The best actress race is full of veterans this year, with the likes of Meryl Streep, Michelle Pfeiffer and Ellen Burstyn all vying for Oscar attention. Joining the list is Sophia Loren, one of the most prolific actresses of Hollywood’s Golden Age, in Edoardo Ponti’s “The Life Ahead.”
The Oscar-winning Italian actor landed her gold statuette for “Two Women” (“La ciociara”) in 1962, which made her the first actor to win an Academy Award for a foreign-language film. She put up one more nomination in 1965 for “Marriage Italian Style” (“Matrimonio all’italiana”) and if she manages a nomination for “The Life Ahead,” a new record could emerge. In 2021, it will mark 56 years since her last nomination, and if nominated, she will break the record currently held by Henry Fonda as the longest gap between acting nominations. Fonda was nominated in 1941 for “The Grapes of Wrath” and he won the Oscar in 1982 for “On Golden Pond,” marking a 41-year gap.
If nominated, Loren would also be the oldest nominee for best actress in Oscar history at 86 years old, surpassing Emmanuelle Riva, who at 85 was nominated for “Amour.” If she manages to go all the way to the Dolby Theatre and win, she would not only break Jessica Tandy’s record as the oldest winner in the category, but also the oldest acting winner in history. She’s not the only potential record-breaker this year; Anthony Hopkins, who will be 83, could become the oldest nominee in best actor history for “The Father,” surpassing Richard Farnsworth (“The Straight Story”), who was 79 when he was nominated. If he wins, he would surpass Fonda, who was 76 when he won for “On Golden Pond.”
Supporting actress hopeful Burstyn, from “Pieces of a Woman,” can also become the oldest acting nominee in history, surpassing, by 57 days, Christopher Plummer’s record at 88 and 41 days old when he was nominated for “All the Money in the World.”
Another part of Netflix’s arsenal this awards season, Loren delivers one of her challenging and immaculate performances of her illustrious career. The movie is also vying to be the Italian submission for best international feature, which would mark its 32nd nomination in the category. Italy has the most wins for any country at 14.
The film will also have an original song in the mix from 11-time Oscar nominee Diane Warren, who is also seeking her first win. “Io sì (Seen),” which is performed by Laura Pausini, who provides the Italian lyrics with Niccolò Agliardi, could be one of the frontrunners for best original song.
The classic and undeniable beauty of Loren is still richly evident, and she will be competitive for a nomination as Madam Rosa. I would expect a few young actor citations or breakthrough prizes for Ibrahima Gueye, who is emotionally powerful as Momo. He puts the tearducts into overtime with his turn.
For Ponti, who co-writes with Ugo Chiti, the film could factor into places like adapted screenplay. It’s adapted from the book by Romain Gary, and if it catches on, there’s some space for it. The last foreign-language nominee in adapted screenplay was in 2007 for “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” There has never been a foreign-language winner in the category, unlike its original screenplay counterpart which has had six, most recently with the best picture-winning “Parasite.”
The road continues.