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Friday
Feb 08 2019

Directing an Actor to a Nomination - The Stats

by Ben Miller

Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman) is the third actor Spike Lee has a directed to a nomination after Danny Aiello (Do the Right Thing) and Denzel Washington (Malcolm X)

With the upcoming Academy Awards celebrating their 91st year,the Oscars have plenty of history to obsess over.亚博主页One of the less-discussed pieces of history is which directors have the most pull with the Academy's acting branch.Today's topic: directors who have guided multiple actors and actresses to nominations and/or wins.

With this season's nominations,directors Bradley Cooper (3),Yorgos Lanthimos (3),Peter Farrelly (2),and Marielle Heller (2) all join a group of directors who've guided multiple actors to Oscar nominations.In this season's crop of filmsVice's Adam McKay (4),Roma's Alfonso Cuaron (3),If Beale Street's Barry Jenkins (3),BlacKkKlansman's Spike Lee (3),Bohemian Rhapsody's Bryan Singer (2) andAt Eternity's Gate's Julian Schnabel (2) all add to their previous tallies since each had previously directed either one or two actors to a nomination.

In the 91 year history of the Academy Awards,1757 performances were directed to an Oscar nomination.I tracked every single one of them to come up with these numbers.More notes after the jump...

Methodology: Only credited directors are counted.Uncredited directors or shadow directors are not included.Co-directors are given separate entries.For example,Joel Coen has six nominations,while Ethan Coen has only three.The first three nominations for Joel were only credited to him as director,while the last three were credited to both separately.So,despite six nominated performances,nine entries were created.This year,Bryan Singer is the only credited director ofBohemian Rhapsody,so sorry to Dexter Fletcher and Newton Thomas Sigel who took over towards the end of that shoot.

William Wyler directed 14 actors to Oscar wins,the last of which was Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl (1968).It was her film debut but his penultimate picture.

William Wyler,the director of classics likeThe Best Years of Our Lives,Ben-Hur,andRoman Holidayis the all-time champ when it comes to directing actors to nominations,and it's not even close.Wyler directed the most nominated performances (36)andthe most winning performances (14).

They directed the most acting nominations / wins

  1. William Wyler (36/14)
  2. Elia Kazan (24/9)
  3. Martin Scorsese (22/5)
  4. Fred Zinneman (20/6)
  5. George Cukor (19/5)
  6. George Stevens (19/2)
  7. Woody Allen (18/7)
  8. Sidney Lumet (18/4)
  9. Mike Nichols (18/2)
  10. Billy Wilder (17/3)

If you're looking at only wins the list is slightly different...

  1. William Wyler (14)
  2. Elia Kazan (9)
  3. Woody Allen (7)
  4. Fred Zinneman (6)
  5. [TIED WITH 5 WINNING ACTORS EACH] Martin Scorsese,Clint Eastwood,and John Ford

Interest notes on the stats:John Ford (12/5) has the highest win percentage (41.7%) of anyone with 10 or more nominations.Wyler and Woody Allen are tied for the second-best percentage at 38.9%

Ten directors have a track record of over 50% winners from their nominations.The bulk of them are behind three acting nominations and two wins: Damien Chazelle,Frank Borzage,James Mangold,Jane Campion,Ralph Nelson,Steven Soderbergh,Taylor Hackford.The newest member of this list is Martin McDonagh with Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell both winning forThree Billboardslast season and Woody Harrelson also nominated.If Regina King comes away with a statue this year for her work inIf Beale Street Could Talk,Barry Jenkins will join this short list of directors with an unusually high percentage of acting wins afterMoonlighttook home one of its two acting Oscar nominations two seasons ago.

Choreographer/director Jerome Robbins rehearsing with Rita Moreno for West Side Story (1961)

Jerome Robbins and Robert Z.Leonard are the only directors with more than one nomination whose nominated actors have won 100% of the time.Robbins co-directed both winning supporting performances inWest Side Story,while Leonard directed two winners (Norma Shearer inThe Divorcéeand Luise Rainer inThe Great Ziegfeld) six years apart.  Bryan Singer will become the third member of this very small listif Rami Malek wins Best Actor(the previous winning performance from his filmography is diabolical Kevin Spacey in the mystery crime dramaThe Usual Suspects).

