Oscar Preview: The Grande Dame: Vanessa Redgrave

Every week from now until the critics groups start giving out their prizes for the best of the year, I’m going to be spotlighting the big Oscar players and their chances at Oscar glory this year.

There are few living actors as honored as Dame Vanessa Redgrave.

Born in 1937, Redgrave was a prominent voice on the London stage and, at the young age of 30 was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), a prominent honorific handed out by the Queen of England and given to a select few individuals. She began her stage work shortly after attending the Central School of Speech and Drama in 1954. In 1958 she made her first appearance on the West End and within two years, she had her first leading role. With such a short career on the stage, it’s surprising Redgrave managed to be made a CBE, but her prior and subsequent career would no doubt prove the accuracy of such an appointment. She wouldn’t be offered the title Dame for thirty more years, a title which she has reportedly refused.

The same year she began working on the West End stage, she received her first film role in the little known British drama Behind the Mask. It would be her only film appearance until her celebrated work in 1966’s Morgan! A Suitable Case for Treatment for which she won the Cannes Film Festival prize for Best Actress along with her first Academy Award nomination. Her output through the 1960s and 1970s was impressive, earning rave notices in almost every role, picking up another Cannes prize for Best Actress in 1968 for Isadora along with her second Oscar nomination. Her third Oscar nomination came a scant three years later when she picked up a lead nod for playing the titular Mary, Queen of Scots.

It was on her fourth Oscar nomination that she finally received the trophy. Playing the titular, but supporting character of Julia, Redgrave’s brief appearance as an in-hiding revolutionary was a sensation, but it would also come with controversy. During her famed Oscar acceptance speech, she attacked the “Zionist hoodlums” who had gathered outside the Pantages Theater to protest her political activism supporting the Palestine Liberation Organization, a position still seemingly unpopular these thirty years later. It was a speech that would go down in Oscar history as one of the, if not the most controversial speeches in the history of the Academy.

Redgrave received little notice for her subsequent work until her fifth Oscar nomination in 1984 for The Bostonians, which would prove to be her last for almost a decade despite prizes and nominations from various other organizations. In 1992, she earned her final Oscar nomination to date for her performance in Howards End.

She would receive more awards and nominations for both her film, stage and television work after that, but it wasn’t until this year that the buzz was so strong for one of her performances that her seventh Oscar nomination (and maybe even second win) might be incoming.


Despite a lot of positive talk for her performance as Queen Elizabeth I in this film, the movie has gotten poor reviews from critics unimpressed with disaster film director Roland Emmerich whose output to this point has been far from stellar. Still, the film is sumptuous enough to figure in several categories this year.

Forecast Categories (where the film is most likely to compete): Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup


The little known Shakespearean tragedy Coriolanus stars director Ralph Fiennes, Gerardy Butler, Brian Cox, Jessica Chastain and Vanessa Redgrave. Never seen on the big screen, Coriolanus is based on the life of legendary Roman leader Gaius Marcius Coriolanus. This marks the first time the character has ever appeared on celluloid, but has received a lot of positive attention for Fiennes’ directorial debut. Yet, it’s not your typical costume drama. Like Richard III in 1995, this film takes place in a time far removed from its setting. This time out, instead of a Nazified Britain, we’re given a militarized Italy, set in the modern era. The principle is the same, a banished Roman son bands together with an enemy of the state to destroy the city. Unlike Richard III, this film’s chances at Art Direction and Costume Design nominations are more limited, though still possible. But it’s Redgrave whose gotten a lot of strong word of mouth for her performance, which could lead to a career Oscar.

Forecast Categories (where the film is most likely to compete): Supporting Actress (Vanessa Redgrave), Art Direction, Costume Design

The Whistleblower

On paper, this sounds like the perfect film for pseudo-intellectual Hollywood types, but in execution, it wasn’t so. It reminds me a bit of the film Fair Game which got good, but not great reviews and was supposed to be a dominant voice with the Academy last year. It never materialized. This film didn’t even get that far, suffering from an early-year release and the same kind of positive reviews as Fair Game, but not stellar enough to be remembered.

Forecast Categories (where the film is most likely to compete): None

Vanessa Redgrave’s Oscar History

  • Behind the Mask (1958)
  • Blow-Up (1966)
  • A Man for All Seasons (1966)
  • Morgan! (1966) – Nominated for Best Actress
  • Camelot (1967)
  • The Sailor from Gibraltar (1967)
  • The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968)
  • Isadora (1968) – Nominated for Best Actress
  • The Sea Gull (1968)
  • Un Tranquillo Posto di Campagna (1968)
  • Oh! What a Lovely War (1969)
  • Drop-Out (1970)
  • The Devils (1971)
  • Mary, Queen of Scots (1971) – Nominated for Best Actress
  • The Trojan Women (1971)
  • La Vacanza (1971)
  • Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
  • Out of Season (1975)
  • The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976)
  • Julia (1977) – Received the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress
  • Agatha (1979)
  • Bear Island (1979)
  • Yanks (1979)
  • Sing Sing (1983)
  • The Bostonians (1984) – Nominated for Best Actress
  • Steaming (1985)
  • Weatherby (1985)
  • Comrades (1986)
  • Prick Up Your Ears (1987)
  • Consuming Passions (1988)
  • Breath of Life (1990)
  • Pokhorony Stalina (1990)
  • The Ballad of the Sad Cafe (1991)
  • Howards End (1992) – Nominated for Best Supporting Actress
  • The House of the Spirits (1993)
  • Sparrow (1993)
  • A Wall of Silence (1993)
  • Little Odessa (1994)
  • Mother’s Boys (1994)
  • A Month by the Lake (1995)
  • Mission: Impossible (1996)
  • Deja Vu (1997)
  • Mrs. Dalloway (1997)
  • Smilla’s Sense of Snow (1997)
  • Wilde (1997)
  • Deep Impact (1998)
  • Lulu on the Bridge (1998)
  • Cradle Will Rock (1999)
  • Girl, Interrupted (1999)
  • Uninvited (1999)
  • The 3 Kings (2000)
  • Mirka (2000)
  • A Rumor of Angels (2000)
  • The Pledge (2001)
  • Crime and Punishment (2002)
  • The Fever (2004)
  • The Keeper: The Legend of Omar Khayyam (2005)
  • Short Order (2005)
  • The White Countess (2005)
  • The Thief Lord (2006)
  • Venus (2006)
  • Atonement (2007)
  • Evening (2007)
  • How About You… (2007)
  • The Riddle (2007)
  • Gud, lukt och henne (2008)
  • Identity of the Soul (2009)
  • Eva (2010)
  • Letters to Juliet (2010)
  • Miral (2010)
  • Anonymous (2011)
  • Coriolanus (2011)
  • The Whistleblower (2011)

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