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What does an Oscar win do for an actor’s career?

  • Does an Oscar win help or hurt an actor's career?
  •'s Paul Dergarabedian says it can do both
  • He says even 'a mere nomination can boost the career'
Oscar awards
Marisa Tomei Oscar Win
Cuba Gooding Jr. Oscar Win

Editor's Note: Paul Dergarabedian is president of's Box Office division.

We often hear about the so-called “Oscar bump” -- the phenomenon wherein a film gets a box office boost once it is nominated for Best Picture. But does something similar happen for the actors who win Oscars? 

Intuitively, one would think that there is no downside to winning the statue. Clearly, there is a reason why it is perhaps the most coveted prize in Hollywood. Let’s take a look at two classic cases in the Best Supporting Actor/Actress category and see if winning an Oscar is a blessing or a curse.

Marisa Tomei 
Over the past 20 years, Marisa Tomei’s acting career after her Oscar win has been a bit of a roller coaster. After her scene-stealing portrayal of the sexy, feisty foil to Joe Pesci in “My Cousin Vinny” won her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1992, she went on to star in “Chaplain,” “Untamed Heart” and “Only You,” and then took on roles in mostly smaller-scale films for the rest of the ‘90s.

This left many wondering what happened to the once high-profile Oscar winner. It wasn’t until the year 2000, when she showed up in the hit “What Women Want,” that she was exposed to mainstream audiences once again. A year later, Tomei garnered tremendous critical acclaim and another Academy Award nomination for her performance in the dark drama “In the Bedroom.” 

Seven years later, in 2008, she would receive yet another Oscar nomination for her role in “The Wrestler,” co-starring Mickey Rourke, which confirmed her status as one of the most respected actresses working in Hollywood. 

And the career roller coaster for Tomei may be off to yet a new start with her recent appearance in the family comedy “Parental Guidance” and an upcoming role in an as yet untitled Hugh Grant comedy.

Cuba Gooding Jr. 
Of course, no Oscar discussion would be complete without a look at Cuba Gooding Jr. His famous over-the-top Oscar acceptance speech for his win as Mr. “Show me the money” Rod Tidwell in 1996’s “Jerry Maguire” served as a prelude to a role in the 1997 comedy hit “As Good As It Gets,” which was followed by an unfortunate string of forgettable flops, near misses and direct-to-DVD releases. 

Titles like “Rat Race,” “Snow Dogs” and “Boat Trip” quickly eroded the goodwill generated by his brilliant performance as the egomaniacal yet insecure football star in “Maguire.” To be fair, Gooding gave solid performances in “Radio,” “Men of Honor” and “American Gangster,” but these were offset in 2007 by Golden Raspberry awards for Worst Actor for his roles in “Norbit” and “Daddy Day Camp.” 

His last major studio film of note was 2012’s aviation drama “Red Tails,” which earned nearly $50 million at the box office. For Cuba Gooding Jr. it was quite a comedown from Oscar winner on top of the world in 1996 to double-Golden Raspberry recipient in 2007, but we are still rooting for the actor nonetheless.

These are just two examples of the effect an Oscar win can have on an actor’s career. Academy Awards history is chock full of those who have been positively (and sometimes negatively) affected by an Oscar win. An Academy Award is important enough that a mere nomination bestows instant recognition and status to an actor or actress that can boost their career and become an integral part of their legacy that will last a lifetime.

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