Academy Awards

Leonardo O’Toole?

Screenshot 2014-03-27 08.50.35

Recently Leonardo DiCaprio suffered another disappointment at the Academy Awards. He left empty-handed after failing to take home the Leading Actor award, for his electrifying performance as Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street. This latest nomination was DiCaprio’s fourth—he was previously nominated for roles in Blood Diamond, The Aviator, and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. Though only having been nominated four times for an Oscar—a feat envied by many—in my opinion that is not an accurate reflection of DiCaprio’s talents as an actor. DiCaprio has consistently churned out powerful in films he was snubbed for at the Oscars: among this group of films his work in Gangs of New York, Catch Me If You Can, and The Departed stand out to me the most. He most certainly should have been nominated for, at the very least, one of those roles but was not—this is not even considering his work in Django Unchained and Shutter Island, which he was stellar in as well. Back to the point though, Matthew McConaughey was certainly deserving of the Academy Award, nevertheless his win marks another time DiCaprio has failed to take home the award.

When discussing DiCaprio’s latest snub, his career appears eerily similar to that of the recently deceased film legend, Peter O’Toole. O’Toole was nominated a record 8 times without winning for his acting once (he won an Honorary Award for his body of work in 2002). DiCaprio is still young and likely, will continue to produce Oscar-worthy material for the foreseeable future. But, considering he has been snubbed a number of times for Oscar worthy roles, and he hasn’t won yet out of his four nominations, the question needs to be asked: will Leonardo DiCaprio ever win an Academy Award? The popular answer to that question, recently, has been no. However, I firmly believe DiCaprio will grab the coveted golden statuette in the near future. I believe this for three reasons: 1) DiCaprio has lost to outstanding performances that were deserving of the award, 2) the Oscars often makes actors “wait their turn” before they win, and 3) he is too talented to not win at some point.

First, every time Leo has lost he has lost to incredible performances. His first nomination for supporting actor in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape lost too Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive. Sure you could make a strong argument Leo’s work was more deserving of the honor than Jones, however, when it comes to the Oscars there are many politics at play. Namely, in that particular situation, it was Leo’s first nomination against Jones’s second, but, Jones had been producing quality work for a long time and the Academy was more prone to award an established industry figure rather than an up-and-comer (also, his work in The Fugitive was outstanding).  He has also lost to Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles and Forrest Whitaker as Idi Amin—both incredibly powerful turns as historical figures, which is something the Academy consistently rewards.

Second, much like his frequent directorial collaborator Martin Scorsese, you get the sense that DiCaprio will eventually be rewarded for his continually excellent work. Scorsese, for whatever reason, was egregiously snubbed time and time again at the Academy Awards for his work directing. Arguably the greatest director of all time, and certainly the greatest living director, was not rewarded for his efforts in crafting an endless string of seminal classics like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas. It got to the point where it was the annual “elephant in the room” at the Oscars that Martin Scorsese still has not won. Finally, Scorsese was rewarded for directing The Departed and watching the video you can visibly and audibly feel the weight being lifted off the room after his name was announced. I believe DiCaprio is in a similar boat, though he may not have to wait as grossly long as Scorsese did. Every year there is an instance where a performance wins instead of another, simply because the Academy is honoring an actors body of work over one role. DiCaprio will eventually be rewarded for his.

Third, Peter O’Toole is an outlier. Generally, if you are a talented actor or actress who is consistently being nominated for Oscar after Oscar you will take one home eventually. O’Toole is the recurrent example of the exception to the rule—one of cinema’s greats who never took home it’s most revered award. Glen Close is another example of someone who falls into this category. However, those thesps are two members of an extremely limited group. Sure there are plenty of actors who have been nominated a few times and haven’t won; Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, and Sigourney Weaver come to mind. But, DiCaprio, like Close and O’Toole, is above that category of actors and as such if he doesn’t win it will be an injustice. However, because of Leo’s persistently great work, drawing on the Academy’s track record, he will win eventually. O’Toole, along with Close, is a rare example of someone who fell through the cracks. Throughout history there have been very few examples of someone who fits the O’Toole mode and it is very unlikely DiCaprio will join this fraternity of snubbed cinema greats. If he does though you can definitely count on an impassioned article from me berating the Academy.