Oscars 2023: Ten historic moments to watch out for on Academy Awards night

The first Irish-born best-actor winner, the first baroness to receive an Oscar... Much new ground could be broken when the gongs are given out on Sunday


First Irish-born winner of best actor

We do not for an instant detract from Daniel Day-Lewis’ status as an Irishman. This newspaper named him the second-best Irish film actor a few years ago. But, for the record, should either Colin Farrell (still possible) or Paul Mescal (rank outsider) triumph, he would be the first ever born on these shores to take the male lead-acting prize. You won’t need to be told that Brenda Fricker and Barry Fitzgerald have won in other categories. And, yes, Fitzgerald was nominated in two categories for the same role.


First time this century that no Bafta acting winners double up

It’s perfectly possible (maybe even likely) that Michelle Yeoh, Brendan Fraser, Angela Bassett and Ke Huy Quan will win. None won a Bafta. The last time that happened was 1997 when, at the British awards, Robert Carlyle and Tom Wilkinson won for The Full Monty, Judi Dench won for Mrs Brown and – good for the Brits – Sigourney Weaver triumphed for The Ice Storm, which didn’t get a single Oscar nomination. The result at Royal Festival Hall will give Kerry Condon in particular hope of pulling an upset.


Best picture has earliest release date in 32 years

In recent decades, studios, fearful that elderly voters can’t remember what happened last week, have invariably released “Oscar bait” in the final three months of the year. That habit was challenged last year when Coda triumphed after an August debut, but the Apple production really registered as a streaming release. This year’s runaway favourite, Everything Everywhere All at Once, cleaned up in the US following a March release. No best picture has hit commercial screens earlier since Silence of the Lambs, which opened in January 1991.


Third person to win a Nobel Prize and an Oscar

No, no, no, Al Gore is not one of the other two. Stop saying that. An Inconvenient Truth did win best documentary, but Gore was neither the producer nor the director of that film. He was merely the subject. The previous two to take the most prestigious double are Synge Street’s George Bernard Shaw, adapted-screenplay winner for Pygmalion, and Duluth’s Bob Dylan, best song winner for Wonder Boys. This year Kazuo Ishiguro hopes to place an adapted-screenplay Oscar, for Living, beside his Nobel Prize in Literature.



First woman to win best cinematographer

This is one of the more shameful records of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It is even harder for a woman cinematographer to score at the Academy Awards than it is for a woman director. Every nominee was male until Rachel Morrison scored a nod for Mudbound, in 2018. Last year, Ari Wegner, up for The Power of the Dog, became the second. It is not out of the question that Mandy Walker will score in 2023 for Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis. But All Quiet on the Western Front stands in the way.


Oldest person to win a competitive Oscar

John Williams already has an array of Oscar records under his belt. He has more nominations than anyone else alive – 53 and counting – and is the second most nominated person ever, after Walt Disney. Should he win best score for The Fabelmans – possible in a weakish year – he would, at 92, become the oldest person to win in normal time. (That is to say, not counting honorary Oscars.) The first of his five wins was for Fiddler on the Roof, in 1972. His most recent was for Schindler’s List, in 1994.


Triumph at last for most-nominated woman without a win

Diane Warren has competed a stunning 14 times for best original song without a single win. That makes the composer the most nominated woman in any category without a competitive Oscar on the shelf. You will know her for Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now and I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing. Applause, her song from the little-seen Tell It Like a Woman, looks to have only a slim chance of winning. That said, the academy did just give Warren an honorary Oscar. Paul Newman, Ennio Morricone and Spike Lee all followed up that distinction quickly with a competitive win. Maybe the stars are aligned.


First baroness to win an Oscar

Okay, stay with us here. We all know Jamie Lee Curtis, second-favourite in best supporting actress, is Hollywood aristocracy, the daughter of Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis. But she is also the real thing. Her husband, Christopher Guest, is not just Nigel Tufnell in Spinal Tap, he is also the fifth Baron Haden-Guest. Some years back this listicle writer asked her ladyship about visiting the House of Lords. “Oh, the gift shop!” she enthused. “I got a great baseball cap, which I gave to John Boorman – and he lost it. It’s out there in Ireland somewhere.”


Spielberg and/or Blanchett for threefer club

Only a select few people have won three or more best-director Oscars. The threefer club for women actors is similarly select. Steven Spielberg would join Frank Capra and William Wyler with a hat trick. Only John Ford managed four. Meryl Streep, Ingrid Bergman and Frances McDormand have each won three Oscars as best actress or best supporting actress. Katharine Hepburn is the only woman to have taken four (all in the lead category). Cate Blanchett is currently locked in a death match with Michelle Yeoh, but the academy would see her as a suitable candidate for the Trifecta Society.


First film in Irish to win an Oscar

It hardly needs to be said that An Cailín Ciúin (The Quiet Girl) would become the first film in the native tongue to win an Academy Award. It would also surely be the first feature solely financed in the country to take a prize. (A few shorts have managed that feat.) In the Name of the Father and My Left Foot were both British co-productions. Lenny Abrahamson’s Room qualified for both the Irish Academy Awards and their Canadian equivalent. All Quiet on the Western Front, as a best-picture nominee, is still a big favourite. But word of mouth has dragged An Cailín Ciúin into the second-favourite slot. A remarkable achievement.