Until the 8th Academy Awards ceremony (1935), nominations for the Best Actor award were intended to include all actors, whether the performance was in either a leading or supporting role. At the 9th Academy Awards ceremony (1936), however, the Best Supporting Actor category was specifically introduced as a distinct award following complaints that the single Best Actor category necessarily favored leading performers with the most screen time. Nonetheless, Lionel Barrymore had received a Best Actor award (A Free Soul, 1931) and Franchot Tone a Best Actor nomination (Mutiny on the Bounty, 1935) for their performances in clear supporting roles. Currently, Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, and Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role constitute the four Academy Awards of Merit for acting annually presented by AMPAS.
|superlative||Best Actor||Best Supporting Actor||Overall|
|Actor with Most Awards||Spencer Tracy, Fredric March, Gary Cooper,|
Marlon Brando, Dustin Hoffman, Tom Hanks,
Jack Nicholson, and Daniel Day-Lewis
|2||Walter Brennan||3||Walter Brennan and Jack Nicholson||3|
|Actor with Most Nominations||Al Pacino,Spencer Tracy and Laurence Olivier||9||Walter Brennan, Claude Rains,|
Arthur Kennedy, and Jack Nicholson
|Actor with Most Nominations|
(without ever winning)
|Peter O'Toole||8||Claude Rains and Arthur Kennedy||4||Peter O'Toole||8|
|Film with Most Nominations||Mutiny on the Bounty||3||On the Waterfront, The Godfather,|
and The Godfather Part II
|3||On the Waterfront, The Godfather,|
and The Godfather Part II
|Oldest Winner||Henry Fonda||76||George Burns||80||George Burns||80|
|Oldest Nominee||Richard Farnsworth||79||Hal Holbrook||82||Hal Holbrook||82|
|Youngest Winner||Adrien Brody||29||Timothy Hutton||20||Timothy Hutton||20|
|Youngest Nominee||Jackie Cooper||9||Justin Henry||8||Justin Henry||8|
Walter Brennan, the winner of the inaugural award in 1936, is the only actor to win the award three times (from four nominations). Five actors have won the award twice: Anthony Quinn, Melvyn Douglas, Michael Caine, Peter Ustinov and Jason Robards. Robards was the only person to win consecutive Best Supporting Actor awards, for All the President's Men (1976) and Julia (1977).
Claude Rains and Arthur Kennedy share the greatest number of unsuccessful nominations, four each. The only other actors with four nominations were Walter Brennan (won three times) and Jack Nicholson (won once). Charles Bickford, Jeff Bridges, Robert Duvall, Ed Harris, and Al Pacino have all had three unsuccessful nominations (no wins).
Harold Russell was the first (and only) actor to win two Academy Awards for the same performance when he won both Best Supporting Actor and the Academy Honorary Award for The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). Thanks to a quirk of voting, in 1944 Barry Fitzgerald in Going My Way became the only actor nominated in both the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor categories for the same performance, winning the latter. (Today, studios designate in which category they want a performer to compete.)
Robert De Niro's 1974 win as the young Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II is unique as the only Supporting Oscar won for playing a part previously played by a Best Actor winner (Marlon Brando in The Godfather). De Niro and Benicio del Toro (who won for Traffic) are the only winners for a foreign-language performance in this category.
John Mills was the only actor (along with five actresses) ever to receive an Oscar nomination for a non-speaking role. Mills was nominated for, and won, Best Supporting Actor for his performance as a mute brain-damaged village idiot in Ryan's Daughter (1970).
There have been no posthumous winners of this award, and Sir Ralph Richardson was the only person posthumously nominated - in 1984 for Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1983). There has been widespread speculation that actor Heath Ledger will receive a posthumous nomination for his final performance, as the Joker in The Dark Knight, at the 2008 awards.
The earliest nominee in this category who is still alive is James Whitmore (1949) followed by Karl Malden (1951). The earliest winner in this category who is still alive is Karl Malden (1951) followed by George Chakiris (1961).
Beginning with the 1943 awards, winners in the supporting acting categories were awarded Oscar statuettes similar to those awarded to winners in all other categories, including the leading acting categories. Prior to this, however, winners in the supporting acting categories were awarded plaques.
As the Academy Awards are based in the United States and are centered on the Hollywood film industry, the majority of Academy Award winners have been Americans. Nonetheless, there is significant international presence at the awards, as evidenced by the following list of winners of the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
At the 37th Academy Awards (1964), for the first time in history, all four of the top acting honors were awarded to non-Americans: Rex Harrison, Julie Andrews, Peter Ustinov, and Lila Kedrova. This occurred for the second time at the 80th Academy Awards (2007), when all four acting categories were similarly represented: Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Javier Bardem, and Tilda Swinton.