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Behold The Most Prestigious Prize In Hollywood: The John C. Reilly Award

It’s December 2002, and Oscar season is getting underway. On Dec. 9, Martin Scorsese’s Civil War period piece, “Gangs of New York,” premieres in New York. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz and Daniel Day-Lewis, with John C. Reilly in a supporting role.

A day later, Rob Marshall’s musical about fame and crime in the roaring 1920s, “Chicago,” premieres in Los Angeles. Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere headline, with John C. Reilly in a supporting role.

And five days after that, on Dec. 15, Stephen Daldry’s era-spanning film about the effect of the novel “Mrs. Dalloway” on three generations of women, “The Hours,” premieres in New York. It stars Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore, with (naturally) John C. Reilly in a supporting role.

Less than two months later, on Feb. 11, 2003, all three of those films were nominated for a best picture Academy Award. And so, the same actor who would go on to appear in “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” gave life to one of the most prestigious honors in Hollywood history: the “John. C Reilly Award,” figuratively bestowed on the actor who appears in the most best picture nominees in a single year, with a minimum of three required for consideration.1 (Actually, the “John C. Reilly Award” was coined by Griffin Newman — star of “The Tick” and co-host of the Blank Check Podcast — about six weeks ago. Alas technicalities.)

Someone hit the John C. Reilly trifecta this year — Michael Stuhlbarg appeared in best picture nominees “The Shape of Water,” “The Post” and “Call Me by Your Name.” But most years, the John C. Reilly Award stays on the shelf collecting dust. In fact, before Stuhlbarg, the last person to appear in three best picture nominees was … John C. Reilly. And before Reilly, no one had accomplished this hat trick since the 1940s.2

And the John C. Reilly Award for most acting goes to …

Actors and actresses who appeared in three different films nominated for best picture in a single year

Performer Year Films
Michael Stuhlbarg 2018 Call Me by Your Name, The Post, The Shape of Water
John C. Reilly 2003 Chicago, The Hours, Gangs of New York
Douglas Croft 1943 Kings Row, The Pride of the Yankees, Yankee Doodle Dandy
Henry Daniell 1941 All This, The Great Dictator, The Philadelphia Story
Edward Fielding 1941 All This, Kitty Foyle, Rebecca
Thomas Mitchell 1940 Gone With the Wind, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Stagecoach
Adolphe Menjou 1938 One Hundred Men and a Girl, Stage Door, A Star Is Born
Fritz Leiber 1937 Anthony Adverse, The Story of Louis Pasteur, A Tale of Two Cities
Donald Woods 1937 Anthony Adverse, The Story of Louis Pasteur, A Tale of Two Cities
Ivan F. Simpson 1936 Captain Blood, David Copperfield, Mutiny on the Bounty
Charles Laughton 1936 Les Miserables, Mutiny on the Bounty, Ruggles of Red Gap
Jessie Ralph 1936 Captain Blood, David Copperfield, Les Miserables
Claudette Colbert 1935 Cleopatra, Imitation of Life, It Happened One Night

Sources: IMDb, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences database

Looking at credited roles,3 there have been only 13 people who were in three best picture nominees in a single year. Of those 13, 11 came during the Golden Age of Hollywood — and in those years, between 10 and 12 films were nominated for best picture each year. Only two of the 13 people, Claudette Colbert and Jessie Ralph, were women — more on this in a moment.

This, if anything, underscores how truly outstanding John C. Reilly’s performance in 2003 was — and, to a lesser extent, Stuhlbarg’s in 2017. In 2003, when Reilly scored his trifecta, there were only five best picture nominees. But the academy again expanded the potential pool of nominees in that category to as many as 10 in 2009; Stuhlbarg appeared in three of nine this year.

Just how prestigious is the John C. Reilly Award? For comparison, more people (23) have won an Oscar, an Emmy and a Tony — the Triple Crown of Acting. Twelve people have EGOT-ed (won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony).

Of course, the John C. Reilly Award honors a single year of excellence, but what if we expand our time horizon? Let’s look at the “Lifetime John C. Reilly Award” — who’s appeared in the most best picture nominees over the course of their entire career?

Jack Nicholson remains the undisputed champion here with 10 appearances. But there are people not far behind Nicholson who could still add to their total: Tom Hanks, Daniel Day-Lewis and Robert De Niro. Day-Lewis is allegedly retiring from acting, and De Niro no longer makes good movies, so Nicholson’s eventual usurper might be Hanks.

