There’s no greater acting prize than the Oscar. Sometimes there’s no greater curse.
The road to the Academy Awards is full of 18-hour days, photo ops, interviews and party after party after party. Yet, the real challenge for some comes after the trophy is taken home. For an actor or actress, the pressure is highest after you win an Oscar because it’s then you have to prove yourself. You have to prove the Oscar wasn’t the zenith of your career, you have to prove you have more gas in the tank and, most importantly, you have to prove the prize wasn’t a huge fluke.
Most performers have successful careers post-Oscar. Most. Some haven’t. Here’s a few actors and actresses who never again reached the highs of their Oscar-winning performances.
Kim Basinger (L.A Confidential)
Basinger was part of Curtis Hanson’s truly terrific L.A. Confidential back in 1997. She did a fantastic job, even if the part wasn’t as fleshed-out as it could have been. Basinger had been around for awhile before she won the Oscar but post-award, her career hasn’t taken off as many had predicted.
She followed up Confidential with the abysmal I Dream of Africa (remember that one?). Then it was 8 Mile with Eminem, a well-regarded and successful film. Sadly, it dwindled after that. She popped up in Cellular, The Sentinel and other little-seen films. Her next role will be in Fifty Shades Darker, which will (probably) be her first hit in nearly fifteen years. Let’s hope Basinger makes a comeback.
Roberto Benigni (Life is Beautiful)
Oh, Roberto! Who could forget Roberto Benigni? Well, apparently every single American alive. Benigni has become a Trivial Pursuit answer, a person who briefly comes back to you when you’re talking about forgotten movie stars. “Oh yeah,” you say. “I forgot all about him.”
Benigni co-wrote, directed and starred in the Holocaust drama Life is Beautiful which swept the Academy off its feet. When Benigni was given his two – two! – Oscars, he celebrated by climbing on famous people, standing on chairs, delivering rambling and loud speeches and generally making an entire nation laugh and also say, “What the heck is going on with this guy?” Benigni’s acceptance speeches were some of the most talked about moments of the night. And then he disappeared. True, he’s an Italian actor and perhaps wasn’t bound for more American success. However, he tried. His biggest claim to fame after Life is Beautiful was his take on Pinocchio which did business in Italy but bombed horribly in the states and garnered a whopping zero percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
While Benigni might be doing okay overseas, here in America he’ll forever be known as the loud, crazy guy who somehow beat Tom Hanks.
Cuba Gooding, Jr. (Jerry Maguire)
This one hurts. Cuba Gooding, Jr. was such a blast of fresh air when he found massive success with Jerry Maguire. Then there was his acceptance speech on Oscar night, which is still one of the best in history. We were all so excited for Cuba, we were all rooting him on. Then we were all let down.
Gooding, Jr.’s career after his Oscar has been rough but has recently shown signs of rebounding. He appeared in As Good As It Gets after his Oscar win in a supporting role but things got rocky quickly after that. There was Chill Factor, Men of Honor (one of Robert De Niro’s many missteps), Snow Dogs, Boat Trip and, of course, Radio. That’s not all of them but it’s more than enough to highlight just how bad things got for Cuba. However, he still is a talented guy and has shown flares of greatness again. His work in Ridley Scott’s American Gangster is menacing and unquestionably great. Plus his work on American Crime Story: The People V O.J. Simpson has put him back in the spotlight in a big way. While he may never top his work in Jerry Maguire, Cuba might be coming back.
Louis Gossett, Jr. (An Officer and a Gentleman)
Louis Gossett, Jr.’s Oscar win was historic. He was the first African-American actor to win the award for a supporting role and only the second black man to win for acting. Plus, he did a great job in the film. Sadly after his win for Officer, things fell off Gossett. He appeared in Jaws 3-D after his Academy Award, that’s not a great follow-up. Then there was Firewalker with Chuck Norris, his multiple Iron Eagle sequels, The Punisher (yes, the one with Dolph Lundgren) and ultimately one of those Left Behind films.
Gossett has found more success on television but he’s never touched the greatness of his work in An Officer and a Gentleman. He’s a powerful presence on screen so it’s really unfortunate that his career hasn’t found success after his historic win. We’re rooting for you, Louis. But even we can’t stand another Iron Eagle.
Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite)
For a brief time in the 1990’s, Mira Sorvino was the it girl. It all reached a crescendo in 1995 when Sorvino won an Oscar for her work in Woody Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite. A beautiful, talented actress winning an Oscar at the beginning of her career? This was the start of something good.
Sadly, no. Sorvino had a few near-hits after her Oscar win, most notably the pretty decent horror film Mimic. Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion became something of a cultural touchstone but then things skidded out rather quickly. Looking at her IMDb filmography, you’ll see that Sorvino never came close to the heights of Mighty Aphrodite. To her credit, it feels like Sorvino seems okay with where things are at. In the few interviews she’s given, she seems very at peace despite never rocketing to fame like her Oscar win promised. Good for you, Mira. Just remember we’ll always welcome you back.
These were just a few of the actors and actresses who fell off drastically after they took home the golden statue. It’s not easy to move forward after you win an Oscar. Not everyone is Tom Hanks. No matter what happens after they win, one thing will never change: they won an Oscar, something so few performers have done. That’s always worthy of pride.
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