Oscar Actors: Farnsworth, Richard

As Richard Farnsworth's career shows, it is possible to recieve Oscar nominations at an old age. Fransworth was nominated twice, in 1978 for Supporting Actor in “Comes a Horseman,” and in 1999 for Best Actor in “The Straight Story.”

More than half a century ago, Farnsworth swore off speaking roles after his first crack in a Roy Rogers Western. The director wanted the then stuntman to say a few lines, but every time Farnsworth tried, he broke out in giggles. Eventually, the director gave up, and Farnsworth promised himself, never again.

Decades later, Farnsworth was persuaded to give acting another shot by Alan J. Pakula in the Western, Comes a Horseman, for which he was rewarded with a 1978 supporting nod.

In the twilight of a career, which began with playing a Mongol horseman in 1938's The Adventures of Marco Polo, Farnsworth found himself nominated for a powerful performance in David Lynch's The Straight Story (1999) as the reallife, stubborn Alvin Straight, who insisted on driving a lawnmower hundreds of miles to visit his ailing brother. “I'm pretty limited in a lot of ways,” Farnsworth told Entertainment Weekly. “But if I feel the character, it's damn easy to do.”

In truth, it hurt to connect with Straight: Bum hips were killing the actor during the driving scenes, and then there was the agony of recounting Straight's World War II memories–a vet himself, Farnsworth won't talk about his war experience.

Oscar Alert

In 1978, the winner of the Supporting Actor Oscar was Christopher Walken in “The Deer Hunter.

In 1999, the winner of the Best Actor Oscar was Kevin Spacey for “American Beauty.”