Looking at the 24 people who have appeared in eight or more best picture nominees, you may have noticed that 22 have something in common: They’re men.4 There’s ample anecdotal evidence that movies that get nominated for best picture on the whole don’t tend to be the kind of movies with substantive parts for women. Author and entertainment journalist Mark Harris noted that with “The Post,” this year is the first since 1985 that Meryl Streep was nominated for best actress for a part in a best picture nominee.5

“What you found does not surprise me,” Harris told me. “It confirms my sense of what the underlying issue is in the Oscars and in the industry.

“It’s a circular system in which movies that center men are much more likely to be rewarded, and the message that sends to the industry is that in order to win awards, that’s the type of movie it should make.”

Seeing this imbalance, I wanted to compare a given individual’s best picture resume with the number of times that person was nominated for an acting Oscar.6 Given that composer John Williams has the most Oscar nominations of any living person and John C. Reilly inspired this study, I’m calling this metric “Williams Above Reilly,” or WAR, which will never be confused with any other existing advanced metric.

A high WAR means an actor was recognized for individual performances far more often than the films that actor was in. A low WAR means an actor has been in a lot of highly regarded films but hasn’t received much individual credit. And a WAR near 0 means those two things are balanced.

Williams Above Reilly scores

Lifetime John C. Reilly tally vs. acting nominations for actors who appeared in at least five best picture nominees or received at least five solo acting Oscar nominations, or both

