” and “Sounder,” respectively; Dia-hann Carroll for 1974’s “Claudine”; Whoopi Goldberg for 1985’s “The Color Purple”; and Angela Bassett for 1993’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It.” African-American performers have already won awards in the other three performance categories (dating back to Hattie McDaniel’s supproting actress victory for 1939’s “Gone With the Wind”).

With a likely supporting actress nod for “The Ice Storm,” Joan Allen will have received her third consecutive nomination in that category. Though doubtless this will be the subject of much Oscar talk, it is not particularly noteworthy. Besides Glenn Close, 17 other actors and actresses have received at least three nominations in a row. If Allen fails to receive the Oscar this year, though, her company significantly drops in number: Only six thesps have ridden such streaks without getting the gold.

Thelma Ritter and Al Pacino both went zero for four, though Pacino later received an Oscar for 1992’s “Scent of a Woman.” Deborah Kerr, Gregory Peck, Richard Burton and Close struck out three consecutive times, with only Peck later winning a competitive award for 1962’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” (Kerr recieved an honorary Oscar at the 1993 ceremony.)

Emma Thompson, who made the Oscar record books in 1995 as the first woman to nab simultaneous bids for actress and screenplay (for “Sense and Sensibility”), could set another awards precedent if she and her mother, Phyllida Law, win lead and supporting statuettes for Alan Rickman’s “The Winter Guest.” Diane Ladd and Laura Dern, to date the only mother-daughter thesp duo nominated in the same year, failed to win for 1991’s “Rambling Rose.”

“Ulee’s Gold” topliner Peter Fonda won’t be getting his first Oscar nomination this year. (That came in 1969 when he shared an original screenplay bid with Dennis Hopper and Terry Southern for “Easy Rider.”) But if he is tapped for his slow-burn turn as a Florida apiarist, he will complete the first father-son-daughter connection of Oscar nominated actors, alongside his late father, Henry, and his sister, Jane. If Peter Fonda wins, another unprecedented record will be established, as he would join both dad (as winner for 1981’s “On Golden Pond”) and sis (two wins, for 1971’s “Klute” and 1978’s “Coming Home”) in the list of Oscar champs.

Incidentally, the Oscar feat that comes closest to the potential Fonda sweep is the father-daughter-daughter nominee triad of Redgraves: Michael (1947’s “Mourning Becomes Electra”), Lynn (1966’s “Georgy Girl”) and Vanessa (a spate of bids, including a win for 1977’s “Julia.”)

Speaking of spates, Jack Nicholson, whose 10 acting nominations leave him in a tie for second-highest number of bids with Bette Davis, Laurence Olivier and Meryl Streep, could edge a bit closer to the top of the hill with a nomination for James L. Brooks’ comedy “As Good as It Gets.” The nom would put the actor one nod shy of Katharine Hepburn’s record 12. Also, if Nicholson were to win, he, like Daniel Day-Lewis, would be a rare winner of two Oscars under a single director (Nicholson grabbed his second Oscar in 1983 for Brooks’ “Terms of Endearment”).

Hot on his heels, Pacino could claim nom No. 9 (matching Spencer Tracy) for “Donnie Brasco,” while both Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman could extend their streaks to seven noms apiece for their roles in Barry Levinson’s “Wag the Dog.” (Levinson and Hoffman worked Oscar magic together in 1988, when both received statuettes for “Rain Man.”) De Niro is also a contender for “Jackie Brown,” so don’t count out a double dipper in lead and supporting noms for the versatile thesp.

Jim Sheridan’s “The Boxer” stars Day-Lewis and Emily Watson are also potential Oscar trivia fodder. If Day-Lewis were to win for his role as an Irish pugilist, he would be only the second performer to win multiple Oscars for a single director’s work (Day-Lewis won the best actor laurel in 1989 for his role in Sheridan’s “My Left Foot”). The first: Dianne Weist, who won supporting actress Oscars for Woody Allen’s “Hannah and Her Sisters” (1986) and “Bullets Over Broadway” (1994). (For the sake of nitpicking, Walter Brennan did win two of his three statuettes for pics directed by William Wyler, but the helmer only finished the uncompleted portion of Howard Hawks’ “Come and Get It” (1936), for which Brennan won his first Oscar, after the latter director was removed from the project by producer Samuel Goldwyn. Also, Hawks and Wyler shared onscreen credit.)

For her part, Watson, a 1996 best actress nominee for “Breaking the Waves,” would be the first thesp since Close to follow up a film-debut nomination with an additional bid the following year. Close actually copped a hat trick, earning two consecutive nominations (for 1983’s “The Big Chill” and 1984’s “The Natural”) after her debut turn in 1982’s “The World According to Garp” received a supporting actress bid.

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