Oscars 2022: 18 bitesize facts about this year's nominees

By Steven McIntosh
Entertainment reporter

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None of the films starring the best actress nominees, including Kristen Stewart, are up for best picture

Hollywood has had a hell of a year. Spider-Man rescued the box office, Scarlett Johansson sued Disney, Daniel Craig bade farewell to Bond and everybody talked about Bruno.

Sunday's Oscars, which mark the culmination of awards season, reflect an industry still going through huge changes. Nominees like Dune, West Side Story, King Richard and Belfast have, to varying degrees, brought people back to cinemas after long periods of closure.

Those films are rubbing shoulders at the Academy Awards with Don't Look Up, Coda, Tick Tick... Boom! and Being The Ricardos, which found sizeable audiences on streaming platforms.

We've been through the nominees to round up Oscars facts, quirks, anecdotes and possible record breakers.

Because we like things to be bitesize and digestible - two things you wouldn't get with a Licorice Pizza - here are 18 nuggets of trivia to store for your next pub quiz.

1. Judi Dench could break an Oscars record.

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Dame Judi Dench (pictured) faces tough competition from best supporting actress favourite Ariana DeBose

The veteran British star could become the oldest ever winner in an acting category, after being nominated for her performance in Sir Kenneth Branagh's Belfast.

Dame Judi is 87, four years older than current record holder Sir Anthony Hopkins was when he won for The Father in 2021.

However, she isn't the oldest ever acting nominee - Christopher Plummer was 88 when he was nominated for All The Money In The World in 2018.

2. Drive My Car is the longest best picture nominee this year, at a whopping 179 minutes.

But it's not the longest film in Oscars history (much as it might feel that way while you're watching it).

The lengthiest best picture winner was Gone With The Wind, at 238 minutes. But the longest movie ever to win an Academy Award was War and Peace, which clocked in at an epic 414 minutes - almost seven hours - when it won best foreign language film in 1968.

3. Bradley Cooper might be the only person who actually lost weight during lockdown.

But only because it was necessary for his role in Guillermo del Toro's superb Nightmare Alley.

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Bradley Cooper appears in two best picture-nominated films - Licorice Pizza and Nightmare Alley

The film had to pause production midway through filming due to Covid. But that meant Cooper could use the time to lose more than a stone in weight.

The actor was due to play a younger version of his character for the film's early scenes, which hadn't yet been shot. So the break in filming provided the perfect opportunity to change his appearance.

Meanwhile, his co-star Rooney Mara was in the early stages of pregnancy when filming was paused. The six-month gap meant she could have the baby and return to her role without viewers noticing any difference.

4. The Academy has lost its taste for musicians.

Three pop stars were thought to be in the best actress race this year - Lady Gaga (for House of Gucci), Jennifer Hudson (Respect) and Alana Haim (Licorice Pizza).

But despite nominations at other Hollywood ceremonies, and Gaga and Hudson both being recognised by the Academy in the past, none of the three made it to the best actress category this year.

5. Will Smith was anxious about getting Venus and Serena Williams' approval.

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The star is likely to win his first Oscar for his performance in King Richard, which tells the story of a father who coached his two young daughters to become tennis legends.

"I went to the family and said, 'I want to tell this story,'" Smith told BBC chat show host Graham Norton. "And Venus and Serena said, 'OK, we'll see you through the process, but we're going to have to see the movie before we decide whether or not we put our names on it.'"

Their trepidation was understandable, given Hollywood's tendency to annoy or upset the real-life subjects of biopics.

"So I get the call that Venus and Serena were going into the theatre, and they went in and saw the movie, and it was literally the worst two hours of my life waiting until they came out," Smith recalled. Fortunately, they "loved the film", he said.

6. Campion and Spielberg are gearing up for a rematch.

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Jane Campion's The Power of the Dog could score Netflix its first best picture win

Jane Campion is the first woman to be nominated for best director twice - she previously had a nod in 1994 for The Piano.

That year, she lost out to Steven Spielberg for Schindler's List. Coincidentally, he is nominated against her again this year for West Side Story.

She stands a much stronger chance this time, and a win would mark the first time a woman has won best director in two consecutive years, after Chloé Zhao triumphed last year for Nomadland.

7. Advice for directors: hire Cate Blanchett if you want an Oscar nomination.

Blanchett is now the actress with the most performances in best picture-nominated films.

She has been in nine, including Elizabeth, Babel, The Aviator, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and three Lord of the Rings films.

This year, she appears in two best picture contenders - Don't Look Up and Nightmare Alley. The previous record holder was Olivia de Havilland, with eight.

8. Never underestimate Penélope Cruz.

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Javier Bardem and wife Penélope Cruz are nominated for acting prizes for different films

She was a surprising but welcome addition to the best actress race this year, for her performance in Pedro Almodovar's terrific Parallel Mothers.

Cruz missed a nomination at pretty much every major precursor ceremony - including the Golden Globes, Critics Choice and Screen Actors Guild. She didn't even make the Bafta longlist.

Cruz previously became the first Spanish-born actress to win an Oscar, for 2008's Vicky Cristina Barcelona. But if she wins this time, it will be for a Spanish-language role.

9. Black-and-white films are the new black.

More directors are opting to do without such annoyances as colour when making films.

