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Same category, same film? Oscar win unlikely

Out of 65 past cases when two or more actors were competing against one another for one film, they went home empty-handed 45 times.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The math is against "Up in the Air" co-stars Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick at the Academy Awards, where they're likely to be left on standby in the supporting-actress category.

Setting aside Mo'Nique's front-runner status for "Precious," performers nominated in the same category for a single movie have a so-so history of winning.

Out of 65 past cases when two or more actors were competing against one another for one film, they went home empty-handed 45 times.

With two actors from the same film among the five nominees, the mathematical odds are that one of those performers would win 40 percent of the time. Historically, it's worked out to just under 32 percent — 19 times out of 60 — when two are nominated in the same category for a single movie.

When three are in the running from the same film, the odds rise to 60 percent that one of them will win. The reality is just 20 percent — there has been only one winner — Robert De Niro as supporting actor for 1974's "The Godfather Part II" — out of the five times when three actors have been up for the same category from a single film.

The first time multiple actors from one film competed for the same prize was at the 1935 Oscars, when Clark Gable, Charles Laughton and Franchot Tone all were nominated for best actor for "Mutiny on the Bounty." Victor McLaglen won for "The Informer."

Four years later, both supporting categories featured two nominees for the same film, Harry Carey and Claude Rains for "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and Olivia de Havilland and Hattie McDaniel for "Gone With the Wind." McDaniel won, while Carey and Rains lost to Thomas Mitchell for "Stagecoach."

Over the next 30 years, there were 31 instances when two or more co-stars from one film were nominated in the same category, but only four times where one of those performers won.

Then they went on a tear from 1970 to 1984. During that span, there were 19 cases when multiple actors competed against one another for the same film, and one of them won 13 times.

Among those winners: Ben Johnson as supporting actor for 1971's "The Last Picture Show," his competition including co-star and current best-actor favorite Jeff Bridges; Tatum O'Neal as supporting actress for 1973's "Paper Moon," her competition including co-star Madeline Kahn; Peter Finch as best actor for 1976's "Network," his competition including co-star William Holden; current best-actress nominee Meryl Streep as supporting actress for 1979's "Kramer vs. Kramer," her competition including co-star Jane Alexander; and F. Murray Abraham as best actor for 1984's "Amadeus," his competition including co-star Tom Hulce.

Since then, multiple nominees from one movie have fallen back into drought mode. There were 12 times from 1985 to 2008 when two performers were up against each other for the same film, but only two won: Dianne Wiest for 1994's "Bullets Over Broadway," her competition including co-star Jennifer Tilly; and Catherine Zeta-Jones for 2002's "Chicago," her competition including co-star Queen Latifah.