Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pitt's Epic Streak

Did Brad Pitt just set a record?

With this year's nominations Pitt has now starred in four Best Picture nominees in a row- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Inglorious Basterds, Tree of Life  and Moneyball.  After poking around in Academy history for a while I can find no prior examples of a leading man accomplishing this before. (And before you write me I'm not counting his voice over performance in Megamind so you can put an asterisk on this if you like)

Other men have come very close. Between '83 and '89 William Hurt starred in six Best Picture nominees starting with The Big Chill and ending with The Accidental Tourist but in between he mixed in more forgettable titles like A Time of Destiny. Russell Crowe's run at the start of the last decade beginning with The Insider would have matched this if he hadn't thrown in Proof of Life between A Beautiful Mind and Gladiator. Brando received four consecutive Best Actor nominations in the early fifties beginning with Streetcar but only three were Best Picture contenders.

Bergman in Gaslight
There is a leading lady who ties the record with Ingrid Bergman going on a run of four in a row starting with Casablanca in 1943 through For Whom the Bell Tolls, Gaslight, and Spellbound. She would have made it five in a row with Bells of St. Mary's is she hadn't made something called Saratoga Trunk with Gary Cooper.

And that's all I can come up. I don't want to declare the record Pitt's with certainty since when ever I do that the collective hive-mind of the Internet quickly clowns my feeble research, so I'll throw it open to the floor. Has any other leading man equaled Pitt's streak? I don't see anybody else, but if someone can find a name I'll update the post.

(If you want to extend the record to roles of any size the only other name I can spot would be Billy Boyd who appeared in all three Lord of the Rings films plus a small role in Master and Commander.)*

Trivia fun aside, Pitt is on one of the all-time great rolls. It's all the more impressive when you note that his streak was preceded by two memorable performances in acclaimed films The Assassination of Jesse James and Burn After Reading and that his next film, Cogan's Trade, looks very promising.

It is worth further noting that those actors I named - Hurt, Crowe, Bergman, Brando - all won Oscars during those streaks. Just saying.

*Update: It was pointed out to me by Andreas that the I missed the super obvious answer of John Cazale. Like Boyd, none of them were leading roles but they were all significant parts and he did appear not merely in five nominees in a row, but five bona fide classics.


  1. He may or may not win this time for Best Actor, but I’m happy that he knows what roles to pick and which director to work with. It’s kinda better than winning an Oscar than after that starring in forgettable titles.

  2. I agree with the previous comment.
    I personally think Pitt should have two additional nominations (Tree of Life, Jesse James) and one win (Tree of Life) on his resume, but even if he doesn't win this year, as long as he continues doing what he's doing now, I'll be satisfied. All the films you mentioned have been really rewarding experiences.

    Just curious, do you say Cazale's record is unbeatable because you're counting Happy Feet as one of Pitt's acting gigs, or is it because you have no faith in Cogan's Trade scoring with the academy?

  3. I'm not counting voice over work. Maybe unbeatable was a poor choice of words. I only meant unbeatable until now.

  4. Babel was a Best Pic nominee as well

  5. Nothing can touch John Cazale's record, because ALL of the films in his filmography were nominated (wow!) and his streak occurred entirely in a periode where the Academy only selected 5 Best Picture nominees (something not even Bergman can claim, though Casablanca would have been nominated even if there were just five noms). If that had been the case with Pitt, perhaps Moneyball and definitely Tree of Life would not have been Best Picture nominees.