10 Victims of the Oscar Curse & Oscar Jinx

Sunday, February 7, 2010 at 12:28 pm
By Shane Rivers

Some Academy Award winners go on to become superstars; some end up starring in movies featuring bloodthirsty monkeys. The following 10 victims of the Oscar curse & Oscar jinx have never quite lived up to expectations following their receipt of the industry’s biggest honor. While most have continued to receive steady work, they’ve failed to stand atop that Hollywood plateau occupied by named like Streep, Pacino, De Niro and Freeman. In this article, we’ll take a look at each of the victims of the Oscar curse & Oscar jinx, examine their recent roles, and even make some predictions about the future.

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Victim’s Name: Timothy Hutton
Won For: Ordinary People (1980)
Why They’re Cursed: Playing a younger brother coping with survivor’s guilt following the tragic death of his golden boy sibling, Timothy Hutton became the youngest performer to ever win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. While he hasn’t struggled to find work (15 movies from 2006 to 2008), Hutton has never reached the lofty peaks of another Oscar nomination. He currently stars in the TNT series Leverage, and 2010 shows him scheduled to appear in such epics as Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and Multiple Sarcasms (co-starring another jinxed Oscar winner, Mira Sorvino). On a positive note: he married former babe Debra Winger back in 1986, so I guess ladies do dig that gold-plated trophy.

Oscar CurseVictim’s Name: Kim Basinger
Won For: L.A. Confidential (1997)
Why They’re Jinxed: Like many of the women on this list, it’s difficult to determine if old age or the Oscar jinx was responsible for Kim Basinger’s career decline. She was a smokin’ hot 43-year-old when she won her Best Supporting Actress award, and now she’s 56. While still far more attractive than most women her age, the acting opportunities are growing increasingly slim (especially since her current demographic forces her to compete with the likes of Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren). She did get to play Eminem’s white trash mom in 8 Mile, but following that up with Cellular and The Sentinel didn’t help her cause. Most of her work these days is limited to television and indy films. A perfect example of the Oscar curse manifested when Basinger was cast in 2009’s The Informers, a film co-starring Billy Bob Thornton, Mickey Rourke and Winona Ryder. Despite the impressive cast, the movie never moved past limited release, and it only grossed a paltry $300,000. Sadly, she’s currently more famous for her down-and-dirty conflicts with ex-husband Alec Baldwin and her work for those crazy-ass bastards in PETA.

Victim’s Name: Roberto Benigni
Won For: Life is Beautiful (1997)
Why They’re Cursed: Since winning the Best Foreign Film and Best Actor Oscars in 1997 and jumping from seat to seat like an irrepressible madman, Benigni has directed only two feature films and appeared in seven as an actor. While most of these movies are unknown to American audiences (The Tiger and the Snow, Asterix and Obelix vs. Caesar), the Oscar curse really nailed him good in 2002. That’s the year he starred in and directed Pinocchio, one of the most expensive films in the history of Italian cinema. While it did fine in his home country, the movie was a bomb in the U.S. and holds a dubious 0% score from critics over at Rotten Tomatoes. With his propensity to go crazy at the drop of a hat and his fascination with the works of Dante (even performing a one-man show on the subject in 2006 and 2007), it’s little wonder why Benigni has yet to act alongside another Oscar winner

Oscar JinxVictim’s Name: Cuba Gooding Jr.
Won For: Jerry Maguire (1996)
Why They’re Jinxed: “Show me the money,” had become a popular catchphrase across the country, and Best Supporting Actor winner Cuba Gooding Jr. appeared poised on the verge of superstardom. Enter the dreaded Oscar jinx. Dark career clouds began to roll in when Gooding Jr. appeared opposite Anthony Hopkins in Instinct, a film whose marketing campaign made it out to be Silence of the Lambs…but with apes. That was a misrepresentation, of course, and audiences were not pleased. After that, Gooding Jr. starred in the awful Boat Trip, a film jam-packed with ignorant gay stereotypes. It only got worse from there, as he appeared in both Norbit and Daddy Day Camp, two films that the Nazis would’ve surely screened at concentration camps had they existed back then. Despite these career missteps, Gooding Jr. received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2002 (so much for exclusivity) and nabbed himself a Hanes underwear commercial in 2007. But those Oscar days are far in the rear-view mirror.

Victim’s Name: Mira Sorvino
Won For: Mighty Aphrodite (1995)
Why They’re Cursed: After a few small film roles, Sorvino shocked Oscar viewers by winning Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of a hooker with a funny voice in Woody Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite. A number of critics called the win a fluke, and they’re looking more and more like geniuses with every passing day. Sorvino starred in the not-so-high-concept Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, and Spike Lee’s Summer of Sam failed to generate much interest at the box office. Now she’s a staple on television, starring in original movies such as Human Trafficking (for which she did receive a Golden Globe nomination) and The Last Templar. She also appeared on the hit series House, but the Oscar curse made damn sure that the writer’s strike silenced any talk of making her a recurring character. At least she can always tell people that her father is Paulie from Goodfellas.