Actor Best picture appearances Acting nominations WAR
Geraldine Page 0 8 +1.00
Susan Hayward 0 5 +1.00
Susan Sarandon 1 5 +0.67
Denzel Washington 2 8 +0.60
Julia Roberts 1 4 +0.60
Barbara Stanwyck 1 4 +0.60
Lee Grant 1 4 +0.60
Glenda Jackson 1 4 +0.60
Marsha Mason 1 4 +0.60
Joanne Woodward 1 4 +0.60
Meryl Streep 6 21 +0.56
Ellen Burstyn 2 6 +0.50
Maggie Smith 2 6 +0.50
Thelma Ritter 2 6 +0.50
Jessica Lange 2 5 +0.43
Jane Fonda 3 7 +0.40
Jack Lemmon 4 8 +0.33
Peter O’Toole 4 8 +0.33
Glenn Close 3 6 +0.33
Jodie Foster 2 4 +0.33
Helen Mirren 2 4 +0.33
Maureen Stapleton 2 4 +0.33
Michelle Williams 2 4 +0.33
Jeff Bridges 4 7 +0.27
Kate Winslet 4 7 +0.27
Judi Dench 4 7 +0.27
Katharine Hepburn 7 12 +0.26
Laurence Olivier 6 10 +0.25
Audrey Hepburn 3 5 +0.25
Frances McDormand 3 5 +0.25
Anne Bancroft 3 5 +0.25
Irene Dunne 3 5 +0.25
Arthur Kennedy 3 5 +0.25
Bette Davis 7 11 +0.22
Paul Newman 6 9 +0.20
Michael Caine 4 6 +0.20
Vanessa Redgrave 4 6 +0.20
Paul Muni 4 6 +0.20
Natalie Wood 2 3 +0.20
Renee Zellweger 2 3 +0.20
Julie Andrews 2 3 +0.20
Holly Hunter 2 3 +0.20
Walter Matthau 2 3 +0.20
Nick Nolte 2 3 +0.20
Marisa Tomei 2 3 +0.20
Greta Garbo 2 3 +0.20
Angela Lansbury 2 3 +0.20
Piper Laurie 2 3 +0.20
Edward Norton 2 3 +0.20
Joaquin Phoenix 2 3 +0.20
Maximilian Schell 2 3 +0.20
Peter Ustinov 2 3 +0.20
Melvyn Douglas 2 3 +0.20
Edith Evans 2 3 +0.20
Mark Ruffalo 2 3 +0.20
Claire Trevor 2 3 +0.20
Clifton Webb 2 3 +0.20
Ingrid Bergman 5 7 +0.17
Nicole Kidman 3 4 +0.14
Julianne Moore 3 4 +0.14
Robin Williams 3 4 +0.14
Alan Arkin 3 4 +0.14
Philip Seymour Hoffman 3 4 +0.14
Jon Voight 3 4 +0.14
Jane Alexander 3 4 +0.14
Annette Bening 3 4 +0.14
Walter Brennan 3 4 +0.14
Shelley Winters 3 4 +0.14
Walter Huston 3 4 +0.14
Rosalind Russell 3 4 +0.14
Jane Wyman 3 4 +0.14
Jennifer Lawrence 3 4 +0.14
Morgan Freeman 4 5 +0.11
Shirley MacLaine 4 5 +0.11
Sean Penn 4 5 +0.11
Albert Finney 4 5 +0.11
Amy Adams 4 5 +0.11
Jennifer Jones 4 5 +0.11
Jack Nicholson 10 12 +0.09
Sissy Spacek 5 6 +0.09
Richard Burton 6 7 +0.08
Al Pacino 6 7 +0.08
Greer Garson 6 7 +0.08
Marlon Brando 7 8 +0.07
Spencer Tracy 9 9 +0.00
Robert Duvall 7 7 +0.00
Norma Shearer 5 5 +0.00
Anthony Quinn 4 4 +0.00
Warren Beatty 4 4 +0.00
Montgomery Clift 4 4 +0.00
Ben Kingsley 4 4 +0.00
Mickey Rooney 4 4 +0.00
George C. Scott 4 4 +0.00
Joan Fontaine 3 3 +0.00
James Mason 3 3 +0.00
Johnny Depp 3 3 +0.00
Christian Bale 3 3 +0.00
Woody Harrelson 3 3 +0.00
Kathy Bates 3 3 +0.00
Joan Crawford 3 3 +0.00
Bing Crosby 3 3 +0.00
Jason Robards 3 3 +0.00
Charles Bickford 3 3 +0.00
Celeste Holm 3 3 +0.00
Bradley Cooper 3 3 +0.00
Anne Revere 3 3 +0.00
Octavia Spencer 3 3 +0.00
Robert De Niro 8 7 -0.07
Dustin Hoffman 8 7 -0.07
Deborah Kerr 7 6 -0.08
Cate Blanchett 7 6 -0.08
Gene Hackman 6 5 -0.09
Anthony Hopkins 5 4 -0.11
William Hurt 5 4 -0.11
Diane Keaton 5 4 -0.11
Julie Christie 5 4 -0.11
Agnes Moorehead 5 4 -0.11
Geoffrey Rush 5 4 -0.11
Daniel Day-Lewis 8 6 -0.14
James Cagney 4 3 -0.14
Tom Cruise 4 3 -0.14
Sally Field 4 3 -0.14
Faye Dunaway 4 3 -0.14
Jose Ferrer 4 3 -0.14
Christopher Plummer 4 3 -0.14
William Powell 4 3 -0.14
Rod Steiger 4 3 -0.14
Viola Davis 4 3 -0.14
Saoirse Ronan 4 3 -0.14
James Stewart 7 5 -0.17
Elizabeth Taylor 7 5 -0.17
Fredric March 7 5 -0.17
Alec Guinness 6 4 -0.20
George Clooney 6 4 -0.20
Tommy Lee Jones 6 4 -0.20
Charles Boyer 6 4 -0.20
Vivien Leigh 3 2 -0.20
Frank Sinatra 3 2 -0.20
Colin Firth 3 2 -0.20
Whoopi Goldberg 3 2 -0.20
Jude Law 3 2 -0.20
Kevin Spacey 3 2 -0.20
Sigourney Weaver 3 2 -0.20
Joan Cusack 3 2 -0.20
Richard Dreyfuss 3 2 -0.20
John Hurt 3 2 -0.20
John Malkovich 3 2 -0.20
Joe Pesci 3 2 -0.20
Barbra Streisand 3 2 -0.20
Christopher Walken 3 2 -0.20
Bruce Dern 3 2 -0.20
Charles Durning 3 2 -0.20
Catherine Keener 3 2 -0.20
Roy Scheider 3 2 -0.20
Emily Watson 3 2 -0.20
Gloria Grahame 3 2 -0.20
Ian McKellen 3 2 -0.20
Fay Bainter 3 2 -0.20
Robert Donat 3 2 -0.20
Vincent Gardenia 3 2 -0.20
Janet Gaynor 3 2 -0.20
Edmund Gwenn 3 2 -0.20
Helen Hayes 3 2 -0.20
Cecil Kellaway 3 2 -0.20
Mercedes McCambridge 3 2 -0.20
Victor McLaglen 3 2 -0.20