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Denzel Washington's The Tragedy of Macbeth is among the black-and-white films in this year's race

A whopping four films in this year's awards season race are in black-and-white: Belfast, Passing, C'Mon C'Mon and The Tragedy of Macbeth.

Del Toro also released a black-and-white version of Nightmare Alley, although the regular colour version is nominated for best picture.

10. West Side Story could break a whole heap of records.

Deep breath.

Spielberg's adaptation could become the first ever remake of a previous best picture winner to win best picture. No remake of a previous best picture winner has even been nominated before.

In fact, only one remake has ever been awarded best picture: Martin Scorsese's The Departed (2006), which was adapted from the un-nominated Hong Kong crime thriller Infernal Affairs.

A best picture win would also make West Side Story the first musical to win in nearly two decades - the last was 2003's Chicago (although La La Land almost won in 2017, before they clarified the correct winner was Moonlight).

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DeBose will likely win best supporting actress for the role originally played by Rita Moreno, who also won an Oscar

But there's a strong possibility West Side Story won't win. In the last 50 years, only one film - Titanic - has won best picture without a writing nomination, which Spielberg's remake failed to score.

Meanwhile, best supporting actress nominee Ariana DeBose could win the same award and for the same part as her predecessor Rita Moreno, who picked up an Oscar for the 1961 version. DeBose would also be the first openly queer actress of colour to win an Oscar.

Oh, and Steven Spielberg is now the first person ever to be nominated for best director in six different decades.

11. This year's Oscars are a family affair.

There are two sets of couples nominated in the acting categories. Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz, both nominated for lead acting prizes, have been married since 2010.

Elsewhere, Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons are nominated in the supporting categories. The pair have been engaged since 2017 and have two children together.

And don't get us started on Cyrano. OK fine, get us started. Its director, Joe Wright, has a child with its leading lady, Haley Bennett, while the film's star, Peter Dinklage, is married to the writer, Erica Schmidt.

12. Troy Kotsur partly owes his awards buzz to a poorly-built chair.

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Troy Kotsur plays the deaf father of a young girl who wants to be a singer in Apple TV's Coda

He could become the second deaf actor to win an Oscar, following Marlee Matlin in 1986 for Children of a Lesser God. The pair now play a married couple in Apple TV's Coda.

Kotsur wasn't initially considered a favourite for best supporting actor, but he experienced a late surge and has now won several precursor awards.

As well as delivering a terrific performance in Coda, awards watchers have noted Kotsur has been a joy to follow during this season, literally falling off his chair when his Bafta nomination was announced.

(If this glorious moment was staged then frankly he deserves to win even more.)

13. The Academy likes Hamaguchi more than House of Gucci.

Drive My Car is the 14th non-English-language film to land a best picture nomination, and the fourth in four years, following Roma, Parasite and Minari. It also snared a best director nomination for Ryusuke Hamaguchi.

Drive My Car (which is Japanese) and the excellent Worst Person in the World (Norwegian) both have screenplay nominations, while Penélope Cruz has a best actress nod for her Spanish-language Parallel Mothers.

14. Andrew Garfield once almost choked to death on a steak.

Image source, Reuters

The British star has a best actor nomination for playing the late Jonathan Larson in Tick Tick... Boom! But he almost didn't live to appear in the film, after he nearly choked on a steak in 2018.

"There were three levels of consciousness going on," he recalled to Vanity Fair. "One was, I want to enjoy my steak. The second level was, holy [moly], I think I might be in danger of actually asphyxiating myself here."

But his third reaction proved his dedication to acting: "I thought, be aware of your behaviour, what you're doing, how you're feeling, the heat through your body, remember the smells - because you're going to maybe have to choke on screen or on stage at some point. It was that level of insanity of, if you survive this, you can use it in a performance."

15. Flee is the first ever film to land nominations for best animated film, best documentary and best international feature.

This unusual triptych is due to the nature of the movie - most documentaries are, by their nature, not animated.

However, it proved to be a helpful treatment for Flee, which follows the story of a gay Afghan refugee. Animating meant his real identity could be kept concealed, and also solved the problem of how to depict events from his past.

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Jessica Chastain is hoping for her first Oscar win

16. There is no overlap this year between the best actress and best picture categories.

Jessica Chastain, Nicole Kidman, Olivia Colman, Kristen Stewart and Penélope Cruz are all nominated for films that did not get shortlisted for best picture.

These two categories rarely sync up. Frances McDormand's win for Nomadland in 2021 was the first time in 16 years that the best actress winner starred in the best picture winner.

17. There's a crazy coincidence in the supporting categories.

Get your anorak out of the cupboard for this one.

Anna Paquin became the second-youngest best supporting actress winner in 1994 for her performance in The Piano, directed by Jane Campion.

This year, Kodi Smit-McPhee could become the second-youngest best supporting actor winner for The Power of the Dog, directed by... Jane Campion.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Kodi Smit-McPhee is nominated for best supporting actor for Jane Campion's The Power of the Dog

18. Netflix still haven't won best picture.

Lord knows, they've tried. Roma, Mank and The Irishman were all pretty strong contenders in recent years.

But The Power of the Dog could be Netflix's best chance yet. If that happens, it will be the first ever best picture winner released by a streaming service.

Interestingly, its toughest competition is Coda. As that was an Apple TV+ release, we could be looking at a historic best picture winner either way.

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