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Best Picture, Best Director, How Often do they Repeat?

The new Gurus of Gold just went up. Lincoln still tops, with Spielberg for director. Just behind Spielberg, though, is Ben Affleck, followed by Tom Hooper, David O. Russell and Kathryn Bigelow. Only Affleck and Russell haven’t won before. Les Miserables is at the number 2 spot. This is the opposite of Gold Derby currently, which has Les Miz to sweep.

The question keeps coming up as to whether it’s too soon to give Tom Hooper or Kathryn Bigelow a second win.  Does the Academy reward directors with a second Oscar so soon after their first one?

This year, the potential repeat winners in director + picture would be Tom Hooper, Kathryn Bigelow, and Robert Zemeckis.  For Ang Lee it would be statue #2, and his first Best Picture win if Life of Pi were to win.  Steven Spielberg would be winning statue #3, but only his second win with Best Picture.   John Ford won 4 directing Oscars but only one of those efforts, How Green Was My Valley, won Best Picture. Frank Capra won three directing Oscars, but only two of those films won Best Picture. Only William Wyler has won three Oscars along with three Best Picture wins. If Spielberg wins a third directing Oscar, he will be only the third director in Academy history to win three.

But before we get to Spielberg’s chances, let’s look at those directors who won Best Director along with Best Picture and then came back and did it again, as Hooper and Bigelow might do:

Clint Eastwood
Unforgiven – 1992
Million Dollar Baby – 2004
=12 year span

Milos Foreman
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – 1975
Amadeus – 1984
=9 year span

Elia Kazan
Gentleman’s Agreement – 1947
On the Waterfront – 1954
=7 year span

David Lean
Bridge on the River Kwai 1957
Lawrence of Arabia – 1962
=5 year span

Bill Wilder
The Lost Weekend-1945
The Apartment-1960
=15 year span

Robert Wise
West Side Story – 1961
The Sound of Music  -1965
=4 year span

Fred Zinnemann
From Here to Eternity – 1953
A Man for All Seasons – 1956
=3 year span

The most recent winner to win again was Eastwood, who had a 12 year gap between films. Between Hooper and Bigelow I give Bigelow the edge because, in addition to having a slightly longer gap between films, she would also make Academy history being the only woman to do this twice.

I also have no context for determining Les Miserables’ place in the race yet since the reviews are still under embargo and will remain so until December 10.  Pundits predicting it to sweep before seeing any reviews makes me extremely nervous.  The reactions have been mixed, and I predict it to be received in a love it/hate it fashion, which can’t lead to a win with a consensus vote the way the Academy rewards winners. You have to have broad support among all types of people, not just those who respond to a musical.

Clint Eastwood did not just make two movies that voters liked. He himself was not merely liked but was beloved within the industry. His vet status by the time Million Dollar Baby came along was confirmed.  Moreover, Eastwood was celebrated then for having a success relatively late in life and Oscar loves a comeback. Well, as Louis CK says, you can’t come back if you never went away, so the odds for either Hooper or Bigelow winning are not impossible, they are just longer odds.

In all of the instances above, these directors who won double were veterans, director workhorses, in some cases, but men who had directed many many successful films. They just didn’t represent the kind of newbie success we see this year.  Back then, though, the studio system kept these directors in play. Now, the field is much more wide open since basically anyone can make a film now.

If Les Miserables wins double for Tom Hooper it will be because voters liked his movie best. If Bigelow wins double it will be partly because they liked the movie but more because they like the director, and the director is enjoying success relatively later in life. But no one in the race, or in the whole town, can really top Steven Spielberg in terms of veteran heft, and being the comeback kid.  The only one currently in the race who can touch him is Ang Lee, possibly Robert Zemeckis for Flight.

How many directors have won second Oscars for directing after they won big with Best Picture?

Oliver Stone
Platoon – 1986
Born on the Fourth of July – 1989

Steven Spielberg
Schindler’s List – 1993
Saving Private Ryan – 1998

And the opposite:

Leo McCary
The Awful Truth – 1937
Going My Way – 1944

I may have a few stats wrong and if I know you readers you will correct me!  I got my information here.