Robert Montgomery 3 2 -0.20
Maria Ouspenskaya 3 2 -0.20
Jeremy Renner 3 2 -0.20
Ralph Richardson 3 2 -0.20
Gale Sondergaard 3 2 -0.20
Monty Woolley 3 2 -0.20
Loretta Young 3 2 -0.20
Emma Stone 3 2 -0.20
Jonah Hill 3 2 -0.20
Rooney Mara 3 2 -0.20
Olivia de Havilland 8 5 -0.23
Gregory Peck 8 5 -0.23
Leonardo DiCaprio 8 5 -0.23
Clark Gable 5 3 -0.25
Matt Damon 5 3 -0.25
Emma Thompson 5 3 -0.25
Claudette Colbert 5 3 -0.25
Charles Coburn 5 3 -0.25
Wendy Hiller 5 3 -0.25
Ed Harris 7 4 -0.27
Gary Cooper 9 5 -0.29
Tom Hanks 9 5 -0.29
Burt Lancaster 8 4 -0.33
Claude Rains 8 4 -0.33
Humphrey Bogart 6 3 -0.33
Russell Crowe 6 3 -0.33
Willem Dafoe 6 3 -0.33
Charles Laughton 6 3 -0.33
Ronald Colman 6 3 -0.33
Gladys Cooper 6 3 -0.33
Sandra Bullock 4 2 -0.33
Helena Bonham Carter 4 2 -0.33
Wallace Beery 4 2 -0.33
Richard Harris 4 2 -0.33
Rex Harrison 4 2 -0.33
Karl Malden 4 2 -0.33
Viggo Mortensen 4 2 -0.33
Sidney Poitier 4 2 -0.33
Talia Shire 4 2 -0.33
Jean Simmons 4 2 -0.33
Leslie Caron 4 2 -0.33
Alice Brady 4 2 -0.33
Hugh Griffith 4 2 -0.33
Frank Morgan 4 2 -0.33
J. Carrol Naish 4 2 -0.33
May Whitty 4 2 -0.33
Teresa Wright 4 2 -0.33
Jessica Chastain 4 2 -0.33
Brad Pitt 7 3 -0.40
Anne Baxter 5 2 -0.43
Leslie Howard 5 2 -0.43
Basil Rathbone 5 2 -0.43
Max von Sydow 5 2 -0.43
Lee J. Cobb 5 2 -0.43
Walter Pidgeon 5 2 -0.43
Akim Tamiroff 5 2 -0.43
Jack Warden 5 2 -0.43
William Holden 9 3 -0.50
Cary Grant 6 2 -0.50
John Wayne 6 2 -0.50
Ralph Fiennes 6 2 -0.50
Beulah Bondi 6 2 -0.50
Elsa Lanchester 7 2 -0.56
Henry Fonda 8 2 -0.60
John Gielgud 8 2 -0.60
Tom Wilkinson 8 2 -0.60
Marlene Dietrich 4 1 -0.60
Kevin Costner 4 1 -0.60
Kristin Scott Thomas 4 1 -0.60
Tom Berenger 4 1 -0.60
Cuba Gooding Jr. 4 1 -0.60
Robert Redford 4 1 -0.60
David Strathairn 4 1 -0.60
Judith Anderson 4 1 -0.60
Theodore Bikel 4 1 -0.60
Jim Broadbent 4 1 -0.60
Lindsay Crouse 4 1 -0.60
Randy Quaid 4 1 -0.60
George Sanders 4 1 -0.60
George Segal 4 1 -0.60
Trevor Howard 4 1 -0.60
Adrien Brody 4 1 -0.60
Allison Janney 4 1 -0.60
Albert Bassermann 4 1 -0.60
Barry Fitzgerald 4 1 -0.60
Leo Genn 4 1 -0.60
Tom Hardy 4 1 -0.60
Dean Jagger 4 1 -0.60
Glynis Johns 4 1 -0.60
Marjorie Main 4 1 -0.60
Anthony Quayle 4 1 -0.60
Joseph Schildkraut 4 1 -0.60
Lewis Stone 4 1 -0.60
Roland Young 4 1 -0.60
Benedict Cumberbatch 4 1 -0.60
Lucas Hedges 4 1 -0.60
Thomas Mitchell 9 2 -0.64
Harvey Keitel 5 1 -0.67
James Cromwell 5 1 -0.67
Ian Holm 5 1 -0.67
John C. Reilly 5 1 -0.67
Ned Beatty 5 1 -0.67
Ginger Rogers 5 1 -0.67
Maurice Chevalier 5 1 -0.67
Jane Darwell 5 1 -0.67
Donald Crisp 5 1 -0.67
Geraldine Fitzgerald 5 1 -0.67
Adolphe Menjou 5 1 -0.67
John Mills 5 1 -0.67
Edna May Oliver 5 1 -0.67
J.K. Simmons 5 1 -0.67
David Niven 6 1 -0.71
Jean Arthur 6 1 -0.71
Spring Byington 6 1 -0.71
Martha Scott 6 1 -0.71
Russ Tamblyn 6 1 -0.71
Lionel Barrymore 7 1 -0.75
Henry Travers 7 1 -0.75
Harrison Ford 8 1 -0.78
H.B. Warner 9 1 -0.80
Ward Bond 9 0 -1.00
Harry Davenport 8 0 -1.00
Una O’Connor 8 0 -1.00
Henry O’Neill 8 0 -1.00
George E. Stone 8 0 -1.00
John Carradine 7 0 -1.00
Felix Aylmer 7 0 -1.00
Reginald Owen 7 0 -1.00
Michael Stuhlbarg 7 0 -1.00
Robert Warwick 7 0 -1.00
Ian Wolfe 7 0 -1.00
Myrna Loy 6 0 -1.00
Leo G. Carroll 6 0 -1.00
Finlay Currie 6 0 -1.00
Andy Devine 6 0 -1.00
Mary Forbes 6 0 -1.00
Charley Grapewin 6 0 -1.00
Porter Hall 6 0 -1.00
Lumsden Hare 6 0 -1.00
Samuel S. Hinds 6 0 -1.00
Leonard Mudie 6 0 -1.00
Eugene Pallette 6 0 -1.00
Jessie Ralph 6 0 -1.00
Ivan F. Simpson 6 0 -1.00
C. Aubrey Smith 6 0 -1.00
Kevin Bacon 5 0 -1.00
Jeff Goldblum 5 0 -1.00
John Cazale 5 0 -1.00
Edward Everett Horton 5 0 -1.00
Walter Catlett 5 0 -1.00
Peter Cellier 5 0 -1.00
Ray Collins 5 0 -1.00
Melville Cooper 5 0 -1.00
Ernest Cossart 5 0 -1.00
Henry Daniell 5 0 -1.00
Douglass Dumbrille 5 0 -1.00
Cedric Hardwicke 5 0 -1.00
Stephen Henderson 5 0 -1.00
Halliwell Hobbes 5 0 -1.00
Rance Howard 5 0 -1.00
Guy Kibbee 5 0 -1.00
Walter Kingsford 5 0 -1.00
Charles Lane 5 0 -1.00
Niall MacGinnis 5 0 -1.00
Frank McHugh 5 0 -1.00
Grant Mitchell 5 0 -1.00
Michael Pena 5 0 -1.00
Hugo Weaving 5 0 -1.00
Rhys Williams 5 0 -1.00