34 directors have directed only one acting nomination that also went on to win.Notables among them include,recently,Christopher Nolan (Heath Ledger inThe Dark Knight),John Lee Hancock (Sandra Bullock inThe Blind Side),Lenny Abrahamson (Brie Larson inRoom),Mike Mills (Christopher Plummer inBeginners),and Patty Jenkins (Charlize Theron inMonster).Swedish director Björn Runge will join their one-for-one ranks this yearshould Glenn Close win her expected Oscar forThe Wife.

Their filmographies have the most acting nominations without any acting wins

  1. [TIED with 10 nominations but no wins] John Cromwell and Mark Robson
  2. Otto Preminger (9/0)
  3. Gregory La Cava (8/0)
  4. [TIED with 7/0 records] Alexander Payne,Frank Lloyd,William A Wellman
  5. [TIED with 6/0 records]  Robert Altman,Blake Edwards,Edward Dmytryk,and John Frankenheimer

On the flip side to the most wins from abundant nominations,John Cromwell (Caged!,Since You Went Away) and Mark Robson (Peyton Place,Champion) are the only directors with ten or more nominations that resulted in zero wins.

Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu has led only one actor to a win (DiCaprio inThe Revenant) despite ten or more nominations.No other directors with ten acting nominations in their filmographies have less than two acting victories.Just on the outskirts of ten nominations are three true masters.Alfred Hitchcock only managed one win (Joan Fontaine inSuspicion) from nine acting nominations and Paul Thomas Anderson has the same exact record (with Daniel Day-Lewis inThere Will Be Bloodas the sole winner).

Their filmographies have the most acting nominations without them landinganyBest Director citations

Left: John Cromwell directing Leslie Howard in "Of Human Bondage";Right: Daniel Mann on the set of BUtterfield 8 with Liz Taylor and Laurence Harvey

  1. John Cromwell (10/0....11/0 if you count Bette Davis' unofficial write-innomination forOf Human Bondagein 1934)
  2. Daniel Mann (7/3)
  3. Paul Mazursky (6/1)
  4. Blake Edwards (6/0)
  5. Alfred E Green (5/2)
  6. [TIED WITH 5 nominations/1 win] Douglas Sirk,Richard Eyre,Stuart Rosenberg,and Bill Condon
  7. [TIED with 5 nominations,no wins] Lewis Gilbert,Robert Aldritch,and Todd Field

John Cromwell,the director of classics like the female prison dramaCaged!(1950),the women on the homefront war dramaSince You Went Away,and Bette Davis's breakout pictureOf Human Bondage(1934) among many other fine films leads this list (trivia note: he's the look-alike father of the Oscar nominated actor James Cromwell ofBabe&LA Confidentialfame).Runner up isDaniel Mann,who was behind three Best Actress winning films in under a decade's time:Come Back Little Sheba(1952),The Rose Tattoo(1955),andBUtterfield 8(1960)

It's telling that many of the men on this particular list directed female-centric films and/or genres that are considered "light"entertainment like comedies or musicals.

Where are the female directors?
Historically Hollywood hasn't given women very many opportunities to direct narrative features though they'll surely be climbing the ranks soon with the push for more gender parity in Hollywood.The leaders (thus far)...

Barbra Streisand has directed 4 actors to nominations: Amy Irving (Yentl),Nick Nolte and Kate Nelligan (Prince of Tides),and Lauren Bacall (The Mirror Has Two Faces)

  1. Barbra Streisand (4/0)
  2. Jane Campion (3/2)
  3. Randa Haines (3/1)
  4. Niki Caro (3/0)
  5. [TIED with 2/1] Kimberly Peirce and Valerie Faris
  6. [TIED with 2/0] Debra Granik,Elaine May,Greta Gerwig,Kathryn Bigelow,Lisa Cholodenko,Marielle Heller,Penny Marshall,and Martha Coolidge

Does anyone have a realistic chance to catch William Wyler's overall record?
If you have to put money somewhere,maybe David O.Russell (Silver Linings Playbook,American Hustle),who is currently in 19th place with a 12/3 record.Those twelve nominations come from just a six year span.  By contrast Scorsese's twenty-two nominated performances span 39 years.If Russell,who is currently 60 years old,can keep a Scorsese-like nomination pace from this point forward and continue his career for another 20 years,Wyler's record would theoretically be within reach.

Other active directors in the top 50 overall in terms of directing actors to nominations who might move up the chart: Steven Spielberg (14/2),Clint Eastwood (13/5),Inarritu (10/1),and Anderson (9/1)

Check out the entire spreadsheethere,so you can pour over it as exhaustively as I have.


