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Why these actors sing a happy tune

An illustration of Austin Butler as Elvis Presley.
Austin Butler as Elvis Presley.
(DÉSIRÉE KELLY FOR THE TIMES

)
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Cate Blanchett, who plays a fictional composer/conductor in “Tár,” and Austin Butler, star of the Elvis Presley biopic “Elvis,” are strong contenders to join an already sizable group of lead acting Oscar winners recognized for roles as musician.

18

lead acting Oscar recipients (10 women, eight men) have triumphed in roles as musical performers. This means that roughly …

10%

of lead acting Oscar winners in history could have played, or sang, themselves offstage when their speeches ran long.

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No. 2:

Musical performer is the second-most common profession/aspiration attached to lead characters played by Oscar winners. No. 1 is military/law enforcement professional.

1937, 1943:

Luise Rainer and James Cagney were first to win lead actress and actor awards for tuneful characters, for “The Great Ziegfeld” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” respectively.

2019, 2022:

Rami Malek and Jessica Chastain are the most recent musical winners in the lead actor and actress categories, for “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” respectively.

2000+:

The 21st century has been especially fruitful for musician lead characters, with Adrien Brody (“The Pianist”), Jamie Foxx (“Ray”), Reese Witherspoon (“Walk the Line”), Marion Cotillard (“La Vie en Rose”), Jeff Bridges (“Crazy Heart”), Malek, Renée Zellweger (“Judy”) and Chastain winning.

4

Only Bridges, Liza Minnelli (“Cabaret”), Diane Keaton (“Annie Hall”), Robert Duvall (“Tender Mercies”) and Holly Hunter (“The Piano”) won for playing fictional characters. Biopics’ dominance favors Butler over Blanchett.

0

Times both lead acting awards honored performances as musician characters in the same year.

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