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Actors And Actresses Whose Careers Faltered After Winning an OSCAR

Which actors fell victim to the Oscar curse? Check it out!

Jakub Piwoński

11 April 2024

Actors And Actresses Whose Careers Faltered After Winning an OSCAR

The Oscar statuette is every actor’s dream, but winning it carries certain risks. It’s not always possible to return to the top. There was even talk of an ‘Oscar curse’ at one point, because many actors either disappeared from the scene for many years after winning the golden knight, or simply started to be interested in lower-quality productions. Only the best actors maintain their top form even after winning, but many lead their careers post-Oscar as if they no longer had anything to prove to anyone (which is nothing unusual). Here are a few examples of names and careers that clearly faltered after winning an Oscar.

Adrien Brody

Who could forget the passionate kiss Adrien Brody bestowed upon Halle Berry when she presented him with the Oscar? However, this famous moment from the 2002 ceremony can now be seen as the actor’s swan song, for whom the role in Roman Polanski‘s The Pianist turned out to be both a breakthrough and a problem. Being the pinnacle of achievement in the career of a then twenty-something actor effectively discouraged him from proving his worth again. Brody’s case is an example of wings drooping after winning the award. Subsequent films with his participation mostly offered experiences of lesser quality – both for the actor and the audience. How else could one describe experimenting with horror (like The Village, The Jacket), action cinema (Predators), or frequently retreating to secondary or even episodic roles (Succession)?

Mira Sorvino

Does anyone remember Mira Sorvino these days? She never starred in outstanding films and didn’t show much ambition either. But at a certain stage in her career, she crossed paths with Woody Allen, who brought out the best in her and skillfully cast her in Mighty Aphrodite. Sorvino won an Oscar for her role in the 1995 film. However, it wasn’t a breakthrough moment from which her career only got better. Sorvino later returned to mediocre repertoire, offering performances in such gems as Mimic.

Cuba Gooding Jr.

Show me the money! – Cuba Gooding Jr. shouted into the phone receiver, instructing Tom Cruise on what his views and motivations were. This line and the famous scene of the conversation between two men – an agent and a star – earned the African-American actor an Oscar. However, the essence of those words became a curse for the actor, because the years following Jerry Maguire were spent searching for easy acting gigs, quick to produce and effective for cashing in. All the charisma of the actor (known before this role) disappeared and was replaced by sinking into blandness. In my opinion, Cuba’s last interesting role was his participation in the series American Crime Story, where he played the infamous O. J. Simpson.

Russell Crowe

a beautiful mind john nash russel crowe blackboard

It was one of the hottest acting names of the turn of the centuries. The Insider, Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind – an excellent streak. After winning the Oscar for his performance in the famous epic film, Crowe may not have settled immediately, but it happened in the following years. Today, Crowe’s acting career is in the shadow of its former glory – he doesn’t seem to care much about good roles or about looking good (clear weight issues). However, the positive thing is that the actor often at least satirizes the image he represented and which we got used to seeing from him (at least that’s how he interprets his role in The Nice Guys).

Kim Basinger

Entangled in a toxic marriage with Alec Baldwin, bankrupt with financial troubles, an unfulfilled diva deprived of interesting roles – even before winning the Oscar for L.A. Confidential, Kim Basinger had plenty to worry about. After receiving the award, Basinger experienced a slight acting revival (in 8 Mile), but it was short-lived. It can’t be denied that the received award also marked the end of the heyday, which occurred in the late 80s and early 90s. Never again did the former Vicky Vale from Batman shine on screen as brightly and significantly.

Roberto Benigni

The amiable Italian reached the pinnacle with his film Life is Beautiful. Not only did he win an Oscar for directing the film, but he was also recognized as an actor. Regardless of the positive aura the creator still exudes, it cannot be denied that that success was his last major one, especially in the field of acting. The Italian’s subsequent work consisted of missed ideas, lacking in flair, symbolized by the actor’s portrayal of Pinocchio – a dream project that turned out to be indigestible mush.

Gwyneth Paltrow

I’m not sure what Gwyneth Paltrow is up to these days, but it’s definitely not acting in films. She’s hardly seen anywhere, unless we’re interested in the lifestyle of Goop – then she appears in person in a reality show-style program. Generally, however, Paltrow seems to have clearly taken a break from acting challenges shortly after winning (undeserved!) Oscar for her performance in Shakespeare in Love (a film undeservedly praised!). Honestly, I don’t particularly miss her, because I’ve always had trouble seeing her talent. In my opinion, she’s one of the most overhyped movie stars.

Christoph Waltz

If receiving an Oscar can be detrimental, then what can we call receiving two Oscars in a short span of time? At the moment when Waltz accepted the award for his role in Django Unchained, his second (and second awarded) film by Tarantino, I had no doubt that the Oscar committee had made a mistake. King Schultz was essentially a mirrored reflection of Hans Landa, the character previously honored. Such a strong implication to the Austrian actor about his prowess in a specific type of role has led to a situation where he now mainly plays one type of character – cunning intellectuals. Waltz’s career after collaborating with Tarantino and his high-profile successes is therefore nothing more than cashing in. Perhaps Waltz will still surprise us with something new, but I sincerely doubt it – the problem may also lie in the fact that it’s the creators who primarily see him as Landa, rather than the actor just choosing Landa for himself.

BONUS: Will Smith

While not literally breaking Smith’s career, things certainly took a turn at the exact moment he received his Oscar. We all remember the infamous ceremony where, unable to bear the weight of Chris Rock’s joke directed at his wife, Smith decided to slap his fellow actor. Moments later, Smith appeared on stage again, this time as the winner. However, no one even remembers the title of the film for which the African-American actor received the coveted statuette (just a reminder, it was King Richard), as the tasteless incident involving the actor overshadowed this fact effectively. The slap directed at Chris Rock during that ceremony unfortunately cast a shadow over the further career of such a once-popular actor. Only time will tell if he’ll bounce back from it.

Jakub Piwoński

Jakub Piwoński

Cultural expert, passionate about popular culture, in particular films, series, computer games and comics. He likes to fly away to unknown, fantastic regions, thanks to his fascination with science fiction. Professionally, however, he looks back more often, thanks to his work as a museum promotion specialist, investigating the mysteries of the beginnings of cinematography. His favorite film is "The Matrix", because it combines two areas close to his heart - religion and martial arts.

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