About the author
Ben Miller has been obsessed with film since he saw his first piece of celluloid.When he isn't holding down a day job,he enjoys the films of the Coen Brothers and Paul Thomas Anderson while taking in as many chewy morsels of the Golden Age of TV as he can.When not partaking of various entertainments,Ben lives in Texas with his wife,two children and a gym membership. [You can follow him onTwitterhere.More articles by Ben.]

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Reader Comments (31)

Fascinating stuff.Some of the names didn't surprise me,but seeing them all mapped next to each other is interesting.Thanks for looking into this.

February 8,2019 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

I've just had a look myself at Scorsese's films and of his 22 acting nominees,roughly half (10) were female.Considering his reputation as a male-centric filmmaker,I found this pretty surprising.

February 8,2019 | Unregistered Commenterevangelina

Ewwwww I just realized Bryan Singer directed Kevin Spacey to his Oscar for THE USUAL SUSPECTS.

2 disgusting predators,those off camera conversations must've been heinous.

February 8,2019 | Unregistered CommenterDAVID

David,there was a few stories doing the rounds years ago including one about Spacey and Singer's boyfriend on set.I would suggest looking it up but you'll probably need a shower afterwards.

February 8,2019 | Unregistered Commenterevangelina

I assumed it was Wyler but had no idea the gap between him and 2nd.Wow.

February 8,2019 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

Awesome stats.Very informative.Thanks for putting this all together!

That Singer stat is side-eye worthy though.

February 8,2019 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

This is such a goldmine of Oscar facts.

For some reason,I expected George Cukor to be even higher...until I considered your point that directors of comedies and female centric films aren't always taken seriously by the academy.

One of the biggest crimes is that no actor won for an Altman film.Tomlin and Smith should have been sure wins,even his nomination count here should be bigger (Tim Robbins,Shelly Duvall,Julianne Moore,Jack Lemmon,and maybe even Meryl Streep and Karen Black).

February 8,2019 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

Joe,don't forget the underrated performances from the three principals in Kansas City.

February 8,2019 | Unregistered Commenterevangelina

I'd give Mike Nichols the most credit for the nominations/performances he got out of actors.

February 8,2019 | Unregistered CommenterHayden

Good stuff

Scorsese over Allen or Nichols.I would have never imagined!

February 8,2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I wonder who are the most successful Director/Actor combinations.Laurence Olivier directed himself to 4(!) nominations.Offhand I can think of William Wyler/Bette Davis,Elia Kazan/Marlon Brando,Stanley Kramer/Spencer Tracy and David O.Russell/Jennifer Lawrence with 3 each,but there must be more.

February 8,2019 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

I guess Olivier/Olivier is also at 3.He directed Henry V/Hamlet/Richard III but didn't direct Othello.

February 8,2019 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

GREAT data/information.THANKS so much for sharing and featuring on The Film Experience!亚博主页

February 8,2019 | Unregistered Commenterbillybil

ken s.--Great list;also,Scorsese/De Niro

February 8,2019 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

If we shift from stats to trivia,one could compose a list of directors who have directed a parent and their child to acting nominations.Spike Lee seemingly almost joined that list this year,had John David Washington been nominated forBlacKkKlansman.

I don't know if a list like that exists,but I can think of two directors who accomplished it with a single movie: Mark Rydell (On Golden Pond: Henry and Jane Fonda) and Martha Coolidge (Rambling Rose: Diane Ladd and Laura Dern).

February 8,2019 | Unregistered CommenterBrevity

Good stuff!Much to chew on here,including two directors,John Cromwell and Mark Robson,who are at the top of one list,though their names were totally unfamiliar to me.Time is a cruel eraser...

February 8,2019 | Unregistered CommenterHustler

Hustler - John Cromwell is the father of James Cromwell.

February 8,2019 | Unregistered Commenterevangelina

I hope no one takes William Wyler's first place,one of those rare cases where the director has not fallen into disrepair or had bad times or lost prestige.Hard to say which is his best decade.And his films are about characters - even the biggest and the most exaggerated films,which favors the actors.

February 8,2019 | Unregistered CommenterFeline Justice

Ben,that is an incredible list and must have taken forever to research.Fascinating results and thanks for sharing them!

