Eric Stoltz & Cher + Al Pacino & Catherine O'Hara: Biggest Oscar Snubs

by Andre Soares
Eric Stoltz Cher Peter Bogdanovich Mask
Eric Stoltz, Cher, and director Peter Bogdanovich on the set of Mask: Biggest Oscar snubs.

(See previous post: Biggest Oscar Snubs: Audrey Hepburn vs. Julie Andrews in My Fair Lady.) In the case of Cher, Eric Stoltz, and Peter Bogdanovich, the Oscar “snub” may well have been the result of lots of much-publicized finger-pointing following the 1985 release of Bogdanovich's real-life-inspired family drama Mask, the story of a biker mom (Cher) and her teenage son (Stoltz) suffering from the rare skull-deforming illness craniodiaphyseal dysplasia. The released $12 million (approximately $24 million today) film pitted Bogdanovich against distributor Universal, and Cher against Bogdanovich.

Bogdanovich sued Universal for $19 million after several Bruce Springsteen songs were dropped from Mask's soundtrack following a disagreement between the studio and Springsteen's label Columbia Records. Bob Seger songs were used instead in the original theatrical release. (The Springsteen songs were restored for the 2004 director's cut Mask DVD.)

Cher, for her part, publicly complained that several of her crucial scenes were left on the cutting-room floor, adding, “that's where my finest moments ended up.” Additionally, she blamed Bogdanovich for not going after Bruce Springsteen's support. “If Bruce had wanted those songs in the film, Columbia Records would have approved. It's as simple as that.”

Ultimately, Mask earned a single Oscar nomination, for Best Make-Up. The film's make-up artists, Michael Westmore and Zoltan Elek, took home the statuette.

Eric Stoltz not only missed out on an Oscar nomination, but early in 1985 he was also fired from Back to the Future after producer Steven Spielberg decided that he “wasn't getting quite the quality I wanted.” Michael J. Fox, Spielberg's original choice for the role of Back to the Future's teen time traveler, replaced Stoltz in what was to become 1985's biggest box office hit. Stoltz, at least, did get a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Unsurprisingly, so did Cher in the Best Actress - Drama category. In addition, star-struck jurors at the 1985 Cannes Film Festival split the festival's Best Actress award between Cher and – the infinitely more deserving – Norma Aleandro for The Official Story. But the Best Actress Oscar would remain out of reach for another two years. (Norman Jewison's Moonstruck came along in 1987.)

“If Cher would have stood behind me and fought for the Springsteen music and the lost footage,” Bogdanovich was quoted as saying, “I think we would have won [the fight against Universal]. Furthermore, if she had just taken no sides at all, I think she would have been nominated, Eric would have been nominated, the film would have been nominated, and I would have been nominated.

“When I came out onstage Oscar night to present the Best Supporting Actor Oscar,” Cher later remarked, “it broke my heart to read off those names, knowing that Eric wasn't included. He gave, in my opinion, the best supporting performance of the year.” The 1985 Best Supporting Actor winner was Don Ameche for Cocoon.

Quotes: Oscar Dearest by Peter H. Brown and Jim Pinkston. (The book is filled with factual mistakes, but there is a lot of reliable, referenced information in it as well.)

Al Pacino 'The Godfather Part III'

Al Pacino, The Godfather: Part IIIAl Pacino was The Godfather: Part III.

Without Pacino, the last installment of Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather franchise would have been just another mafia melodrama. Even so, the 1990 gangster-family saga garnered 7 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Andy Garcia), and even Best Cinematography for the usually neglected Gordon Willis, but Pacino's performance – unlike those in The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II – didn't make the cut.

“Al not getting nominated has almost spoiled everything else,” remarked producer Fred Roos. “I thought Al was the surest bet we had. Maybe his performance was taken for granted.”

Pacino did, however, get a Best Supporting Actor nod that year for his heavily made-up (and very effective) master criminal “Big Boy” Caprice in Warren Beatty's cartoonish Dick Tracy. But Pacino lost to Joe Pesci's gun-toting psycho in that year's other gangster movie not based on comics, Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas.

Two years later, Pacino would be nominated both as Best Supporting Actor (for Glengarry Glen Ross) and as Best Actor (for Scent of a Woman). He won in the latter category.

Regarding that win – for a lesser performance than, for instance, those in the Godfather movies or Dog Day Afternoon – Pacino was quoted as saying in Al Pacino in Conversation with Lawrence Grobel:

“You know, I was surprised how I felt after that. There was a kind of a glow that lasted a couple of weeks. I'd never had that feeling. It's kind of like winning an Olympic medal, because it is so identifiable. Only in the Olympics you win it because you're the best – with the Oscar that's not necessarily the case. It's just your turn.”

Fred Roos quote: Inside Oscar by Mason Wiley and Damien Bona.

Catherine O'Hara in For Your Consideration
Catherine O'Hara, For Your Consideration

Catherine O'Hara 'For Your Consideration'

Catherine O'Hara has been included here because of the irony (and the sheer injustice!!) of her Academy Award nominationlessness in early 2008. After all, Christopher Guest's 2007 satire For Your Consideration revolves around a bunch of performers obsessed with getting touched by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Sword-Carrying Naked Golden God. Problem is: instead of getting touched, they get cut down.

Catherine O'Hara is nothing short of brilliant in the role of aging, small-time actress Marilyn Hack, who believes that an Oscar win for her performance in “Home for Purim” will lead to film stardom. O'Hara won Best Supporting Actress honors from the National Board of Review and the Kansas City film critics, was part of For Your Consideration's Gotham-nominated ensemble, received individual nominations for the Critics' Choice and Independent Spirit Awards, and was considered a top Oscar contender.

It's really too bad that life imitated art in this instance (well, minus the monstrous facelift we get to see on-screen). In my view, O'Hara should definitely have been one of the nominees. In fact, she probably should have been the winner.

For the record: the five that got in were Abigail Breslin for Little Miss Sunshine, Rinko Kikuchi and Adriana Barraza for Babel, Cate Blanchett for Notes on a Scandal, and winner Jennifer Hudson for Dreamgirls. (It should be noted that neither Blanchett nor Hudson had truly “supporting” roles.)

Photo: For Your Consideration (Suzanne Tenner / Shangri-La Entertainment)

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1 comment

Les -

I really enjoyed the read. It was a journey about controlling public access to old great films that led me to your site. Mask, despite the politics, was a powerful movie with a great message/s. I was surprised I couldn't find it on Netflix. Go figure.

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