If as widely predicted, Woody Allen wins his fourth Academy Award on Sunday, this time for original screenplay for the romantic comedy “Midnight in Paris,” an even safer bet will be that Allen won’t be there to accept the Oscar.
The academy has a long love affair with Allen — a record 23 Oscar nominations, including wins for writing and directing the 1977 best picture winner “Annie Hall” and for his screenplay of 1986’s “Hannah and Her Sisters"; 22 of the nominations were for screenplay and directing and one was for lead actor, for “Annie Hall.” Previously, Billy Wilder held the record for the most writing and directing nominations with 19.
But the only time Allen showed up at the Academy Awards was in 2002, when he appeared to introduce a montage of New York scenes from movies encouraging everyone to return to filming in the Big Apple after 9/11.
In the words of Groucho Marx that his “Annie Hall” character, Alvy Singer, quotes in the film: “I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member.” Allen is not even a member of the academy. He donated to the academy’s capital campaign when he was told by the organization they would no longer ask him to join if he gave money.
But Allen isn’t the only Oscar-winning star who hasn’t bothered to show up for the ceremony. Rather than feeling rejected, the academy has a history of rewarding certain stars who spurn the show.
“Why are they gluttons for punishment?” UCLA Film & Television Archive’s head Jan-Christopher Horak said with a laugh. “The academy can’t control how the membership is going to vote. And you have to take them for their word that they are looking for the best performance, the best achievement, and they are not looking at whether they are people who like the academy or not.”
Here’s a look at some of the more fabled winners who never accepted their Oscars in person or downright refused the Academy Award either for personal or political reasons.
Like Allen, Hepburn wasn’t fond of awards and never showed up to pick up her four lead actress Oscars for 1933’s “Morning Glory,” 1967’s “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” 1968’s “The Lion in Winter” and 1981’s “On Golden Pond.” Also like Allen, she made one appearance, at the ceremony in 1974 to give her producer friend Lawrence Weingarten the Irving G. Thalberg Award.
Despite her attitude toward the Academy Awards, she was nominated 12 times, which was a long-standing record until Meryl Streep broke it. But she was a member of the academy and displayed her four Oscars at her home in Connecticut, and her nomination plaques were featured on a wall at her Manhattan townhome.
The screenwriter made a pro-union stand by refusing his Academy Award for 1935’s “The Informer.” The drama also won Oscars for director John Ford, actor Victor McLaglen and Max Steiner’s score. Nichols turned down the Oscar because he was participating in a boycott of the Academy Awards in 1936 by actor, writer and director guilds who were trying to form unions independent of the studios and the academy.
Like Nichols, Ford didn’t show up but, supposedly fearing retribution, said after the ceremony, “I am proud to have received the honor. If I had planned to refuse it, I would not have allowed my name to go in nomination.” Nichols on the other hand went so far as to return the Academy Award after the organization’s then president, director Frank Capra, sent it to him.
Nichols sent Capra a note along with the statuette saying that if he kept the Academy Award, “it would be to turn my back on nearly a thousand members who ventured everything in the long-drawn-out-fight for a genuine writers’ organization.” He finally took the Oscar home in 1938 after the National Labor Relations Board certified the Screen Writers Guild as the bargaining rep for movie writers. And Nichols’ career never suffered. In fact, he earned three more Oscar nominations, for 1940’s “The Long Voyage Home,” 1943’s “Air Force” and 1957’s “The Tin Star.”
George C. Scott
It was no secret that the irascible Scott would not be attending to the 1971 Oscar ceremony even though he was a shoo-in for his seminal performance as Gen. George Patton in epic biopic “Patton.” He had referred to the ceremony as a “two-hour meat parade, a public display with contrived suspense for economic reasons.” (Scott must never have seen an Oscar ceremony if he thought the show lasted only two hours.)
And he was true to his word. The movie’s producer, Frank McCarthy, accepted the award on Scott’s behalf. There were no hard feelings from academy members; the following year Scott was nominated for his fourth and final time as lead actor in the dark comedy “The Hospital.”
He had accepted his first lead actor Oscar for 1954’s “On the Waterfront,” but that wasn’t the case for his second win, for 1972’s “The Godfather.” When his name was announced by Liv Ullmann, the audience was shocked when activist-actress Sacheen Littlefeather, dressed in Native American garb, came on stage to tell them she was the actor’s representative and he was turning down the Oscar: “The reasons for this being are the treatment of the American Indians today.” Her statement was met by scattered boos and applause.
Once again, it was a case of no hard feelings. The next year, Brando earned his last lead actor nomination, for “Last Tango in Paris” and 16 years later, picked up his final nomination, for supporting actor for “A Dry White Season.”