If Uncle John were ever nominated for an Oscar, you can be sure he’d be seated in that auditorium on the night of the ceremony to hit the stage in case they called his name. Then there are these actors—they couldn’t make it, and then they won. Here’s why.
Michael Caine won Best Supporting Actor in 1987 for the acclaimed comedy Hannah and Her Sisters. He couldn’t make it to the ceremony because he was busy filming a significant less acclaimed movie: Jaws 4: The Revenge, ultimately a commercial and critical flop. Of the movie, Caine later said, “I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.”
In 2003, Eminem won for Best Original Song for “Lose Yourself” from 8 Mile, a movie based on his life in which he also starred. It’s the first rap song to ever win the Award, but Eminem didn’t make the trip to the ceremony. He later said he was “sleeping that night. I just felt like I had no chance of winning” and also that he was confused—he thought Oscars were for acting, so he didn’t quite get how his song was nominated.
Veteran Hollywood character actor Melvyn Douglas won Best Supporting Actor in 1980 for his role in Being There. At 79, he was the oldest ever nominee in his category and he was up against the youngest ever nominee in that category—eight-year-old Justin Henry of Kramer vs. Kramer. And that’s why he didn’t bother attending. A week before the ceremony he told People he wouldn’t be attending, citing the old Hollywood adage to never go up against a child or an animal.
Paul Newman is one of the best and most beloved actors in Hollywood history, and his peers rewarded him with nearly a dozen Oscar nominations. And he lost almost every time, for his roles in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Hustler, Hud, Cool Hand Luke, Absence of Malice, and The Verdict. He was up again in 1987 for The Color of Money, the sequel to The Hustler in which he once again played pool hustler Fast Eddie Nelson. Even though he was favored to win, Newman didn’t want to attend the ceremony out of fear of getting embarrassed about losing again. He told a reporter, “It’s like chasing a beautiful woman for 80 years. Finally, she relents and you say, ‘I’m terribly sorry. I’m tired.” Newman, of course, won Best Actor.