Winning an Oscar is considered one of the biggest honours and accomplishments for an actor – a symbol confirming they’ve made it. And for many actors, obtaining this symbol takes many, many years. Just think of how long it took Leonardo DiCaprio to finally receive his Oscar – more than 10 years, five Best Actor nominations, and a countless number of brilliant performances!
However, some actors turned out to be more lucky in this respect with a number of them not only winning for their first nomination, but for their first movie, turning some of them into huge stars. Without further ado, here are 10 actors and actresses who won an Oscar for their first film performance.
1. Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls (2006)
Despite not winning the American Idol title back in 2004, the show cast a huge spotlight on Jennifer Hudson and her incredible vocal ability. No wonder that in 2006 she was cast alongside Beyoncé in the mesmerising musical “Dreamgirls.” This was an opportunity not just to showcase her singing but also her incredible acting, which won her the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, and outshining Queen Bey on top of this is an achievement in itself.
The film is based on the musical of the same name by Tom Eyen, and follows the rise of the female trio “The Dreams.” Hudson plays one of them, as they fight their way through show business to become stars, making one think of Hudson’s own story of her rise to fame.
2. Barbra Streisand, Funny Girl (1968)
Considering the success of Barbra Streisand and her incredible talent (having played all possible roles in show business), it is no surprise that it only took her one film and one nomination to win the Best Actress Oscar for her film “Funny Girl.”
Like “Dreamgirls,” the film is also a musical adaptation. Before playing Fanny Brice in the film, Streisand played the role in the Broadway musical itself, giving her an advantage of having lived the character for a longer time. Again, similarities can be drawn between Fanny and Streisand, as the story is based on the real life Broadway and film star, perhaps foreseeing Streisand’s own success on on the silver screen.
This Oscar wasn’t just special due to it going to a first-time movie appearance, but also because it was the only ever tie in this category, which was shared between Streisand and Katharine Hepburn for “The Lion in Winter.” But unlike Streisand, this was Hepburn’s 11th nomination, making the award even more of a privilege.
3. Eva Marie Saint, On the Waterfront (1954)
“On the Waterfront” was such a commercial and public success that it was no surprise that it won eight out of its 12 Oscar nominations. One of such was for Eva Marie Saint for Best Supporting Actress. The film follows Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando), who, while working at the docks, has been making a rising career as a boxer. But when a mob boss gets involved in his success and a murder escalates, Terry finds himself in a difficult and dangerous situation. Saint plays the sister of the murdered man, and becomes a friend and helper to Terry.
Her performance threw light on the young actress, leading to her role in “North by Northwest,” directed by Hitchcock, where she was the female lead.
4. Tatum O’Neal, Paper Moon (1973)
Not only was “Paper Moon” Tatum O’Neal’s first film, but she went down in history as the youngest person to receive an Oscar at the age of 10. Perhaps what helped with her part were the real-life dynamics of her co-star and father, Ryan O’Neal. The black-and-white film is set in 1930’s Kansas, and follows the pair playing con artists, Moses Pray and Addie Loggins, respectfully. After the death of her mother, Moses is put on a mission to get the girl to her family in Missouri, but not without trying to get hold of her inheritance for himself.
But as the journey progresses, unexpected obstacles force Moses to team up with the girl as they run away from burlesque dancers and bootleggers.
5. Anna Paquin, The Piano (1993)
Another exceptional Oscar winner is Anna Paquin for her part as Holly Hunter’s daughter in “The Piano.” Not only was this her first nomination and film role, but the actress was one of the youngest people ever to receive an Oscar at 11 years old, only the second oldest after Tatum O’Neal.
Apart from that, while not coming from an acting background or family, Paquin got the role by pure luck (and talent, of course) after coming along to the audition with her older sister and another 5,000 girls. After catching sight of her, Campion, the director of the film, asked Paquin to audition as well – and the rest was history.
The film itself got a lot of recognition. It follows Ada (Hunter), a mute young woman who has been sold into marriage. Along with her daughter, Flora (Paquin), and Ada’s piano, they travel from Scotland to New Zealand to start their new life.