'Cast Away' thesp's glow wearing thin

Everybody loves a winner — unless they’ve won too many Oscars.

That odd epigram describes the Academy Awards plight of Tom Hanks and the Fox PR team. Having secured a fifth best actor nomination for “Cast Away,” Hanks nevertheless occupies the unusual position of underdog.

Several factors cost Hanks kudos points, including his vast personal fortune and his close ties with Steven Spielberg, another who is both lionized and demonized for his immense success. (What Oscar do you give to the man who has everything?)

By far the biggest challenge for Hanks, though, is the widespread notion in the media and among voters that he is too often an Oscar contender. Even his physically grueling, critically lauded performance in “Cast Away” — at $220 million, the top domestic grosser among the Oscar contenders — hasn’t dispelled that perception.

“Let’s face it,” reads one typical comment in Entertainment Weekly. “The idea of a tuxedo-clad Tom Hanks sitting in the Shrine Auditorium as one of the year’s five best actor nominees has lost the element of surprise.”

Rooting against the favorite is nothing new in Hollywood.

That helps explain why no actor in the 72-year history of the Academy Awards has won three best actor trophies. Jack Nicholson has copped three Oscars, although one is for supporting actor. Yet he hasn’t faced much backlash because his 11 nominations have been spread across three decades.

Hanks, by comparison, scored his five noms and two back-to-back wins in just 12 years. Plus, his non-nominated turns in “The Green Mile” and “Apollo 13” may have helped secure best picture nominations for those pics.

Fox chairman Tom Rothman believes Hanks will get full consideration for “Cast Away” because of the risks he took.

“All we ask is for Academy members to judge it on the merits,” he says. “Don’t penalize someone for their past success.”

The only other recent star to face a Hanks-ian handicap is Meryl Streep, who is tied with Katharine Hepburn for the most acting nominations (12).

Like Hanks, Streep has incurred a pocket of industry resentment by racking up so many noms in so few years. Her mastery of accents and steady critical acclaim arguably have drawn as many shrugs as cheers.

Streep has won only twice, including once for supporting actress. The last time was for the 1982 “Sophie’s Choice.” Eight nominations later, she is still looking for Oscar No. 3.

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