Williams Above Reilly (WAR) is found by subtracting the number of an actor’s best picture appearances from the number of acting nominations, then dividing that by the total of both categories.

Sources: IMDb, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences database

Interesting people with high WAR values include Denzel Washington, Susan Sarandon, Julia Roberts and Streep. Some standouts with low WARs include John Cazale, Harrison Ford, Hugo Weaving, Brad Pitt and our man Stuhlbarg. The middle area — the balanced performers — is eclectic but interesting, with character actors like Robert Duvall, Kathy Bates, Woody Harrelson, Octavia Spencer, Cate Blanchett and Marlon Brando popping out.

And there’s John C. Reilly, with one of the lowest WARs in the bunch — half of it derived from three films that all premiered in one seven-day span in 2002.

Footnotes

  1. A bunch of people have been credited in two best picture nominees in one year.

  2. The cast data used in this article comes from IMDb. The best picture and acting award data comes from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences database.

  3. An overly inclusive definition of “appeared in the film,” which counts uncredited appearances, says 79 people have appeared in three or more best picture nominees in a single year since the Academy Awards began. Of these 79 people, 73 pulled the feat off sometime from 1930 through 1951 — the approximate boundaries of the Golden Age of Hollywood. More importantly, that’s also a period in Hollywood history when the studio system, where individual performers had contracts owned by studios and had their roles dictated to them, reigned supreme. This is where the inclusive definition fails us. Looking at some of the people who appeared, uncredited, in five best picture nominees — perennial waiter Gino Corrado in 1941, then-crowd-filler Dennis O’Keefe in 1937 and menacing tough Harry Cording in 1936 — it’s clear we’ve got to be more selective. So we’re looking only at credited parts.

  4. Of the 145 people who appeared in five or more best picture nominees, only 32 were women.

  5. A span that saw Streep receive 14 acting nominations.

  6. Only the real deal — none of this “honorary” crap.

Walt Hickey is FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.

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