ByPeter Matthews, writer at Creators.co
Writer, Reader, Film watcher
Peter Matthews

Tom Cruise, Joaquin Phoenix, Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio are some of the most high profile names in Hollywood today, and they are almost certainly some of the biggest actors never to have won an Oscar.

Matthew McConaghey won Best Actor last Sunday for his role his Dallas Buyers' Club. It was his first ever nomination, though it came on the back of a series of remarkable performances in critically acclaimed films such as Killer Joe, Mud and Bernie - as well as his role as Rust Cohle on HBO's True Detective.

Leonardo DiCaprio meanwhile has been nominated four times, the first in 1994 for What's Eating Gilbert Grape, and the most recent this year for the lead role in The Wolf of Wall Street.

McConaughey's win was probably the right decision, although trying to understand on what the academy bases its decisions is sometimes difficult. Tom Hanks won Best Actor for Forrest Gump, but was not even nominated this year for his incredibly rich performance in the Somali pirate film Captain Phillips. It seems that sometimes an actor misses out - or is rewarded - depending less on the film they are up for but instead for a body of work that the academy feels should be recognized.

DiCaprio has been discussed elsewhere but let's look in some more detail at why the other three actors haven't won. In particular, when have they come closest to winning - and haven't.

TOM CRUISE

Tom Cruise has been up for an academy award three times, for Born on the Fourth of July, Jerry Maguire and Magnolia - and it is for this last performance that he almost definitely should have won. It was the best performance of his career; a high-intensity display of seething anger and self-hatred delivered in the language of new-age motivational self-help.

Ultimately, though, he was beaten by Michael Caine in The Cider House Rules - perhaps another example of the academy awarding someone for their former work rather than the film in question.

But as for Cruise getting another shot it is certainly possible - although he has been taking more action roles recently rather than showing his full range as an actor. Arguably his best performance since Magnolia - in terms of intensity and strangeness - was on Oprah's couch.

Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt's first stand out role was as a Cowboy hitchhiker in the road movie Thelma & Louise, but, much as with Jack Nicholson's scene stealing cameo in Easy Rider, the role was too short to get much any recognition from the academy.

Arguably, Pitt should not be on this list. After all viewers of the Oscars would have seen him collect an award last Sunday for 12 Years a Slave. However, he was not being recognized for his performance in that film (though he did have a small part) but for his role as a producer.

For acting though, Pitt has - like Cruise - been nominated three times. His nominations have come for 12 Monkeys, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Moneyball. Moneyball was probably the most likely to win, however the award was taken by Jean Dujardin for his role in surprise hit The Artist.

Pitt's best work, though, has not got him any nominations. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was a collaboration with Director Andrew Dominic. The pair's collaborations seem to be extremely fruitful, in fact Pitt was also the lead in Dominic's Killing Them Softly, which deserved more attention than it got - and included an outstanding cameo from James Gandolfini, another of the best actors to never win an Academy Award.

Pitt may win an Oscar for acting in the future - but it is his prolific work as a producer that is more likely to see him pick up further awards.

Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix, despite being 10 years younger than Pitt or Cruise, matches them both with Oscar nominations. Phoenix was first nominated for Supporting actor in 2000's Gladiator, where he played the creepy incestuous Emperor Commodus. He was up for Best Actor for both Walk The Line and The Master.

He is also, of the three, arguably the one doing the most interesting work at the moment. I'm Still Here might have ultimately been a bit of a mess as a film, but it had ambition. While his performance in 2012's The Master was as good as Cruise's in Magnolia, and had a similar manic energy, even if Phoenix's was a more inwardly turned display.

Phoenix will reunite will Paul Thomas Anderson in the upcoming movie Inherent Vice, based on the novel by the post-modernist writer Thomas Pynchon. It is a movie you suspect will either be extremely successful or a rambling pretentious mess. And it could well earn Phoenix his first Oscar.

However, it is probably appropriate to give the last word on all this speculation to Phoenix himself. Asked what he thought of the Academy Awards when he was in contention for The Master, he replied.

I'm just saying that I think it's bullshit. I think it's total, utter bullshit, and I don't want to be a part of it. I don't believe in it. It's a carrot, but it's the worst-tasting carrot I've ever tasted in my whole life. I don't want this carrot. It's totally subjective. Pitting people against each other . . . It's the stupidest thing in the whole world. It was one of the most uncomfortable periods of my life when Walk the Line was going through all the awards stuff and all that. I never want to have that experience again. I don't know how to explain it—and it's not like I'm in this place where I think I'm just above it—but I just don't ever want to get comfortable with that part of things.

But what do you think? Which of these three do you think will be the first to pick up an Oscar? Do you think they will all get one, eventually - or perhaps with Pitt producing, Cruise opting for less interesting films and Phoenix dismissing the Academy, none of them will? Write in with your thoughts below the line.

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