With her nomination for The Iron Lady, Meryl Streep extended her record for having the most Academy Award nominations by any single actor. Her portrayal of the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher earned her a place on the shortlist for the 17th time. However, Streep has won an Oscar on only two occasions, and her last victory took place 30 years ago at the 55th Academy Awards, when she was named Best Actress for Sophie’s Choice.

In fact, out of 79 major industry nominations (14 from BAFTA, 3 from the Emmys, 26 from the Hollywood Foreign Press, 5 from the Grammys, 13 from the Screen Actors Guild, 1 from the Tonys, and the aforementioned 17 from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences), Streep has managed to take home just 16 of those titles since her first Tony nomination in 1976. Considering her status as “the most critically acclaimed actress of the modern era,” this tally seems somewhat surprising.

Yet, 2012 could prove to be the year that Streep breaks her three-decade run of Oscar losses. Already this awards season, she has been the recipient of a Golden Globe, the Berlin International Film Festival’s Homage and Honorary Golden Bear, and – most notably – her first BAFTA in 31 years.

Streep’s one significant loss so far for The Iron Lady has been at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, which took place on January 29 and saw her lose to Viola Davis, who won for The Help. Davis is likely to be Streep’s main competitor at the Academy Awards, in a category which also includes Glenn Close, Rooney Mara, and Michelle Williams, who cannot be counted out after her win for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy at this year’s Golden Globes.

Still, it appears all but certain that the Academy Award’s Best Actress title will be a two-horse race between Davis and Streep. Counting in Streep’s favour is the fact that she both defeated Davis at the BAFTAs and broke her own 31-year gap between BAFTA wins, last winning in 1981 for The French Lieutenant’s Woman.

Counting against Streep is the fact that she was awarded by British voters for her role as a well-known British figure in a film shot entirely in Britain. The same acknowledgement by American voters cannot be counted upon after The Iron Lady failed to be nominated at the Academy Awards for any other category except Best Makeup.

The Help, meanwhile, is in the running for Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress, with two nominations alone in the latter category. Also counting against Streep’s favour is the fact that the Screen Actors Guild Award, which Davis won, has proven to be the most indicative of who will be triumphant at the Academy Awards.

Taking the last decade as an example, here are a list of women who won the Screen Actors Guild Award and went on to win the Academy Award that same year:

  • Natalie Portman (2010).
  • Sandra Bullock (2009).
  • Helen Mirren (2006).
  • Reese Witherspoon (2005).
  • Hilary Swank (2004).
  • Charlize Theron (2003).

Streep, therefore, cannot count out Davis just yet, but she is certainly going into this year’s Oscar race with her strongest case for success in many years.


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