For many actors, earning an Oscar nomination can be the crowning achievement of their careers. In the 75-year history of the Academy Awards, however, a very select group of performers has experienced double the pleasure when they received two acting nods in the same year. Until now, only eight actors and actresses have ever managed that feat. But with dual recognition this year for Julianne Moore (for Far From Heaven and The Hours), that elite club now has a membership of nine.
The last time Oscar was so generous, it honored a pair of performers – a phenomenon that made the record books. In 1994, 35-year-old Holly Hunter (for The Piano and The Firm) and 34-year-old Emma Thompson (for The Remains of the Day and In the Name of the Father) each earned dual nods. For Thompson, the news traveled far. ”I remember specifically that I was in Scotland when the nominations were announced, which is not what I would call the most Oscar-aware corner of the earth,” she recalls. ”I was in my friend’s pub on the shores of a remote loch and he said that there was somebody who wanted to deliver flowers. They were from Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito, with whom I had just worked [on Junior]. So we said, ‘Quick, let’s get drunk immediately on this extremely good single malt.”’
The double nods actually made the two actresses a bit uncomfortable. ”Holly and I had a conversation about the fact that we felt really embarrassed because we felt that we hadn’t really done enough to deserve our best-supporting nominations,” Thompson says. ”So we were feeling a bit guilty.” In the supporting-actress race, both actresses were upset by Hunter’s 11-year-old screen daughter in The Piano, Anna Paquin. But the Best Actress winner was no such surprise: After winning awards from every major critics group and the Golden Globes for The Piano, Hunter also picked up her first and only Oscar so far. And though Thompson lost both awards that night, it was the only time she would leave the Oscars empty-handed: The year before, she had been named Best Actress for Howards End, and two years later she’d win Best Adapted Screenplay for Sense and Sensibility.
Way back in 1939, 11 years after the inaugural Academy Awards, Fay Bainter became the first performer to earn multiple acting nominations, for her lead role as the birth mother searching for her adopted son (played by Jackie Cooper) in White Banners and her supporting turn as Bette Davis’ long-suffering Aunt Belle in director William Wyler’s antebellum melodrama Jezebel. In the lead category, Bainter lost to Davis, but the 47-year-old did win the supporting-actress trophy. Bainter would score one more nomination in her career, as James Garner’s Aunt Amelia in 1961’s The Children’s Hour, which reunited her with Wyler.
History would be made again only four years later, as 24-year-old newcomer Teresa Wright landed on two Oscar shortlists: as Mrs. Lou Gehrig (opposite Gary Cooper) in 1942’s The Pride of the Yankees and as sweet granddaughter Carol Beldon in the WWII drama Mrs. Miniver. Similar to Bainter’s outcome four years before, Wright lost Best Actress to her Miniver costar Greer Garson, but, as part of Miniver’s sweep of six Oscars (including Best Picture), won the prize for Best Supporting Actress. After scoring nods for her first three screen performances (including 1941’s The Little Foxes), Wright never received another nomination.