Best Actress Oscar Curse: a U of T study shows there’s some truth to it, but can it predict this Sunday’s winner?

Best Actress Oscar Curse: a U of T study shows there’s some truth to it, but can it predict this Sunday’s winner?

Our ears perked up last month when we heard about a study out of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management that gave scientific credence to the so-called Best Actress Academy Award Curse. For the uninitiated, the curse refers to how Best Actress Oscar winners seem more likely to split from their spouses than fellow nominees (see: Sandra Bullock, Reese Witherspoon, Kate Winslet, Hilary Swank and Halle Berry, as well as old Hollywood icons Bette Davis and Joan Crawford). At first, we wondered if crunching Hollywood heartbreak numbers is the most effective use of our city’s most beautiful minds (doubtful), but soon we moved onto more useful thoughts, such as: could the Rotman findings be used to help predict this Sunday’s Best Actress Oscar winner?

The Toronto study looks at what happens postOscar, but apply a little Freakonomics-style chicken-and-egg skepticism and all of a sudden it’s unclear what came first: the golden statue or the marital strife. Perhaps a troubled personal life is more likely to inspire an Oscar-worthy performance. With this hypothesis in mind, we examine this year’s nominees »

(Image: Stefania Yarhi)

Natalie Portman
To hear Natalie “Smug Earth Mother” Portman tell it, she is the happiest woman in the world right now thanks to her fiancé and baby daddy Benjamin Millepied. The lucky groom-to-be is a dancer with the New York Ballet and was responsible for Portman’s dance preparation for Black Swan. She thinks her beau is perfect, but a recent New York Times profile paints a different picture of the man—one of a social-climbing, status-obsessed egomaniac who would impregnate Betty White if it meant moving onto the A-list. That, combined with his creepily shifting eyes, and we’re convinced that these two have the longevity potential of a leotard.
Conclusion: Portman is already the race’s uncontested front-runner, and an analysis of her love life only improves her odds.

(Image: Tony Shek)

Annette Bening
Besides being a talented actress, a brilliant woman and a fabulous female role model, Bening is also married to one of showbiz’s most legendary lotharios, Warren Beatty. Back in the day, Beatty was known for bagging just about ever actress he ever worked with, from Jane Fonda to Diane Keaton to Madonna. According to a bio that came out last year, he has slept with some 12,000 women (that’s not a typo). There have also been rumours regarding alleged tension over the couple’s daughter, who supposedly wants a sex change (mom is supportive, dad is devastated). To us, all of this means that the Beatty-Benings probably have a unique and complicated relationship. But don’t go dividing the assets just yet; they’ve been together for 20 years. If Annette was going to bail, she would have done so already.
Conclusion: Bening (who played the neurotic lesbian mom Nic in The Kids Are All Right) has the best chance of upsetting Portman’s sure thing. According to our methods, though, the only stiff man she’ll be taking home on Oscar night is her husband.

(Image: Karon Liu)

Nicole Kidman
Back when she won her first Oscar in 2002 for The Hours, Kidman’s love life was a mess. She had split from Tom Cruise the year before, and may or may not have been getting it on with (then-married) Jude Law. Almost a decade later, and her domestic life appears to be absolutely blissful. It’s not often that we totally buy affection between celeb couples, but Kidman and hubby number two, Keith Urban, seem like the real deal. Only true love could be blind to a man who uses a hair straightener. The couple recently welcomed their second daughter, and as far as Hollywood heavyweights go, they live a pretty unaffected life in Nashville.
Conclusion: Despite a heartbreaking portrayal of a woman who loses her son in Rabbit Hole, there’s no way Nicole is winning this race, which is probably a good thing given that she has an eight-week old baby at home.

(Image: Evenstar Films)

Michelle Williams
As far as we know, the Blue Valentine actress isn’t dating anyone, so our model of relationship strife leading to a more powerful performance doesn’t apply. It’s all moot, anyway—Williams has a better chance of going home with George Clooney than she does with the trophy. True, Oscar loves depressed female characters, but Williams’s portrayal of a real-life desperate housewife was too subtle to earn the Academy’s attention. At this point, the actress’s only love affair is with her daughter, Matilda, and there’s no way they’re splitting up.
Conclusion: Every study has cases that don’t fit the control group. Either way, Williams probably shouldn’t bother with writing a speech. (She should, however, bother with picking a nice dress. She showed up at the Golden Globes a few weeks ago in what appeared to be an elongated 1920s swimming costume.)

(Image: Roadside Attractions)

Jennifer Lawrence
Lawrence is only 20 years old, so a long-term relationship is anything that lasts beyond the awkward brunch stage. According to gossip-blog intel, the Winter’s Bone actress is currently dating Nicholas Hoult (the geeky kid from About A Boy, who grew up to be the hunky teen in A Single Man). Both actors showed up at the BAFTAs a couple of weeks back, though we doubt Hoult will be present on Oscar night.
Conclusion: The U of T study is talking about splits between serious partners, not horny “young Hollywood” types, so we doubt she’s winning an Oscar. Better to focus on working her way up the romantic food chain. We hear Ryan Gosling is single.