What about all the single ladies? And the married ones? Well, slightly different rules apply here
1. Be An A-Lister
In the last few years, it has become a rite of passage for Hollywood’s leading ladies to win an Oscar. Sandra Bullock, Reese Witherspoon, Julia Roberts, Halle Berry, Nicole Kidman: virtually every actress with the ability to open a film also has a lead or Supporting Oscar. It can be only a matter of time before Katherine Heigl and Cameron Diaz, the two biggest box-office names not already to have won, follow in their footsteps. In this category, the biggest name usually walks away with the prize, so build your box-office appeal first, then go serious.
2. Be under 40
The average age of a Best Actress winner is only 35 ½, almost a full decade less than the average male winner. There are many possible reasons for this – some of which we’ve previously discussed here – but it’s a definite advantage to get in there early. To enhance your chances, therefore, you need to start very strong in your teens or 20s and establish your star-power, and then turn serious by no later than about 33. Crikey – who knew the biological clock applied to winning an Oscar too?
3. REALLY don’t be in your 50s
Here’s a weird statistical blip: know how many Best Actress winners there are in their 50s? One. That’s compared to 11 Best Actor winners. When women talk about their being no roles for women at a certain age, they’re not kidding. The good news? There were 5 winners in their 60s, one in her 70s and one, Jessica Tandy, at 80. So if you miss out in your 30s, take 20 years off and give it another go; there’s bugger all point trying in the meantime.
4. Ugly up
You’re a Hollywood actress, so chances are you’re gorgeous. But if you want to win this one, think dowdy, think ugly. Eight of the last 20 winners have gone at least dowdy and at most donned a fake nose. Consider, if you will, Kate Winslet: up for Revolutionary Road and The Reader in the same year, she won for the latter – where she looked considerably worse than in the former. Basically, being plain is to actresses what being disabled is to actors. We’re pretty sure that says something not-very-nice about Hollywood’s gender attitudes.
5. Play a real person
Seven of the last 10 winners have been based on real people, so that’s (if anything) even more valuable advice for the ladies than it was for the gentlemen. Three of those are best described as leading tragic lives; the other four were either outright inspirational (Erin Brockovich, The Blind Side) or inspiringly strong characters (Walk The Line, The Queen). However, beware playing Elizabeth I: although actresses playing her have been nominated, only one has ever won.
6. Naff off and die
As with their actor colleagues, dying onscreen is a positive aid to awards success. Seven of the last 20 winners’ characters died in the course of their stories. Another – Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love – might have, or might as well have, depending on how you read that ending. Weirdly, hookers are also heavily represented among Best Actress nominees and winners. Again, let’s not reflect too closely on what this says about Hollywood.
Would you prefer money to artistic glory? Then read our guide on How To Make A Billion Dollars At The Box Office here.