ByKit Simpson Browne, writer at
Writer-at-large. Bad jokes aplenty. Can be gently prodded on Twitter at @kitsb1
Kit Simpson Browne

Now, the Toronto International Film Festival — better know as TIFF — has long been the mainstream launching pad of many an Oscar winner, with its role as the preeminent North American festival for mid-budget studio-produced 'prestige' movies having become more and more un-disputed over the past decade or so. What's more, in the past eight years, the winner of its increasingly prestigious 'People's Choice award' — the festival's main award, and one voted for by the fans — has gone on to win the Best Picture Oscar three times (Slumdog Millionaire, The King's Speech, 12 Years A Slave), while four others were nominated (Precious, Silver Linings Playbook, The Imitation Game and Room), making the festival an increasingly effective barometer for the awards season as a whole. This year, though...

One TIFF Movie May Have A Shot At A Different, Much Rarer Sort Of Oscar Success

[Academy Awards]
[Academy Awards]

Y'see, while each year one film has to win Best Picture at the Oscars, and one actor and one actress have to respectively win Best Actor and Best Actress, there are some Academy Awards-themed achievements that simply don't occur that often. A second (or third, or fourth) Oscar win for the same person, for instance, is widely thought to be far more prestigious than merely having one (sorry Leo), and there's long been a belief among many that having both a Best Actor/Actress statuette and a Best Supporting Actor/Actress gong in your downstairs washroom is a mark of true acting greatness.

One of the most striking achievements, though — and one that reflects particularly well on both the film in question and its production staff — is the 'Lead Double': The winning of both the Best Actor and Best Actress Oscars by the cast of the same movie. It's only happened seven times in the history of the awards, with the academy of the 1970's and early 1980's being particularly fond of awarding it. The full list of 'doublers' is as follows:

  • 1934: Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night
  • 1975: Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher in One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • 1976: Peter Finch and Faye Dunaway in Network
  • 1978: Jon Voight and Jane Fonda in Coming Home
  • 1981: Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn in On Golden Pond
  • 1991: Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs
  • 1997: Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt in As Good As It Gets

They most intriguing part of that list, though?

It's Been Twenty Years Since Any Movie's Actors Have Won The 'Lead Double'


And, since many Oscar-watchers have retrospectively dismissed Hunt and Nicholson's wins that year as 'pretty darned fortunate' — they beat out the likes of Judi Dench, Julie Christie, Robert Duvall and Dustin Hoffman, while starring in a movie that few have retained much affection for — is actually pretty darned impressive.

When you look back on the Best Actor and Actress winners from the past two decades, though, the lengthy wait begins to make a whole lot of sense. Most of the eventual victors, y'see, won their awards in movies where their leading co-stars weren't also nominated, often as a result of the movie being, in effect, a showcase for their own acting abilities. Two-handers, in other words, are increasingly rare — or at least increasingly rarely nominated for Oscars. That, though, could well be about to change. Y'see...

Loving Could Well Have Placed Its Two Stars At The Front Of The Oscar Line

Focus Features
Focus Features

Which, once you see the movie, will likely make a whole lot of sense. A subtle, beautifully crafted film, that tackles a difficult issue — racially-motivated limits on marriage in the South back in the 1960s — with maturity and grace, Loving is nonetheless lifted by two particularly remarkable performances from its stars Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton. With both forced to do much of their performing in minute, fractional eye-movements and with firmly constrained emotion, it's difficult to imagine the Academy Awards failing to recognize both actors with nominations, despite the strong acting field this year.

In other words, should Loving receive a big push come Oscar season (something that's sure to happen), there's every chance that Negga and Edgerton could ultimately wind up being not only nominated, but breaking a twenty-year long drought of 'Lead Double' winners. The big question that raises, though?

Could They Both Actually Win?

[Focus Features]
[Focus Features]

After all, with the likes of Oscar favorites Amy Adams (Arrival) and Tom Hanks (Sully) likely to be (deservedly) competing for the same gongs, is there any realistic chance that Negga and Edgerton could both win?

Well, yes, as it happens. Y'see, Loving actually has several key things going for it when it comes to the Oscar race. For one thing, it's the exact sort of topical that the Academy Awards tends to like — relevant, but not quite so angry as to make rich older white people defensive. With the film taking a quietly furious yet ultimately peacefully-minded approach to the issue of racism in America, there's every chance that voting for it (and the Oscars have long been affected by political block voting) will be seen by many as the 'right thing to do'.

For more about the movie's searingly important content, check out this video:

What's more, the two central performances are genuinely fantastic, with Edgerton in particular ticking a key Oscar box by 'playing ugly'. After all, in an industry obsessed with appearances, actors being willing to look less than perfect have often been rewarded come awards season. It helps, of course, that his performance is also pretty darned remarkable, all gentle muscularity and barely-expressed emotion. For Negga, meanwhile, the movie offers a remarkable showcase for some subtle, carefully-defined acting work, in a role that could easily have become mawkish or overblown in other hands — and Academy voters do love a breakout star.

In other words?

We Could Finally See The Long Wait For A 'Lead Double' End Come 2017

[Focus Features]
[Focus Features]

Though maybe don't mention that to Negga and Edgerton — I'm sure they're already freaking out enough as it is.

Want more Oscars-themed content, though? Check out...

The big question now, then? What do YOU reckon? Will Loving win the 'lead double', or will other actors triumph? Let us know below!


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