On the women's side,it will be interesting to see if Greta Gerwig has moved into the lead this time next year - all it would take is 3 nominations from LITTLE WOMEN.

February 8,2019 | Unregistered CommenterSteve G

Just when I thought The Film Experience couldn't get any better.......亚博主页

Please,Nathaniel and TFE team.........more spreadsheets!Love 'em!(Not sarcasm,but genuine love.)

February 8,2019 | Unregistered CommenterTravis C

Where does Tom Hooper fit in your research?

February 8,2019 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Oh my gosh,how interesting!

Evangelina,I remember in the days of StinkyLulu Supporting Actress Smackdowns,we learned that Scorsese and Allen were tied for 2nd most supporting actress noms after Wyler.But you're right that Scorsese isn't seen as "female-centric"because most of the Supporting Actress noms come from being the love interest (Lorraine Bracco in GoodFellas,Cathy Moriarty in Raging Bull) but there are a few exciting ones like Dianne Ladd in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore and Winona Ryder in The Age of Innocence.

Anyone else gobsmacked that Nolan only has ONE acting nom?He always such great ensembles.Maybe I answered my own question.

Another thing that I think will help David O.Russell tie Wyler is "Silver Linings Playbook"and "American Hustle"both got noms in every acting category.If he continues to direct films with that kind of structure in its roles,his actual output doesn't need to be as prolific.

February 8,2019 | Unregistered CommenterJakey

/3rtful -- Hooper is at 7/3 right now with "Cats"up next.

February 8,2019 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

With the passing of Alberg Finney,Glenn Close and Amy Adams maybe winning Oscars two weeks from now,亚博主页the list of actors with most nominations and no win in the acting categories are that (overdue narratives)?

Glenn Close - 7 nominations*
Amy Adams - 6 nominations*
Bradley Cooper - 4 nominations
Annette Bening - 4 nominations
Michelle Williams - 4 nominations *
Sigourney Weaver - 3 nominations*
Michelle Pfeiffer - 3 nominations *
Viggo Mortensen - 3 nominations *
Matt Damon - 3 nominations
Brad Pitt - 3 nominations
Ian McKellen - 2 nominations*
Kenneth Branagh - 2 nominations
Ralph Fiennes - 2 nominations *
Richard Jenkins - 2 nominations
Catherine Deneuve - 1 nomination*
Isabelle Huppert - 1 nomination*
Harrison Ford - 1 nomination *
Angela Bassett - 1 nomination *

* I hope they win soon

February 8,2019 | Unregistered CommenterSoshua

@Soshua: I guess you meant the LIVING actors that you like?Because there are dozens of others,starting with Thelma Ritter,with 6 nominations.

February 8,2019 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos

Such amazing work!keep it up!

I would have thought Spielberg would be a little higher,and I definitely would have expected Nichols and Allen higher.Masters at getting great performances.

February 9,2019 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

@Marcos

Yes,only The living.

But not the group I like the most but the group which history has proven to be more deserved.

February 9,2019 | Unregistered CommenterSoshua

Soshua: Technically,Matt Damon and Brad Pitt already have Oscars.亚博主页Damon won for writing Good Will Hunting,Brad Pitt won for producing 12 Years a Slave (they may not be for acting,but they are Oscars)...亚博主页

February 9,2019 | Unregistered CommenterRichter Scale

@Richter Scale

I know,but the actors don't usually be proud of themselves to receive ONLY a producer Oscar.

I think that in the release of Allied,the studio don't put 'Academy Award Winner Brad Pitt' on the trailer and ads.Only 'nominee'.

February 9,2019 | Unregistered CommenterSoshua

@Soshua: Yes,I saw that in the Allied trailer,and it's wrong.Brad Pitt is an "Academy-Award winner"now and should be advertised as such.They do advertise Matt Damon and Ben Affleck as winners even though they both won for writing (Affleck won a second Oscar for producing Argo),so that is just wrong....

February 9,2019 | Unregistered CommenterRichter Scale

I'm a few days late to this,but really enjoying it.One additional note - how about a special shout out for Stephen Frears,who has directed 8 people to nominations - and all 8 are women.And what women they are!: Anjelica Huston,Annette Bening,Glenn Close,Michelle Pfeiffer,Meryl Streep,Judi Dench (twice),and Helen Mirren (the only win of the bunch).

February 12,2019 | Unregistered Commentergwynn1984

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