Why Are Two Actors From The Same Film Nominated In The Best Supporting Actress Category At The Oscars?

When it comes to the Academy Awards, the same films are often acknowledged in multiple categories. This makes sense most of the time, as all of the aspects work in conjunction. If the actors in the film did a great job, at least part of that must come from having a solid script to work with. But it often starts to feel as though the Academy has focused on just a few of the best movies and ignored others that deserved their attention. And this is never more the case than in the Best Supporting Actress category.

Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz
Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz | Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

This year, like so many others, two women from the same film have been nominated for Best Supporting Actress. I’m not saying that they don’t deserve it: Both Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone are incredible in The Favourite. But the frequency with which this happens is remarkable. I did some research into the practice, and here’s what I discovered:

This also happens in the male equivalent category

For Best Supporting Actor, this has happened many times. It used to happen a lot more frequently: Of the 17 times in history that two or more actors from the same film have competed for Best Supporting Actor, more than half took place before 1980. On three occasions, three actors from the same film competed against one another in this category. Two of those times were for films in The Godfather franchise.

Despite having an advantage statistically speaking, only six times did an actor win against his co-star in the category. The last time was when Sam Rockwell, who is up for Best Actor this year, beat out his Three Billboards co-star Woody Harrelson.

But it is a lot more frequent for women

Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain
Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain | Venturelli/WireImage

On the Best Supporting Actress side, this has been even more prevalent. In the 1940s alone, seven years featured actresses from the same film up against one another. What’s more, in 1949, something even more unique happened: For the first time ever (and since), two women from two different films were in the same situation. That means that out of five nominees, only three different movies were recognized. Oddly enough, the winner that year, Mercedes McCambridge for All the King’s Men, was the only one not competing against someone from her own film.

Prior to 2019, two or more women from the same film had competed in the Best Supporting Actress category 30 times. Just once were three women from the same film nominated. Unlike for Best Supporting Actor, the number of times these women won made more sense statistically, with 12 out of the 30 times resulting in a win.

Why does this keep happening?

Though these are intriguing statistics to look at, they paint a bleak image: There are fewer roles, and therefore fewer great roles, for women in Hollywood. It also seems as though most of the films that have significant roles for women have multiple such roles. This could be the case of the Academy only looking at certain kinds of films, or it could be because of a lack of inclusivity in Hollywood in general.

But most of what it seems to come back to is repetition. Almost every year, a new person or two is brought into the mix: This year, the stars of Roma, Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira, are among them. People who have put on incredible performances in the past but were never nominated until now, like Regina King, are also important. But for the most part, the Academy falls back on nominating the same people over and over again, especially women. As many have been saying for years, increasing inclusivity and the Academy working to expand the kinds of films it honors are key to acknowledge more of the incredible talent Hollywood has to offer.

Check out the Cheat Sheet on Facebook!