Can Hosting Saturday Night Live Win You an Oscar? A Movieline Investigation
It was reported this week that Jeff Bridges will hosting Saturday Night Live on Dec. 18, his first hosting appearance since 1983 (when he co-hosted with his brother, Beau). Coincidentally, not only will Bridges be starring in Tron: Legacy that month, but he'll also be in the thick of an Oscar campaign for True Grit, vying for the first back-to-back Best Actor win since Tom Hanks pulled the trick in 1993-1994. Meanwhile Anne Hathaway, also in the Oscar mix for her performance in Love and Other Drugs, will be hosting on Nov. 20. Which got me thinking: Can the added buzz from hosting SNL actually help the chances of a win or even a nomination? Let's investigate!
To see if there's any correlation -- or even a curse! -- I dug back through 35 years of Oscar nominees and SNL hosts to see how often a nominee or winner hosted that same year. And since SNL's debut in 1975, 27 future Oscar nominees have hosted Saturday Night Live during the same season that they were nominated or won. (Nine more, including winners Adrien Brody, Richard Dreyfus, Angelica Huston and Geena Davis actually hosted during the season, but after the ceremony -- call those a victory lap.) Of that 27, seven have gone on to win the award he or she was nominated for -- most recently Forest Whitaker, who hosted on Feb 10, 2007.
It's interesting that the amount of hosts vying for Academy Awards shifts based on the era of SNL that we're discussing. Surprisingly, in the SNL's first five seasons, though a cultural phenomenon, it wasn't really a place for "serious actors" to come and hang out and show another side of their persona. This was more of a place for the likes of Buck Henry, Steve Martin and Michael Palin to reside. In the first five seasons only three nominees hosted -- Lily Tomlin, Jodie Foster and Sissy Spacek -- and, yes, they all lost.
Not surprisingly, the ratio didn't increase during SNL's run during the early 1980s -- considered a down time after Lorne Michaels and what was left of the the original cast left in early 1980. However, the first future Oscar-winner did come from this era -- Louis Gossett Jr., who hosted in 1982. The entire 1980-86 era only had one other Oscar nominee as host: Ellen Burstyn in 1980. (Note: Both Angelica Huston and Oprah Winfrey hosted in 1986, after the ceremony had aired.)
Things changed in the latter half of the decade. The 1988-89 season of SNL had four future Oscar nominees alone -- Tom Hanks, Melanie Griffith, Glenn Close and winner Kevin Kline -- not to mention a victory lap by winner Geena Davis to end the season. The first half of the 1990s, another downturn in the show's history, featured as many Oscar nominees as just the '88-'89 season alone. Even Tom Hanks, who hosted pretty much every other year of '90s, did not host either of the two years that he won an Oscar. The only winner was Jeremy Irons, who hosted just days before the 1991 Oscar ceremony. SNL improved during the latter half of the decade, and so did the amount of future Oscar-winners -- two, Gwyneth Paltrow and Helen Hunt.
The 2000s added Hilary Swank and Whitaker as well as a record 10 eventual nominees, so there seems to be little doubt that someone out there thinks hosting today's SNL can harness added Oscar attention. Assuming the host does well, of course; SNL's format sometimes has a way of making a great actor (Robert De Niro, hint hint) look not quite as great. Whether Jeff Bridges or Anne Hathaway are looking at their upcoming SNL appearances as part of the Oscar circuit or not, I'm sure both of their publicists do.
But does it really help? Probably not, but there is an interesting trend: Not counting post- Oscar-win appearances, it does appear that we get two or three winners every full decade -- and, so far, this decade is wide open. Below is the full list of nominees along with the date they hosted and the result of their nomination. If anyone notices a pattern that was missed, let's hear about it in the comments.
Lily Tomlin (Nashville) hosted on Nov. 22, 1975 -- Lost
Jodie Foster (Taxi Driver) hosted on Nov. 27, 1976 -- Lost
Sissy Spacek (Carrie) hosted on March 12, 1977 -- Lost
None (Richard Dreyfus hosted after the ceremony)
None (Maureen Stapleton hosted after the ceremony)
Ellen Burstyn (Resurrection) hosted on Dec. 12, 1980 -- Lost
Louis Gossett Jr. (An Officer and a Gentleman) hosted on Oct. 2, 1982 -- Won
None (Angelica Huston and Oprah Winfrey hosted after the ceremony)
Sigourney Weaver (Aliens) hosted on Oct. 11, 1986 -- Lost
Robin Williams (Good Morning Vietnam) hosted on Jan. 23, 1988 -- Lost
Tom Hanks (Big) hosted on Oct. 8, 1988 -- Lost
Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda) hosted on Dec. 10, 1988 -- Won
Melanie Griffith (Working Girl) hosted on Dec. 17, 1988 -- Lost
Glenn Close (Dangerous Liaisons hosted on Feb. 25, 1989 -- Lost
(Geena Davis hosted after the ceremony)
Jeremy Irons (Reversal of Fortune) hosted on March 23, 1991 -- Won
Miranda Richardson (Damage) hosted on March 20, 1993 -- Lost
John Malkovich (In the Line of Fire) hosted on Oct. 23, 1993 -- Lost
John Travolta (Pulp Fiction) hosted on Oct. 15, 1004 -- Lost
Helen Hunt (As Good As it Gets) hosted Dec. 13, 1997 -- Won
(Greg Kinnear hosted after the ceremony)
Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakespeare in Love) hosted Feb. 6, 1999 -- Won
Kate Hudson (Almost Famous) hosted Oct. 14, 2000 -- Lost
Ian McKellen (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,) hosted on March 16, 2002 -- Lost
Christopher Walken (Catch Me if You Can) hosted on Feb. 22, 2003 -- Lost
Queen Latifah (Chicago) hosted March 8, 2003 -- Lost
(Adrien Brody hosted after the ceremony)
Alec Baldwin (The Cooler) hosted on Nov. 15, 2003 -- Lost
Kate Winslet (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) hosted on Oct. 30, 2004 -- Lost
Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby) hosted on Feb. 19, 2005 -- Won
None (Matt Dillon hosted after the ceremony)
Forrest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) hosted on Feb. 10, 2007 -- Won
Ellen Page (Juno) hosted on March 1, 2008 -- Lost
Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married) hosted on Oct. 4, 2008 -- Lost
None (Gabourey Sidibe hosted after the ceremony)