Thursday, February 25, 2010

How Traditionally Trained Are This Year's Oscar Nominees?

What do these actors have in common?

For our second year in a row, All Things Fangirl researches the education and training of this years acting nominees. While 2009's line up was pretty straight-forward, this years' is quite the mixed bag.

Performance by Actor in a Leading Role

Jeff Bridges
No formal training. Took a few acting classes in New York after high school, but always found his best training at home in his father & older bother Beau. Didn't take long - was nominated for an Oscar at age 21.

George Clooney (Previous winner - supporting)
No formal training. Attended Northern Kentucky University, then the University of Cincinnati, double majoring in History & Political Science, but did not graduate. Took classes at the Beverly Hills Playhouse.

Colin Firth
Formal training alert! Studied at the Drama Centre London under Yat Malmgren.

Jeremy Renner
Began acting at Modesto Junior College. Before two years had passed, had moved to LA to pursue acting professionally. Was pursuing computer science major & criminology before taking acting as an elective and falling in love.

Morgan Freeman (Previous winner - supporting)
No formal training. Starred in school plays & competed in drama competitions in his youth. Was forced to complete in drama competition as a punishment in junior high - surprised everyone by loving the stage & winning it all. Could have studied drama on scholarship at the Jackson State University, but instead enlisted in the Air Force where he worked as a mechanic. Attended LACC and took acting classes in Hollywood & The Pasadena Playhouse in the early 60s.

Performance by Actress in a Leading Role

Meryl Streep (Previous winner- supporting & lead)
Uber formal training. She received her B.A. in Drama at Vassar College in 1971 but also enrolled as a transfer student at Dartmouth College for a semester before that school had become coeducational. She later earned an M.F.A. from Yale School of Drama.

Sandra Bullock
Participated in high school productions in her youth. Dropped out of East Carolina University 3 credits shy of degree in drama, to move to New York and pursue an acting career. There, she studied at the Neighborhood Playhouse. Years later, she received an honorary degree from ECU.

Helen Mirren (Previous winner - lead)
Acted in high school productions, then attended the New College of Speech & Drama in London, learning how to teach drama. Was accepted into the National Youth Theater at age 18 and soon after became a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Gabourey Sidibe
Has no formal training. Attended the Borough of Manhattan Community College, The City College of New York, and Mercy College. Dropped out before graduating. Had performed in plays throughout her youth (both at her schools and at Lehman college), but was majoring in psychology & had no plans of pursuing a professional acting career.

Carey Mulligan
Has no formal training. Performed in many theater productions, both in school & upon graduating. Auditioned for three drama schools and got into none.

Performance by Actor in a Supporting Role

Christoph Waltz
Spent his college-aged years acting on stage & traveling around the world to gain life experience so as to be the best actor he could be. Ending up in New York at 23 and subsequently studied with Lee Stasberg & Stella Adler themselves at the Lee Strasberg Thatere & Film Institute. Followed that up with studying singing and opera at the Max Reinhardt Seminar in Vienna.

Stanley Tucci
Acted frequently in high school. Received a BFA from the Conservatory of Theatre Arts & Film at SUNY Purchase.

Matt Damon (Previous winner - Original Screenplay)
Dropped out of Harvard to pursue acting. Took classes at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute

Christopher Plummer (Canadian alert! Happy Olympics!)
Performed in high school and got experience performing on the road with the Canadian Repertory Theater. Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Western Ontario.

Woody Harrelson
BA in Theater arts & English from Hanover College.

Performance by Actress in a Supporting Role

Attended Morgan State University. Got her start in comedy performing at the Baltimore Comedy Factory Outlet.

Vera Farmiga
Studied drama at Syracuse University's School of Visual and Performing Arts. Appeared on Broadway for the first time at age 23.

Anna Kendrick
All experience garnered from acting since she was age 10. No formal training.

Maggie Gyllenhaal
BA in Literature & Eastern Religions from Columbia University. Received drama training from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.

Penélope Cruz (Previous winner - Supporting)
Did not complete high school, but went on to receive four years of Theatre training from Cristina Rota's school in New York. In addition, studied classical ballet for nine years at Spain's National Conservatory and afterwards, continued training under a series of prominent dancers.

For those concerned with education -

Drama Degrees: Firth, Streep, Tucci, Harrelson, Farmiga - 5

College Drop-Outs: Bullock, Damon, Clooney, Renner, Sidibe- 5 (editors note: just found out Sidibe did not in fact graduate with a degree. Was unclear online.)

Non-Drama Degrees: Gyllenhaal, Mirren, Mo'Nique (?) - 3

Did Not Attend Traditional College: Bridges, Mulligan (not for lack of trying), Waltz (see below), Plummer, Kendrick, Freeman (Air Force)- 6

High School Drop Out: Cruz - 1

Missing last year's fellow high school drop outs, Robert Downey Jr., Heath Ledger, Michael Shannon & Kate Winslet

For those concerned with acting training -

(Of the 15 nominees who did not study Drama in college)

Took Acting Classes (non-formal training) : Clooney, Freeman, Bullock, Damon, Renner - 5

Attended An Acting Conservatory (formal training): Waltz, Gyllenhaal, Cruz - 3

Formal Theater Training with a Company, as opposed to School : Plummer, Mirren - 2

Had no formal training...or non-formal training: Sidibe, Bridges, Mo'Nique, Mulligan, Kendrick - 5

Unlike last year's clear win for the theater BA/MFAs, this year is a bit more tricky. Over all, having some sort of training background heavily outweighs having no training at all (14-6), but if we're going purely by numbers, those who opted to take life experience/acting conservatories/random classes OVER getting a degree barely edge out the drama majors (6-5). There are ultimately many different assumptions one can make with these numbers. The moral of the story is: researching the education of nominated actors is fun, Christoph Waltz is a god and Carey Mulligan might be the prettiest girl in all the land.


Wayne B said...

Great write-up!