Oscar: Foreign Actors–Older at Getting Oscar Recognition

It takes longer for foreign actors to get recognition in the U.S., particularly if they don’t make American movies. Many good “art” films are not widely shown if they don’t boast internationally-known stars, or are not made by prestigious director such as Fellini, Truffaut, or Bergman. The distribution of these movies depends to a large extent on favorable review by major critics in New York and Los Angeles.

This is one reason why foreign players and foreign directors, particularly men, tend to be older than their American counterparts by the time they earn nominations.

Marcello Mastroianni

Marcello Mastroiann was not only one of the world’s most distinguished actors but also one of the few to be extremely popular outside of his native Italy.

Mastroianni made his screen debut in 1949, at the age of twentyfive, after studying acting and acquiring stage experience with Luchino Visconti’ s theatrical troupe. In the 1950s, he achieved stature in Italy, but he attained international stardom in 1960, as a result of his starring role in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. A year later, he appeared in another Fellini masterpiece, 81/2, which was even more commercially successful than La Dolce Vita.

Mastroianni failed to be nominated for either of these performances, though some of these movies were nominated–and even won–other awards. Mastroianni earned his first Best Actor nomination in 1962, at age thirty-eight, for the Italian comedy, Divorce–Italian Style, in which he excelled as the bored Sicilian baron who plans to get rid of his nagging wife.

Mastroianni would probably not have received the nomination were it not for the publicity and awards that Divorce–Italian Style received from the Cannes Festival and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. In 1987, Mastroianni garnered a third Best Actor nomination for Nikita Mikhalkov’s Dark Eyes, in which he was perfectly cast as an aging womanizer recalling his affair with a young Russian woman.

Foreign players who work in the United States tend to be older than their American colleagues, because they first have to excel in their own countries before being brought to Hollywood. Hence, Anna Magnani and Maggie Smith, both respected and established in their native countries (Italy and U.K., respectively), were older than American actresses when they won the Oscar.

American and foreign players make their debuts at more or less the same age, with women (both foreign and American) being younger than men both when they are first nominated and first win the Oscar. The gap between American and foreign players is wider in the men’s careers. American actors win the Oscar at the average age of thirtyseven, whereas the foreigners at fortyfour.