You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Growing up with Oscar

Tyros turn heads in front of and behind the camera

Oscar rarely rewards rookies with a statuette, but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is age-blind when it comes to certain categories.

More than 200 actors and actresses under 30 have scored an Oscar nomination since 1929, but breaking the age barrier as a writer or director is much tougher. Only a handful of helmers has done so, but many who did, including Orson Welles, John Singleton and M. Night Shyamalan, scored a writing nomination at the same time.

At 26, Welles shared the original screenplay Oscar for “Citizen Kane.” Two guys who penned their way to the same award, Matt Damon, 27, and Ben Affleck, 25, won for “Good Will Hunting.” (Damon was also an actor contender.)

In 1990, Steven Soderbergh was given a screenplay nod by the Academy for “sex, lies, and videotape,” but he fared better at the Independent Spirit Awards, who handed him the director award for the film — a full 10 years before he took home an Oscar for directing “Traffic.”

The Oscars have routinely recognized young actors: Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, James Dean, Natalie Wood, Shirley MacLaine, Leonardo DiCaprio and River Phoenix all landed Oscar nominations at a young age. Several winners have even been under 20, including Tatum O’Neal, Anna Paquin and Patty Duke.

Among the more than 20 women to win the actress statuette before hitting the 30 are Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Ingrid Bergman and Jodie Foster.

Adrien Brody, at 29, set the record in 2002 for youngest best actor winner. Timothy Hutton, at 20, nabbed a supporting actor trophy for “Ordinary People.” Just getting a nomination is quite a feat for men under 30: The ratio of female to male nominees under 30 is approximately 4-to-1. Among the men rating a rare early nom are Gregory Peck, Albert Finney, Robert Downey Jr. and Edward Norton.

Still, other awards shows have often beaten the Academy to the punch. Tom Cruise was nominated for a 1983 Golden Globe for “Risky Business,” six years before his first Oscar mention, for “Born on the Fourth of July.” A year before getting an Oscar nom for 1989’s “Steel Magnolias,” Julia Roberts received an Indie Spirit mention for “Mystic Pizza.”

The Independent Spirit Awards, which were founded in 1985, have always been perceived as hipper and edgier than the Oscars. They were the first to recognize future Oscar winners Renee Zellweger, Nicolas Cage and Benicio Del Toro and such future Oscar nominees as Queen Latifah, Laura Dern and Chloe Sevigny.

If the Spirit Awards are on the edge, the Golden Globes are right in the mainstream, honoring such talent as Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst and Nicole Kidman long before they received attention from the Academy.

The Screen Actors Guild Awards occasionally single out actors who aren’t rewarded elsewhere, such as Dakota Fanning, Hayden Christensen and Noah Taylor. Kate Winslet won a SAG Actor for “Sense and Sensibility,” but is so far 0-for-3 at the Oscars.

Young thesps who’ve won at the BAFTA Awards but struck out elsewhere include Jamie Bell, who beat out such heavyweights as Russell Crowe to win for 2000’s “Billy Elliott,” and Scarlett Johansson, a double nominee in 2003 who took home the BAFTA for “Lost in Translation” (she also was nominated for “Girl With a Pearl Earring”).

Sometimes fresh young faces like Audrey Hepburn are rewarded right off the bat (1954’s “Roman Holiday”). But when it comes to taking home the awards, you usually have to pay your dues — even if your name is Steven Spielberg or Julia Roberts.

More Film

  • WGA Awards 2019 Winners

    WGA Awards 2019: Bo Burnham Wins Original Screenplay Award for 'Eighth Grade'

    In a stunning upset, Bo Burnham has won the original screenplay award for “Eighth Grade” from the Writers Guild of America. He credited star Elsie Fisher for his winning the award. Burnham won over Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma”; Adam McKay’s “Vice”; Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, and John Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place”; and Peter Farrelly, Nick Vallelonga, [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel' No Match for China's 'Wandering Earth' Overseas

    Hollywood movies like “Alita: Battle Angel” and “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” are doing respectable business overseas, but they’re proving no match for foreign titles at the international box office. The Chinese New Year is bringing in huge business in the Middle Kingdom. China’s sci-fi epic “The Wandering Earth” pulled in a [...]

  • ABA_062_DAU_0060_v0409.87501 – Rosa Salazar stars as

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel' Wins Dismal President's Day Weekend

    Fox’s sci-fi adventure “Alita: Battle Angel” dominated in North America, but its opening weekend win isn’t leaving the box office with much to celebrate. Tracking services estimate that this will be one of the lowest grossing President’s Day weekends in years. Ticket sales are on pace to be the smallest bounty for the holiday frame [...]

  • Bohemian Rhapsody

    'Bohemian Rhapsody,' 'Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Among Cinema Audio Society Winners

    Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” won the Cinema Audio Society’s top prize for sound mixing at Saturday night’s 55th annual CAS Awards. The film is Oscar-nominated for sound mixing this year along with “Black Panther,” “First Man,” “Roma” and “A Star Is Born.” In a surprise over heavy-hitters “Incredibles 2” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Wes [...]

  • Oscars Placeholder

    Make-Up and Hair Stylist Guild Applauds Academy's Stance on Airing Every Oscar Winner

    Rowdy boos were followed by triumphant cheers at the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards on Saturday in Los Angeles, as the Hollywood union touched on a week of controversy over a reversed decision to hand out four Oscars during the show’s commercial breaks. Hair and makeup was one of the four categories that would [...]

  • Marvelous Mrs Maisel Vice

    'Vice,' 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Lead Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Winners

    Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic “Vice,” starring Oscar nominees Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Sam Rockwell, won two awards at the sixth annual Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Saturday night. The film won for best period and/or character makeup as well as special makeup effects. “Mary Queen of Scots” received the prize for period [...]

  • Bette Midler

    Bette Midler to Perform on the Oscars (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bette Midler will perform “The Place Where Lost Things Go” at the Oscar ceremonies on Feb. 24, Variety has learned. Midler, a longtime friend of composer-lyricist Marc Shaiman, will sing the song originally performed by Emily Blunt in “Mary Poppins Returns.” The song, by Shaiman and his lyricist partner Scott Wittman, is one of five [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content