Best director of actors

When Penelope Cruz won last night, I thought “Damn, Woody Allen has been a very good director for actors.” Working under his direction, the following have won Oscars:

[li]Diane Keaton, Best Actress, Annie Hall, 1976[/li][li]Michael Caine, Best Supporting Actor, Hannah and Her Sisters, 1986[/li][li]Diane Wiest, Best Supporting Actress, Hannah and Her Sisters, 1986[/li][li]Diane Wiest, Best Supporting Actress, Bullets over Broadway, 1994[/li][li]Mira Sorvino, Best Supporting Actress, Might Aphrodite, 1995[/li][li]Penelope Cruz, Best Supporting Actress, Vicky Christina Barcelona, 2008[/li][/ul]

(Did I miss any?)

So – okay, clearly he’s better with actresses than actors (surprise surprise), and there’s only one “leading” in there – but six awards attributable to one director seems significant.

Does any director have a better track record?

How many of those did he sleep with?

Which is more relevant?

Joss Whedon and Quentin Tarantino have both impressed me with their abilities to get good performances out of mediocre actors.

Don’t know – though I’m pretty sure Penelope Cruz isn’t one of them. And frankly I don’t know that I do see the relevance. The man’s a scumbag, I’m totally not a fan – but he’s proven his ability to get his actors big awards.

I’m thinking specifically of acting Oscars here, as an “objective” measure of results. (Yeah, I know it’s bogus, but it’s quantifable, at least.)

Scorsese’s close.

Cate Blanchett in The Aviator.
Joe Pesci in Goodfellas.
Paul Newman in The Color of Money.
Robert De Niro in Raging Bull.
Ellen Burstyn in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.

I came in to mention Scorsese. Just compare Joe Pesci’s body of work under Scorsese (Goodfellas, Raging Bull, even Casino) to his body of work under other directors. The gap in intensity and believability is massive. Same for Ray Liotta, to a lesser extent. Scorsese can squeeze blood from a stone.

He’s got three leads and two supportings – do we want to weight them differently? (That’s a semi-serious question.)

I agree. I was just thinking, the actor-director relationship can be an extremely intimate one; I was just wondering how that might or might not affect the performance.

Clint Eastwood certainly gets his actors lots of nominations, and at least a couple of wins.

Keaton for sure, and maybe Wiest? I really hope he didn’t screw Michael Caine… :wink:

Clint Eastwood:

Gene Hackman, Supporting
Tim Robbins, Supporting
Sean Penn, Lead
Morgan Freeman, Supporting
Hilary Swank, Lead

Same as Scorsese.

Hey, as long as we’re playing, we might as well give two points for lead and one for supporting. That would give Eastwood, Scorsese and Allen 7 points each. Without doing any research, I’m willing to bet Billy Wilder scored at least that many.

I don’t think Diane Keaton, Penelope Cruz et al won their awards because of Woody Allen but rather because they are good artists. Woody Allen simply knows how to pick good performers.


Walter Matthau, Supporting 1966
William Holden, Leading 1954
Ray Milland, Leading 1946
Barbara Stanwyck, Leading 1944

7 points. Whew.

With regard to Woody, if it was just that he picked good artists (assuming he had full control of his main cast, rather than leaving it to the Casting Director), then you would expect to see them win similar awards under other directors. There is also the matter of the material the actors have to work with. Since Woody writes his films as well, you may have to give him more credit for the acting awards than other Directors who simply direct from someone else’s screenplay.

You just looked 'em up – do you remember which movies?

ETA: Same question for Eastwood. The last two are for Million Dollar Baby, of course.

Oops, Scorsese with 8 pts, Eastwood and Allen with 7. Billy Wilder has only 5. I was wrong about Barbara Stanwyck winning.

OK, using the database, here’s a comprehensive list:

It looks like William Wyler is the undisputed champ with 7 Supporting and 6 Lead.

On preview:

Wilder’s winners:
Matthau for The Fortune Cookie, Holden for Stalag 17 and Milland for Lost Weekend.

Clint’s winners:
Hackman for Unforgiven, Robbins and Penn for Mystic River, Freeman and Swank for, as you said, Million Dollar Baby.

Your session timed out. What were your search terms?

Weird. Anyway, the terms are:

Award Category: Acting (…all)
Winners Only: check
Award Years: 1927/28 to 2008
Display Results by: Director (credited)

For those who don’t want to go to the trouble, here are other directors with at least 5 acting awards for their movies:

George Cukor: 0 Support, 5 Lead
John Ford: 4 Support, 1 Lead
Elia Kazan: 7 Support, 2 Lead
Fred Zinneman: 3 Support, 2 Lead (and one special Oscar for a juvenile performance: Ivan Jandl in 1948’s The Search)

So, if we used 2 pts for Lead and 1 pt for Support, we get:

William Wyler, 19 pts
Elia Kazan, 11 pts
George Cukor, 10 pts

If we just add total acting Oscars we get:

Acting Oscars by Director:
Wyler, 13
Kazan, 9
Allen, 6

Yeah, I’m a little confused by the OP, too. It seems you’re saying that if a number of actors have gotten awards for work performed under a director, then it’s the director’s ability that got them those awards. I’m not certain that’s the case. A great director probably makes it easier, that’s sure.

Certainly, some directors are markedly worse than others and can’t get a good performance even from talented actors (I’m looking at you, George Lucas). But is it also true then that amazing directors will then get the best performances from anyone, even amazing actors? I’m not so certain. Coppola certainly didn’t do that well with Garcia or his daughter in Godfather III (admittedly, only one of those is anywhere close to a talented actor, and him sometimes only in certain roles).

Some of the actor names we’re tossing about here, however, are highly talented and certainly deserving of whatever awards they’ve received because of their own merit: Hackman, Penn, Blanchett, Mathau, Newman, Burstyn. There’s any number of actors who will be amazing all on their own, regardless of who’s directing.

Didn’t Martin Landau win a Supporting Actor Oscar for “Crimes and Misdemeanors”? That would give Woody another point, if we’re keeping score.

Supposedly, Woody tells his actors if they’d like to rewrite a line, or omit or add a line, please just do it, which is a remarkable amount of leeway. He says the most important thing is that the actors feel comfortable. I forget who said this, but I just heard it from one of his actors a week or so ago.