Kevin SpaceyVictim’s Name: Kevin Spacey
Won For: The Usual Suspects (1995), American Beauty (1999)
Why They’re Jinxed: Kevin Spacey avoided the jinx with his first Oscar win, but it seems to have caught up with him following his Best Actor nod for American Beauty. While hardly a forgotten man in Hollywood, Spacey’s projects have consistently failed to live up to earlier roles like Verbal Kint, Jack Vincennes, Lester Burnham and John Doe. In 20 years, will anyone remember Pay It Forward or The Life of David Gale? Heck, does anybody even remember them today? He was in Edison Force (aka Edison and Edison Wallace), a film that actually went straight to DVD, and the makers of Superman Returns somehow found a way to make his version of Lex Luthor even less compelling than the one who hung out with Ned Beatty. 2009 did see Spacey contribute to critically successful films like Moon and The Men Who Stare at Goats, so maybe he’ll be able to shake off the curse in the coming years. I sure hope so, because I’ve been dying to see a sequel to The Ref.

Victim’s Name: Renee Zellweger
Won For: Cold Mountain (2004)
Why They’re Cursed: After doing her Granny Clampett impersonation in Cold Mountain, Zellweger found herself being handed an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. And while she’s still a favorite in the tabloids, her career has been plagued with box office disappointments following her win at the Academy Awards. Here are just a few: Leatherheads, Cinderella Man, Appaloosa, My One and Only and New in Town. Don’t be embarrassed if you haven’t heard of half of them. Her next project was supposed to be the horror film Case 39 (filmed in 2006), but plans for a domestic release appear to have been scrapped following horrific reviews and poor performance in limited release. One has to wonder how bad a horror flick has to be to get put on the shelf? You’d think that Zellweger would’ve learned a few tricks of the genre from her time on the set of 1994’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation.

Catherine Zeta-JonesVictim’s Name: Catherine Zeta-Jones
Won For: Chicago (2002)
Why They’re Jinxed: The decline of some of the actresses on this list coincide with their youthful looks starting to falter. That’s not the case with Catherine Zeta-Jones, as she’s still all kinds of gorgeous. While she did follow up her Oscar win with roles in Ocean’s Twelve, Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas and The Terminal, the ‘ol Oscar jinx started working its mojo following the release of The Legend of Zorro. Sure, the film grossed over $100 million, but it was still far less than expected. After appearing in absolutely nothing in 2006 (no doubt spent raising her kids and pleasuring that lucky dog, Michael Douglas), she turned up in 2007’s No Reservations. Cue the crickets. The same goes for Death Defying Acts and The Rebound, her contributions to the cinema in 2008 and 2009. With nothing on the books for 2010, it looks like the Welsh beauty’s film career may have hit a serious skid. Somewhere, Michael Douglas is grinning to beat the band.

Victim’s Name: F. Murray Abraham
Won For: Amadeus (1984)
Why They’re Jinxed: If the Oscar jinx has a face, it’s pock-marked and belongs to this entrant on our list. Some in the entertainment industry even refer to the aforementioned curse as “F. Murray Abraham syndrome.” Prior to winning Best Actor for Amadeus, Abraham was most recognized for playing the giant leaf in the Fruit of the Loom underwear commercials. Things didn’t change much afterwards. Abraham demonstrated his chops on the stage in a number of Shakespeare productions, and he’s compiled a massive resume of smaller film roles (often as villains and all-around jackasses) in such projects as Finding Forrester, The Name of the Rose, Star Trek: Insurrection, and Last Action Hero. In 2007, he may have outdone himself by starring in Blood Monkey, a made-for-television movie about a group of researchers beset by killer primates. But despite it all, Abraham has maintained a positive attitude. When once asked about the so-called jinx, he replied, “The Oscar is the single most important event of my career. I have dined with kings, shared equal billing with my idols, lectured at Harvard and Columbia. If this is a jinx, I’ll take two.” Sadly, Blood Monkey did not earn Abraham a second Oscar.

Adrien BrodyVictim’s Name: Adrien Brody
Won For: The Pianist (2002)
Why They’re Jinxed: That sneaky Adrien Brody not only became the youngest performer to win the Best Actor Oscar, but he also grabbed presenter Halle Berry and stole a kiss. After years of smaller roles in films like Solo and The Boy Who Cried Bitch (note to self: see this film), Brody had finally arrived. Since that time, King Kong has been the only blockbuster to his credit. Some of more forgettable films include The Jacket, The Village, Hollywoodland, Manolete, The Brothers Bloom and Splice. While he continues to work at a steady pace and take on diverse roles, Brody has hardly transformed into the major star that many predicted. Still, he’s scheduled to star in Predators this summer, and if anything can redeem an actor in the eyes of the public, it’s fighting to the death with a race of interstellar hunters. After all, look what it did for Jesse Ventura and Carl Weathers.