SAG, Golden Globe Noms Don't Always Equal an Oscar Mention (Analysis)

Statistics suggest that faring well with SAG-AFTRA and the HFPA can boost an actor's chances with the Academy, but the numbers don't always add up — just ask Jennifer Aniston or Jake Gyllenhaal.

A version of this story first appeared in a special awards season issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Right now, everyone's a potential winner. And this year, there's an especially crowded field of best actor and actress hopefuls jostling for attention and looking to generate buzz. How­ever, that buzz will start to crystallize, one way or another, in a matter of weeks.

On Dec. 9, SAG-AFTRA will announce the nominees for the 22nd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, and the next day, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association will chime in with nominees for the 73rd annual Golden Globe Awards. Inevitably, those results will be noted as harbingers of the nominations for the 88th Academy Awards, which won't be revealed until Jan. 14. Those representing the lucky Globe and SAG nominees will boast of the predictive value of those mentions, while reps whose clients are left out will be quick to remind everyone that the Oscar noms can still surprise.

But before we get to that point, it's worth asking exactly how much the Globe and SAG nominations, both separately and together, will really tell us.

Not all Oscar predictors are created equal. Since the start of the expanded best picture era in 2009, the Golden Globes have matched the Academy on 39 best picture nominees out of 55, or 71 percent. The Screen Actors Guild (using SAG's best ensemble cast award as a best picture proxy) has matched the Oscars on only 25 films, or 45 percent.

But that isn't a fair comparison. The Golden Globes nominate twice as many films per year, due to separate categories for drama and comedy/musical. It still isn't a completely fair fight, though, since the Golden Globe categories are restricted to certain types of films, while the SAGs and Oscars are allowed to nominate any film, regardless of category. Furthermore, the SAGs are technically choosing the best cast, which is a little different from choosing the best motion picture. So let's instead turn our attention to the acting categories.

Dur­ing the past decade, 82 percent of SAG best actor nominees have earned an Oscar nom. Compare that to only 41 percent of Globe best actor nominees. The results are similar across genders. For best actress, it's again 82 percent for the SAG Awards and 44 percent for the Globes. This is a pretty decisive victory for SAG, since they nominate only five actors and actresses, while the HFPA nominates 10 of each.

At first glance, the Globes would seem to have an advantage, since in their best actor and actress categories, they advance those 10 names each, as opposed to the eventual five in each category that will be selected by the Academy. But that advantage is erased by the fact that half of those Globe nominees are in the musical/comedy category. Within the Globes drama categories, 64 percent of best actress and best actor nominees also earn Oscar recognition. But in the Globe noms for musical/comedy performances, just 24 percent of best actress and 18 percent of best actor nominees match the Oscar choices.

Let's look at all this in a different fashion, though: from the perspective of an individual actor or actress. That is, given that a potential nominee received good (or bad) news from the Globes and the SAG Awards, what are the chances that particular nominee will go on to an Oscar nomination in January?

Running a regression (a statistical tool used for prediction) on the past 10 years of Oscar data reveals the following: As shown in the above breakdown, the best news an actor can receive is a SAG nomination. In the absence of that, the best case scenario is a Globe drama nomination; next best is a Globe comedy nom.

But, even though it may seem counterintuitive, the combination of a SAG nom and a Globe comedy nom is a better Oscar nomination predictor than receiving both a SAG nom and a Globe drama nom. The reason: There is significant overlap between the SAG Award and the Globe drama nominees, probably because the actors guild members like to select performers from dramatic films. So, getting a Globe drama nomination doesn't actually add much information on top of a SAG nom. Recent examples of SAG and Globe drama nominees who failed to earn an Academy Award nomination include Jennifer Aniston (Cake, 2014), Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler, 2014), Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips, 2013) and Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks, 2013).

On the flip side, getting a nomination from SAG and a comedy nom from the Globes tells us a lot. The SAG part demonstrates that the nominee is worthy of being mentioned among the top dramatic performances. The Globes part tells us that the nominee has turned in one of the best comedic performances of the year. Indeed, over the past decade, 17 lead actors and actresses have earned both nominations, and only one — Ryan Gosling (Lars and the Real Girl, 2007) — failed to get a corresponding call from the Academy.

In the supporting categories, it's a lot closer. The Globes match the Oscars on 72 percent of supporting actor and 80 percent of supporting actress nominees. Yes, that sounds impressive, but the SAG Awards do even better: 84 percent of their supporting noms match the eventual Oscar noms for both men and women.

But then, again, we can determine the relative importance of those two predictors by looking at the Oscar chances of an individual nominee. The results are quite intuitive: SAGs are more important than Golden Globes. The best-case recognition is recognition from both bodies. The worse-case scenario is recognition by neither.

Finally, it's important to remember that while hopefuls who don't procure either a SAG or Globe nom have a very poor chance of scoring an Oscar nom, that chance is still not quite 0 per­cent. Among the hundreds of performances that have evaded SAG and HFPA recognition, there have been a select few that still earned the Academy's favor. Just last year, Bradley Cooper (American Sniper) and Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night) beat the odds. So even for those left out in the cold in December, there still remains a sliver of hope (0.3 percent, to be exact) come January.

Zauzmer is an analyst for the Los Angeles Dodgers who does math-based Oscar analysis for The Hollywood Reporter.

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