And the Oscar goes to … the guy dressed as a bunch of grapes to help sell underwear? Academy Award notoriety, as with any of the major entertainment awards, has a checkered history of cumulative success for an actor’s career. An actor’s exceptional performance in one capacity can serve as a bellwether for future high-quality roles and a successful resume, or it can become a shiny side note of a trivia question to an otherwise unremarkable career.
F. Murray Abraham began his career as talking fruit in a commercial for Fruit of the Loom, but he eventually found himself accepting a bevy of awards in 1985 for his performance in “Amadeus” — including a Golden Globe and an Oscar. Though he has made around 80 appearances on screen since, it has been with the likes of ” Muppets from Space” and ” The All New Adventures of Laurel and Hardy in ‘For Love or Mummy.'” His resume prompted the unofficial diagnosis of underwhelming post-award careers as “F. Murray Abraham Syndrome” within the industry.
Otherwise known as the “Oscar jinx,” it is a fairly common reminder that award recognition in Hollywood is certainly not a guaranteed badge into the A-list club or A-list income.
“The Oscar is the single most important event of my career,” Abraham has said. “I have dined with kings, shared equal billing with my idols, lectured at Harvard and Columbia. If this is a jinx, I’ll take two.”
Maybe so, but you might also end up with more roles in films like the forgettable ” Sword of War,” which only took in $835,469 at the box office in 2009 against a $9 million budget.
One of the most notorious offenders of the jinx list is Cuba Gooding Jr., who won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for his supporting role in “Jerry Maguire.” What happened next isn’t pretty, with a decade and a half of a couple of bright spots overshadowed by fantastic failures such as “Boat Trip” and the sequel to “Daddy Day Care” — “Daddy Day Camp” — which only grossed around $13 million domestically and received an astonishingly bad 1 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Gooding Jr. never has renewed his Oscar glory, but his character’s remarkably overused catch phrase lives on, with someone, somewhere showing him the money. His net worth is an estimated $42 million, which surely is due in part to his former acclaim.
“Everybody gets more money; the question is how much,” says film critic Emmanuel Levy, author of “All About Oscar: The History and Politics of the Academy Awards.” “A lot depends on who they were before they got the Oscar.”
Levy added that it is better to win or be nominated for an Oscar earlier in one’s career, which usually bodes best for their career and earnings.
Anna Paquin, who was the second youngest Oscar winner ever for her role in 1993’s ” The Piano,” has certainly seen her talent and acclaim pay out. With an estimated net worth of $12 million, she takes in around $75,000 per episode of HBO’s popular ” True Blood.”
“Million-dollar salaries are still million-dollar salaries,” says producer Elizabeth Yoffe, “But the days of throwing $20 (million) to $25 million salaries around are disappearing, except for the top, top tier.”
Yoffe is the former president of the nonprofit CineWomen L.A. and current head of the True Studio Media production company, which produced the award-winning “My Big Break,” a documentary on the significant effects gaining and losing fame can have on a young actor. She says major awards in themselves have become less about recognition of a stellar performance and more about adding to the coffers of the industry.
“The search for more money for studios and actors in a shrinking box office is the main reason why the Oscars increased the number of films in contention,” she says. “More people will pay to see more Academy Award-nominated films, which means more revenue for Hollywood.”
Yoffe says talented actors sometimes will sign up for a low-budget “indie” film if they think they can showcase their talents well enough, but it usually comes back to the money before the quality of the role.
“Johnny Depp was once the icon for aspiring actors who wanted to only do their work for ‘the art,'” she says, “But as you see, even Depp finally succumbed to big, big bucks when he got used to the lifestyle.”
Ahoy, terrible reviews.
An Oscar is the most valuable of the four major entertainment awards in terms of subsequent roles and income, Yoffe says. A Tony tends to be the least, though many actors are drawn to Broadway to “show their chops.” She says it is generally a good career move, though the “star” types tend to struggle on stage, citing Julia Roberts’ presence compared to a lamp post in the production “Three Days of Rain.”
Then there’s the EGOT, which sounds like the name of a giant, wish-granting bird and may be about as rare in the entertainment industry. Only 10 celebrities have reached EGOT status (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony wins) in competitive categories, not counting Tracy Jordan in TV’s “30 Rock.” One need look no further than the most recent member in this exclusive club to realize the “club” is more like an abandoned casting warehouse.
Whoopi Goldberg had received plenty of attention for her role in “The Color Purple,” but it was her turn in “Ghost” in 1990 that won her the prestigious Oscar. In 2002, she rounded out her EGOT with Emmy and Tony wins. Prestigious roles would seem inevitable, but just a few years removed from her celebrated “Ghost” performance, Goldberg agreed to star in what must have seemed like a box office sure thing in the mid-90s. It was the role of a tough cop teaming with a talking dinosaur to stop a dino-killer and avert Armageddon. She came to her senses, but it would take a lawsuit and $7 million to keep Goldberg from backing out of the role. Theodore Rex would go on to blow $33.5 million in what was the most expensive direct-to-video title at the time. Goldberg’s latest sister act is as a regular fixture on “The View,” with an estimated salary of $2 million to $4 million.