As we approach the weirdest, most muted Academy Awards in memory, Chloe Zhao is a heavy favorite to make history as the first Asian woman to win Best Director for Nomadland. On the other hand, Glenn Close stands to make an entirely different kind of history. She’s nominated for best supporting actress for Hillbilly Elegy, and although the category is considered one of the less predictable this year, she’s still considered a long shot, with Minari’s Yuh-Jung Youn the favorite; if Close doesn’t win, she’ll tie Peter O’Toole’s record for the most acting nominations without an Oscar. In fact, Close’s tally will stand an inch or two taller than O’Toole’s, who received an honorary award before he died in 2013.
Let’s look on the bright side: to lose a lot of Oscars, you do need to give a lot of incredible performances to get nominated in the first place. To commemorate Close’s possible anti-achievement, GQ took a look at the ten actors and directors with the longest dry spells in the history of the Oscars. (The technical categories do have some truly wild records: Greg P. Russell, nominated 17 times for sound mixing without a win, and Thomas Newman, nominated 15 times for best score and best song—our hearts go out to you.) We’re looking at people primarily known for their work acting or directing, but we’ll put nominations in any category towards their count. We may know Wes Anderson primarily as a director, but he gets nominations as a director, screenwriter, and producer.
It’s worth noting that there are different ways to count “biggest loser.” Technically, no actor or director has lost more Academy Awards than Meryl Streep—but that’s what happens when you’re nominated for every damn one. Streep is 3/21, with a 12 nomination dry spell between wins two (Sophie’s Choice in 1983) and three (The Iron Lady, 2012). And no one has lost more than composer John Williams, who has 5 wins out of an astounding 52 noms.
Below are the actors and directors who just could not seem to bring it all the way home.
10. Deborah Kerr, 0/6.The Scottish actress has the distinction of earning the most nominations in the lead actress category without a win—Kerr got six between 1950 and 1961. Best known for From Here to Eternity and The King and I, she faced stiff competition every year she was nominated, losing to the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, and Elizabeth Taylor. The Academy didn’t leave her completely empty-handed though—she received an honorary award in 1994.
9. Amy Adams, 0/6. Adams has received five nominations for supporting actress and one for lead, and she’s had good opportunities to win, especially in 2010 for her role as Mark Wahlberg’s very Boston girlfriend in The Fighter and in 2013 for her portrayal of the woman behind the curtain in Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master. In the former case she lost to her very worthy co-star Melissa Leo, and in the latter she was robbed by Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables. Justice for Amy!
8. Thelma Ritter, 0/6. Ritter was a comedic character actor who worked in the 50s and 60s. She garnered six nominations for best supporting actress over the course of her career, most notably for her turn as Bette Davis’s maid in All About Eve.
7. Robert Altman, 0/7. If you were to judge Robert Altman solely by M*A*S*H, his influence on American culture would still be vast. He collected five nominations for best director and two for best picture, every year he was up for a prize, the competition was stacked: Steven Spielberg won Best Director with Schindler’s List over Altman’s late-career masterpiece Short Cuts, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest triumphed over early-career masterpiece Nashville. Oscar or not, Altman is a giant who influenced some of the best filmmakers working today, including other Oscar losers like Richard Linklater (0 for 5) and Paul Thomas Anderson (coming up). He did get a consolation honorary award in 2006.
6. Richard Burton, 0/7. The great Welshman racked up BAFTAs, Tonies, and Golden Globes, but left the Oscars empty-handed seven times over 25 years. Burton got most of his nominations starring in adaptations of plays like Anne of the Thousand Days and Equus. The former was an especially great performance, but Burton was up against John Wayne that year. The cowboy brought it home for True Grit.
5. Mike Leigh, 0/7. One of Britain’s greatest directors, Leigh is best known for his 1993 film Naked and 1997’s Secrets and Lies. He’s historically done well at Cannes, where he’s won a Palme d’Or, the jury prize, and best director, but he’s never had any luck with the Academy, which has nominated him five times for best screenplay and two for best director. Still no dice.
4. Wes Anderson, 0/7. Apparently the Academy cares not for symmetry and pastels. Three for best screenplay, two for best animated feature, and a best picture and best director—nominations abound for Anderson. He got his first for The Royal Tenenbaums screenplay back in 2001, but Gosford Park won (directed by Robert Altman, who nonetheless went home empty-handed). Anderson has always faced stiff competition, from two-time winner Quentin Tarantino to Alejandro Iñárritu in the year of Birdman’s dominance.
3. Glenn Close, 0/7. Only 16 people have completed the EGOT—winning an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony—which must make it douby infuriating for Close that the Oscar is the only award she hasn’t won.Close has turned in plenty of stellar performances over the years, but her roughest miss was probably in 1988, when the Academy chose Cher for her performance in Moonstruck instead of Close’s turn in Fatal Attractions. If Close doesn’t take home the statue for Hillbilly Elegy, she’ll tie Peter O’Toole for the most noms without a win. With most signs pointing toward a win for Minari’s Yuh-Jung Youn, that seems likely. But Close is still in the game, with plenty of time to either break her streak or claim the record all for herself.
2. Peter O’Toole, 0/8. Alas, O’Toole went to his grave in 2013 as the biggest Oscar loser of all time among actors—for now. The legendary party animal racked up eight nominations over 44 years, with his best shot probably his first nomination in the great Lawrence of Arabia (Gregory Peck won for To Kill a Mockingbird), and his last for 2007’s Venus. He did get an honorary award from the Academy in 2003, but let’s be real, those just don’t hit the same.
1. Paul Thomas Anderson, 0/8. When you write and direct your movies, you rack up a lot of noms. Such is the blessing and curse of Paul Thomas Anderson, who has four screenplay nominations, two director nominations, two nods for best picture, and a whopping zero wins. At GQ we stan Phantom Thread, but the director’s biggest missed opportunities were probably in 2000, when he got a best screenplay nomination for Magnolia, or 2008, when he was nominated for best screenplay, director, and picture for There Will Be Blood. Daniel-Day Lewis took home best actor, but PTA got nothing.