In early 1994, Thompson was nominated for two Oscars: as Best Actress for James Ivory's social/psychological drama The Remains of the Day (photo) and as Best Supporting Actress for Jim Sheridan's family melodrama / political & prison drama In the Name of the Father.
That same year, Holly Hunter was another double nominee – the first (and to date only) time two performers have been in the running in two acting categories in the same year. Hunter was up for the Best Actress Oscar for Jane Campion's The Piano and as Best Supporting Actress for Sydney Pollack's The Firm. She eventually won for The Piano; she and Thompson lost in the Best Supporting Actress category to The Piano's Anna Paquin.
Some have claimed that these double-double nominations means that women were truly having a hard time finding roles in movies in the early '90s. After all, why else would Academy members nominate the same two actresses in two different acting categories?
Well, to see things through that perspective might be politically correct, but it would also be totally missing the point.
For starters, double acting nominations have absolutely no correlation to a dearth of good roles for actresses (or actors, for that matter). A quick look at the 1992 nominations shows that Al Pacino was shortlisted for two movies: in the supporting category for James Foley's Glengarry Glen Ross and as a lead for Martin Brest's Scent of a Woman. In 1944, Barry Fitzgerald was shortlisted in both categories for one movie: Going My Way. Now, would anyone in his/her right mind say that there were few important roles for men in American movies in the early '90s or the mid-'40s?
Here's another example: Within a five-year period, Fay Bainter and Teresa Wright were both shortlisted in two acting categories. In 1938, Bainter was in the running for White Banners (lead) and Jezebel (supporting); in 1942, Wright was nominated for The Pride of the Yankees (lead) and Mrs. Miniver (supporting). Now, only someone with no knowledge whatsoever of film history would think that women had few significant roles in Hollywood movies of the late '30s/early '40s.
Thompson's and Hunter's double nominations could be easily (and accurately) explained by the fact that Academy members love stars, whether new or old, from the movies or the stage or television. Among the (male) stars who have been shortlisted in the Best Supporting Actor categories are Michael Caine (Hannah and Her Sisters, The Cider House Rules), Sean Connery (The Untouchables), Jack Nicholson (Terms of Endearment, A Few Good Men, in addition to a pre-stardom nod for Easy Rider), Ethan Hawke (Training Day), Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby), Paul Scofield (Quiz Show), and Fred Astaire (The Towering Inferno).
Here are a few more: Ed Wynn (The Diary of Anne Frank), Joseph Schildkraut (The Life of Emile Zola), Don Ameche (Cocoon), Victor McLaglen (The Quiet Man), Robert Preston (Victor Victoria), Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), Lee Tracy (The Best Man), Jamie Foxx (Collateral), and Gene Hackman (Unforgiven, in addition to pre-stardom nods for Bonnie and Clyde and I Never Sang for My Father).
Although one could easily argue that women are underrepresented in mainstream Hollywood movies (perhaps even in American movies, period), double Academy Award nominations in the acting categories should not be a part of that argument for they have no connection to either political incorrectness or gender inequality. Instead, they are the result of the Academy's perennial love affair with Hollywood (and Broadway) stars.