Want an Oscar? Play a Soldier In Modern-Day America Who Avoids Onscreen Sex, Death, and Facial Hair

By  · Published on November 4th, 2013

Winning a Best Actor or Actress Oscar can be a boon for your career, and while most performers will publicly pretend that they’d be happy enough just to be nominated none of them would turn down the honor if an Academy Award came their way. (Unless you’re George C. Scott or Marlon Brando of course.) Unlike Pac-Man and the Grammys though, there’s no sure-fire path to victory in the Oscar race.

Except according to the fine folks over at Delayed Gratification, there actually is a very specific formula to help ensure the odds will be in your favor. And no, being good at archery is not part of it.

Apparently there are a few key factors common across a large percentage of past Oscar winners in the Best Actor and Best Actress categories. Common wisdom says playing a real person or someone with mental illness or an addiction increases your chances, but less than one in six winners actually fit those characteristics. Instead, the odds are greatest when playing a fictional character in the United States who neither fornicates nor dies onscreen. (This explains why no actress has ever won for a performance in a Friday the 13th film.) Those attributes apply to male and female characters, but interestingly, the sexes split when it comes to profession and time period. Men win more when playing soldiers or lawmen and are in contemporary times, while women win more playing performers most likely in the relatively recent past.

Check out the full infographic from Delayed Gratification below. (h/t Cinema Blend)

Granted, it’s a lot to take in, but the infographic from researcher David Shaw and artist Christian Tate is loaded with interesting revelations. Shave off that mustache and/or beard! Less than one in five actors have won playing hairy-faced characters. Put down those balls! The only sport your character should participate in is boxing.

While it’s nearly impossible to follow all the threads on the graphic, the various-sized nubs along the center give a good idea of several other factors. Female characters engaging in onscreen sexual shenanigans have a noticeably better chance come awards’ season than do the males. By contrast, male characters who die onscreen are closer to an Oscar than are the females who bite the dust. One person’s orgasm is another’s little death it seems.

And in case you were hanging on to that old chestnut about sexism in Hollywood, men win most frequently playing authority figures, politicians, or creative types, while women have a better chance as performers, housewives, socialites, and service industry employees. So there’s that.

Since we all know infographics don’t lie, it seems like a no-brainer that we should be able to use this formula to predict who’ll take home the gold at the 2014 Academy Awards right? We don’t have nominees yet, but there are some very clear front-runners.

For Best Actress, the favorites seem to be Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Judi Dench (Philomena), Brie Larson (Short Term 12), and the obligatory Meryl Streep (August: Osage County). Upcoming possibilities include Amy Adams (American Hustle) and Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks), but they’re both period pieces and can therefore be tossed right the hell out. We can lose Dench too as she’s playing a real person. Bullock’s out because she’s playing a scientist (and depending on who you ask she may or may not die onscreen), and Streep is a no-go due to facial hair (probably). So, per science, either Blanchett’s socialite or Larson’s public servant will win for Best Actress.

For Best Actor, the odds are currently favoring Bruce Dern (Nebraska), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club), and Robert Redford (All Is Lost). Right off the bat we can say goodbye to Ejiofor, Hanks, and McConaughey as they’re portraying real people. This leaves us with Dern and Redford, but while it’s not part of the infographic above it seems to me that more actors have won for performances in color films over black & white. Sorry Mr. Dern, but you can’t fight science.

On a side note, Delayed Gratification is a somewhat new but undeniably brilliant magazine. They only release four issues per year, but their mantra is all about “slow journalism.” Instead of succumbing to the new normal of the knee-jerk, 24 hour news cycle, each issue examines important news stories from the past few months in retroactive detail. They revisit the story and the people days, weeks, and even months later, and the result is almost always fascinating.

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.