When someone is awarded an Oscar in acting (or anything for that matter), it's a way for Hollywood to officially declare that the Oscar-winner is officially a part of the upper echelon of accomplished actors. Every year, Hollywood has an opportunity to invite up to four distinguished actors into that group. Last year they chose a character actor who had been invisible for most of his career (Forest Whitaker), one of the grand dames of the British theater (Helen Mirren), an aging comic actor who gained most of his fame in the 70's (Alan Arkin), and a singer who cut her chops in Reality TV living out a Hollywood fairytale (Jennifer Hudson). The year before, the Academy invited one of Hollywood's most beloved character actors in one of his few lead roles (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and one of Hollywood's biggest matinee idols in one of his few supporting roles (George Clooney).
Sometimes, however, The Academy gives an Oscar to someone who already has one, despite the limited opportunities they have to honor peers that are too talented to be without any. Whether there's an inclination to deny someone a second award, because they already have one is hard to conclude, although it isn't too far-fetched to say that the "They Already Have One" effect could have played a role in certain cases. Among recent examples where the better performance lost out, I'd say Meryl Streep losing to Catherine Zeta-Jones, Tom Hanks losing to Russell Crowe for Gladiator, and Russell Crowe losing out to Denzel Washington and then being snubbed in Master and Commander and Cinderella Man or Cate Blanchett losing to Jennifer Hudson in Notes on a Scandal. Still, an Oscar going to someone who isn't a first-timer happens fairly often.
Recently: Hillary Swank (2004), Denzel Washington (2001), Kevin Spacey and Michael Caine (1999), Jack Nicholson (1997), Tom Hanks, Dianne Weist, and Jessica Lange (1994), and Gene Hackman (1992).
Here is the list of actors and actresses who have won more than one:
Actors-Walter Brennan, Spencer Tracy, Frederick March, Gary Cooper, Anthony Quinn, Jack Lemmon, Marlon Brando, Jason Robards, Melvyn Douglas, Robert De Niro, Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman, Tom Hanks, Kevin Spacey, Michael Caine, Denzel Washington
Actresses-Louise Rainier, Bette Davis, Olivia de Haviland, Vivian Leigh, Ingrid Bergman, Shelly Winters, Elizabeth Taylor, Katherine Hepburn, Helen Hayes, Glenda Jackson, Maggie Smith, Jane Fonda, Meryl Streep, Jodie Foster, Dianne Wiest, Jessica Lange, Hillary Swank.
Some of the great actors to have only one a single Oscar include Humphrey Bogart, Henry Fonda, Alec Guiness and Jimmy Stewart. A couple of others, Paul Newman and Al Pacino won the Oscars so late in their careers that it felt a relief for them to win just one. Still, others like Peter O'Toole have won none at all.
Nevertheless, here's a list of those I'd like to see get a second Oscar to join the Multiple-Oscar club and an analysis of their chances to do so:
1. Ben Kingsley (Ghandi)-He keeps on giving career-defining performance after career-defining performance but if one were to look up his win for Ghandi, it would suggest that his career peaked in the 1980’s. I think he could have won an Oscar for House of Sand and Fog if the cards went a slightly different way. Other than that, though, I don't know how he can do it again. He keeps getting gangster roles like in Lucky Number Sliven and You Kill Me and a gangster part is kind of Oscar-baity but if he does another gangster role, Oscar pundits will just say "oh, it's his usual gangster shtick." I think Kingsley would have to find another real original part like the immigrant homeowner in House of Sand and Fog, or perhaps something biographical.
2. Anthony Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs)-It's kind of a shame how Hopkins doesn't get any attention from the Oscar pundits, and probably the voters, despite the fact that he consistently knocks your socks off. Maybe it's because people just can't see him as anything but that evil brain eater from Silence of the Lambs but films like Proof or Hearts in Atlantis or even Meet Joe Black are great performances despite the quality of the films themselves, and he gets no recognition for it. Let me ask: Were Matt Dillon, George Clooney, Paul Giamatti, Jake Gyllenhall, or William Hurt truly that much of a line-up to bump Anthony Hopkins out for his performance in Proof?
Maybe, the academy only likes seeing Anthony Hopkins play evil roles and he has to be given a really good villainous role to garner the academy's attention.
3. Jeremy Irons (Reversal of Fortune)-He’s on my wish list because he's very talented and has lacked the career acclaim of some of his peers. Most people (including myself) easily forget that he won an Oscar already but this could work to his advantage because he doesn’t have as much pressure to distinguish himself in a new way with the voters: He just has to distinguish himself anyway at all.
4-5. Susan Sorandon (Dead Man Walking) and Frances McDormand (Fargo) are two that I'm rooting for because I think that they are simply the best of their generation, they've continued to stay interesting throughout the years and I think they're both being unfairly billed as old. I'm at least happy to see that Frances' Oscar in Fargo hasn't stopped her from being recognized for great performances in Almost Famous and North Country. In that respect, I'm also happy that these two talented actresses have a sizeable list of nominations to their name to reflect their prolific careers. McDormand should just keep doing what she's doing and hope for the best and Sorandon needs to try more for the starring category, in my opinion. In movies like Igby Goes Down and Elizabethtown, she's bound to get lost in the FYC ads that might push for a younger costar (i.e. Kirsten Dunst or Amanda Peete). Sorandon is capable of taking over a movie and she's not noticeably removed in age from when she single-handedly carried movies like The Client, Dead Man's Walking and Stepmom.
6. Tommy Lee Jones (Fugitive)-A project like Three Burials of Mesquilada shows he's a multi-faceted star which might make him a more prestigious name as an actor although at the same time, it could prevent him from getting an acting Oscar since he might become nominated in another category. I don't think, however, that Tommy Lee Jones, an aging star, is seen as a hall-of-fame type actor on the level of some of the other guys who have yet to win two like Jon Voight or Robert Duvall. To get another Oscar, he might have to find a meaty supporting role in someone else's movie.
7-8. Speaking of Voight (Coming Home) and Duvall (Tender Mercies), I'd count those two as the last of that De Niro/Hackman/Hoffman/Nicholson generation to not have a second oscar. I think they're considered to be slightly below the level of those four in terms of an accomplished career and that's why a second Oscar would be great for their legacy. For Voight and Duvall, it could be a combination of dues that plays into a win if the voters are thinking: it's been too long since they've won an Oscar. It would be interesting to see Voight win since his daughter, Angelina, is such a tabloid fixture, and all the subsequent publicity might give us a closer glimpse into that enigmatically strained father-daughter relationship.
9. Marcia Gay Harden (Pollock)-Wouldn't it be great for Marcia Gay Harden (Pollock) if she won an Oscar for a picture that people had actually had seen? Pollock grossed just $8 million domestically and $10 million total (accounting for international gross). She got a nomination for Mystic River and I don't think that's the last great role she has in her. People who are likely to win a second Oscar. Harden should be taking the kinds of roles that are being gobbled up by Laura Linney and Patricia Clarkson that require an intelligent woman with range. The fact that she was able to distinguish herself in Mystic River with relatively little screen time proves she's a scene stealer.
10. Russell Crowe (Gladiator)-Despite his temper tantrums, Crowe remains my favorite actor among those currently at A-level status and his knockout performances in A Beautiful Mind, Master and Commander and (from what I hear) Cinderella Man show that he has the potential to be the actor to beat on any given year. The question is whether Crowe has to work on his image before his peers award him with another statue.