Sorry, Bill Murray.
Face it: in Hollywood, talent never guarantees success, whether it’s in the form of box office receipts or an Oscar. You can be a talented leading man or a chameleonic character actor, but sometimes the elusive Best Actor award is just up to chance. You can chalk it up to many factors: the competition that year, or the quality of the movie versus the individual performance. Sometimes you’re just an unlucky son-of-a-bitch like Gary Oldman. Here are five actors that have done great work, but will never get to hoist that sexless statuette.
1. Bill Murray
Esquire once begged on its cover: “Will Somebody Please Give This Man an Oscar?” and that was back in December 2004. Is Bill Murray an incredible actor? Probably not. Is he an important one? Absolutely, and it’s a crime this man has never been honored for his work. His transition from one of the most beloved and bankable comedy stars in America to well-respected elder statesmen with unexpected dramatic chops is near-singular feat. (Keep dreaming, Eddie Murphy.) Sadly, it looks like Lost in Translation was his best shot, and he was still snubbed. His roles since then have relied on the same kind of sad-sack character: it'd be nice to see Murray get a character that’ll let him stretch out and finally get him the gold he deserves.
2. John Cusack
Cusack is a talented actor who peaked early and then decided to sit on his ass after his career-high in High Fidelity. After melting millions of hearts as Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything, Cusack graduated to impressive performances in Grosse Point Blank, Being John Malkovich, and The Thin Red Line. Hell, he was good in Con Air, and that was a movie where Nic Cage was in danger of being out-acted by his wig. Cusack could probably still churn out those kinds of performances again, but I question his passion after Must Love Dogs and America’s Sweethearts. There’s something sad about seeing an erratic career arc like that: lay off the kickboxing and HuffPo blogging and come back to us, John.
3. Andy Serkis
Serkis has garnered a lot of buzz for his performance as Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and he’s long been at the fore of motion-capture acting thanks to his performance as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but it’s unlikely the man will get his due from the Academy, mostly due to their legendary phobia of technology. (By way of example: Tron was snubbed in the Visual Effects category because it used computer-generated effects, which were considered cheating at the time.) It’s irritating that we laud Kanye for sampling everyone from King Crimson to Daft Punk, but applying equally innovative modern technology to film will likely result in Serkis being snubbed for years to come.
4. Harrison Ford
The list of Ford’s iconic characters goes on and on: Han Solo, Indiana Jones, President James Marshall, Jack Ryan, Rick Deckard — Harrison Ford plays the best manly man characters, and though they’re all practically the same, that’s fine. He deserves an Oscar not because he’s a great actor, but because of his contributions to the archetypes of American cinema: there’s not a handsome, steely leading man that isn’t indebted to at least one of Ford’s performances. Also, he called Shia LaBoeuf a “fucking idiot.” Ford’s never comfortable coming out of his character, so it’s unlikely we’ll never get to see Harrison hoist the trophy. But I’d still rather hear “Get off my plane” than “I’d like to thank Calista…”
5. Samuel L. Jackson
After some point you have to wonder if Jackson ever turns down a job. Is he bankrupt, like MC Hammer? is he crazy, like Michael Ironside? Whatever it is, he’s either overly ambitious or not cautious enough in his choices, but he’s done some amazing work. No matter how many more dumb comedies he does, or if he ever wields a lightsaber again (God forbid), he’ll forever be remembered as the immortal Jules Winnfield from Pulp Fiction, for which he received a nomination in 1994. I don’t think that Jackon’s a particularly un-talented actor, but I think his range is limited, to say the least, and his last chance for an Oscar was probably Jules: unless they finally make that drama about Winnfield’s hockey coaching career, it’s doubtful we’ll ever get to hear Jackson thank the motherfuckin’ Academy.