Oscars: Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander and a Brief History of Couples Nominated in the Same Year

10:30 AM 2/25/2016

by Michael Callahan

What happens when you and your significant other are nominated at the same time? Sometimes you split up right after (Beatty and Keaton), marry (Olivier and Leigh) or maybe you just "do not give a shit" (Newman and Woodward).

Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward were both nominated in 1969 as producer and star of 'Rachel, Rachel.'
Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward were both nominated in 1969 as producer and star of 'Rachel, Rachel.'
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At the fifth Academy Awards, held in November 1932, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne became the first married couple to be nominated for an Oscar in the same year. Both lost, but they ended up with a much scarcer prize: a loving 55-year union. Since then, more than a dozen other Hollywood pairs have lit up the Oscar race in the same year, including Elsa Lanchester and Charles Laughton in 1957 (for Witness for the Prosecution) and Rex Harrison and Rachel Roberts in 1963 (for Cleopatra and This Sporting Life, respectively). "I love movie stars, but they can be very fickle," says Robert Dickinson, who, as lighting director for the ceremony for more than a quarter of a century, has seen many partners walk the Oscar aisles. "But the couples that are really committed root really hard for one another, especially when they're both nominated."

Now Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender will take their turn as Oscar-nominated lovers: She's favored to win for The Danish Girl; he's not for Steve Jobs. And Margaret Sixel is this year's film editing frontrunner for her work on Mad Max: Fury Road, while husband George Miller's best director race is too close to call.

In their 50-plus years together, Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman — nominated 14 times in all but only once together — were more loyal to each other than they were to Oscar. "Joanne and Paul did not give a shit about awards," their longtime ICM agent, Boaty Boatwright, tells THR. "I remember saying to him after [he attended the 1983] Academy Awards, the one where everyone thought he was going to win [for The Verdict], 'Paul, tell me the truth: If you were nominated again, would you go?'" recalls Boatwright. "And he looked at me and said, 'Not if you put a .45 in my mouth.'" Newman stayed true to his word: When he finally won, for 1986's The Color of Money, Robert Wise accepted on his behalf. "I think they were very happy when they stopped going," says Boatwright of the pair. "I doubt they even watched the whole thing to the end."

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    Laurence Olivier & Vivien Leigh

    1940

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    Leigh won in 1940 for Gone With the Wind (she earned $20,000 playing Scarlett O'Hara, a role Olivier helped her land when he introduced her to Myron Selznick, brother of the film's producer, David O. Selznick). He lost the Oscar but got the girl: They married six months later. Leigh followed with another best actress win for 1951's A Streetcar Named Desire while Olivier won a total of three statuettes, including two honorary awards.

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    Richard Burton & Elizabeth Taylor

    1967

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    "The emotional climate seems right for this to be the Burtons' year," columnist Marilyn Beck wrote of their 1967 acting noms for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The two skipped the ceremony in (correct) expectation of a third loss for Burton but toasted Taylor's win days later in France. "I was never going to win an Oscar, no matter how wonderful I might be," Burton later groused. Taylor seemed to take a more blase attitude toward the awards: "I, along with the critics," she said, "have never taken myself very seriously."

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    Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn

    1968

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    In an upset, she won for 1967's Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? But she was angry that her co-star (pictured with her on the set of the film), who died 10 months earlier, did not. Still, in a note to the Academy (she didn't attend for any of her four wins), Hepburn, who had a 25-year affair with the married Tracy, thanked members for honoring her portrayal of "the good wife, our most ... unsung heroine."

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    Paul Newman & Joanne Woodward

    1969

    Bettmann/CORBIS

    Woodward already had won for 1957's The Three Faces of Eve by the time the couple was nominated together in 1968 for Rachel, Rachel, which she starred in and Newman produced. He was nominated seven times before finally winning in 1987 for The Color of Money.

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    John Cassavetes & Gena Rowlands

    1975

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    The star and director of 1974's A Woman Under the Influence were married 35 years until his death in 1989. On the pair's first meeting at Carnegie Hall, Rowlands recalled, "At the auditions, other students could drop in anytime to watch the new actors, and John was there when it was my turn. He saw me, and he said to the friend who was next to him, 'I'm going to marry her.'" The couple went on to make eight movies together. Rowlands also was nominated for Gloria in 1981, and was given an honorary Oscar at the Academy's Governors Awards in November 2015.

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    Warren Beatty & Diane Keaton

    1982

    Margaret Herrick Library/© A.M.P.A.S.

    "Miss Keaton, I know that public expressions like this can be embarrassing sometimes, and my chances of speaking with you privately later are, at the moment, excellent, but I do want to tell you that you make every director that you work with look good, and I think what they're trying to tell me here tonight, thank God, is that I'm no exception," Beatty said to his leading lady while accepting his 1982 directing Oscar for Reds. She lost that night, and the couple split up shortly after. "Warren, having won his Oscar for best director, was here and there," Keaton later wrote in her memoir, Then Again, "until there won out."

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    Jack Nicholson & Anjelica Huston

    1986

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    The on-again, off-again couple starred together in 1985's Prizzi's Honor, which was directed by the actress' father, John Huston. The film scored eight nominations, but snagged only the one win for the younger Huston, a first-time nominee for best supporting actress. She later scored nominations for 1989's Enemies: A Love Story and 1990's The Grifters. Meanwhile, Nicholson, the most Oscar nominated male actor in history, has won three times (for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Terms of Endearment and As Good as It Gets).

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    Tim Robbins & Susan Sarandon

    1996

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    Tim Robbins had written, directed and produced 1995's Dead Man Walking. He lost the directing Oscar to Braveheart helmer Mel Gibson, but the film won Sarandon her first Oscar (on a fifth try). She thanked her "partner in crime" for his stubbornness. "This is yours as much as mine," she said in her speech. "Thank God we live together." Robbins later won best supporting actor for Mystic River in 2004.

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    Joel Coen & Frances McDormand

    1997

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    The writer-director and his actress wife won for 1996's Fargo (co-written and -directed with his brother, Ethan, left). McDormand was nominated twice more; the brothers' films have earned a slew of nominations. They won best screenplay, best directing and best picture honors for 2007's No Country for Old Men.

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    Heath Ledger & Michelle Williams

    2006

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    "It was a big gift to have two people falling in love in our midst. You forget how lovely that is," one of the film's producers, James Schamus, has said of Ledger and Williams. By the time the Oscars rolled around with both nominated (he for best actor, she for supporting actress), they seemed to be positively glowing. "I think the lovely lady standing to the left of me is the greatest gift I've been given from this, for sure," Ledger said on the 2006 carpet. Neither Brokeback Mountain star won an Oscar, but Williams already was pregnant with their daughter, Matilda. They ended their relationship in 2007, a few months before Ledger's death.

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    Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie

    2009

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    Brad Pitt seemed to be a contender for the 2009 best actor prize for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, while his better half, Angelina Jolie, already an Oscar winner in 1999, seemed more of a long shot for best actress in Changeling. "I'd like to think of it more as a date," said Jolie on the 2009 Oscar red carpet. Pitt replied: "I'm just here to win. If I don't, you're going to see a scene tonight, I gotta tell you." Jolie broke out into hysterics. Neither won, and Pitt did not make a scene, but he, Jolie and Jennifer Aniston, who presented the animated feature Oscar that night, still made headlines: The Oscar show was the first time all three had been in the same room since Pitt and Aniston's 2005 divorce.

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